Helle Knives

Modern Pioneer - - Contents - By James E. House and Kath­leen A. House

| Hand­some, hard­work­ing cut­lery

Even though a knife is ob­vi­ously a nec­es­sary tool in a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions, choos­ing one can be a per­sonal de­ci­sion. Some pre­fer fixed-blade mod­els, whereas oth­ers choose fold­ing knives, and both con­fig­u­ra­tions have pros and cons. Re­gard­less of pref­er­ence, Helle of­fers many out­stand­ing knives.

HAND­SOME, HARD­WORK­ING CUT­LERY

About Helle

Lo­cated in the small vil­lage of Holmedal, Nor­way, Helle has been pro­duc­ing knives since broth­ers Steinar and Sig­mund Helle be­gan man­u­fac­tur­ing tools and knives in 1932. Helle’s pri­mary prod­ucts are knives for sport­ing uses, in­clud­ing hunt­ing and fish­ing, and it’s been that way for years. Ear­lier in the com­pany’s his­tory, knives for kitchen and culi­nary uses were also pro­duced. Re­cently, Helle col­lab­o­rated with Les Stroud to pro­duce newer de­signs.

Exquisite Char­ac­ter

Although many knife man­u­fac­tur­ers rely heav­ily on mod­ern means for mass pro­duc­tion, Helle still in­cor­po­rates sub­stan­tial man­ual crafts­man­ship. Helle’s knives not only re­flect metic­u­lous fit and fin­ish, but also flaunt in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter. Its knives are beau­ti­ful and func­tional, ca­pa­ble of han­dling most chores for which a knife is use­ful, and ex­hibit­ing an ap­pear­ance that causes most ad­mir­ers to ex­claim, “Where did you get that?”

The han­dles are per­haps the most at­trac­tive as­pect of Helle knives. Most of­ten made of highly fig­ured curly birch—an abun­dant wood in Nor­way—helle han­dles are beau­ti­fully shaped and pol­ished. Other woods used in­clude co­cobolo, oak, wal­nut and African ki­att. On

some Helle mod­els, the wood is aug­mented and lay­ered with other ma­te­ri­als, such as leather or rein­deer staghorn. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the fi­nal shap­ing and pol­ish­ing, the han­dles are given a durable fin­ish. No two Helle knives are iden­ti­cal.

“Helle has been pro­duc­ing knives since broth­ers Steinar and Sig­mund Helle be­gan man­u­fac­tur­ing tools and knives in 1932.”

Ro­bust Blades

Although beau­ti­ful, a Helle knife’s most no­table qual­ity is ar­guably its blade ma­te­ri­als and con­struc­tion. Many Helle blades are a three-layer lam­i­na­tion of high-car­bon steel sand­wiched be­tween lay­ers of tough stain­lesssteel al­loy. Such a blade has the strength and cor­ro­sion re­sis­tance of stain­less steel, but with the edge-hold­ing and sharp­en­ing qual­i­ties of high-car­bon steel. Blade thick­ness varies by model, but mea­sures 2.5-3.0mm (0.10-0.12 inch) on most of­fer­ings.

While test­ing sev­eral Helle mod­els, we found that the blades sharpen eas­ily. While we didn’t use them as pry bars, we did use them lib­er­ally with­out any in­di­ca­tions of stress or bend­ing. Lam­i­nated blades aren’t the sim­plest or least ex­pen­sive to pro­duce, but they per­form ex­cep­tion­ally. For those who wish to de­sign their own cus­tom knife, sev­eral styles of Helle blades are avail­able with $40-76 MSRPS.

Most mod­els have a blade de­sign that re­sem­bles the usual Scan­di­na­vian pat­tern known as a pukko. This is a drop-point blade of medium length, usu­ally in the 3.5- to 4-inch range.

Adding to its wide range of fixed-blade mod­els, Helle in­tro­duced two fold­ing knives in 2011. The Dokka fea­tures a lam­i­nated blade, whereas the Skåla has a con­ven­tional blade of Sand­vik 12C27 stain­less steel. Both have blades mea­sur­ing 84mm (3.3 inches) long and 2.7mm (0.0.11 inch) thick. Each has a thumb­nail notch

Proven Per­for­mance

for open­ing and a hook-type lock ac­ti­vated by a lever along the spine of the handle. The lockup is quite ro­bust and rigid.

The fold­ing knives are pro­vided with scales of smooth, beau­ti­fully fin­ished wood and a very well-made pouch sheath that closes stur­dily. Scales on the Skåla are made of co­cobolo, whereas curly birch is used for those on the Dokka. Both mod­els fea­ture an in­te­grated steel liner in­side the scales. Should the user de­sire, a lan­yard eas­ily at­taches to a hole through the handle.

Func­tional Sheaths

Helle knives in­clude beau­ti­ful leather sheaths. In most cases, the sheaths are of the pouch type with­out a re­tainer, but the knives fit tightly nonethe­less. How­ever, a few mod­els in­cor­po­rate a flap re­tainer with a hole ac­com­mo­dat­ing a pin that pro­trudes from the grip’s rear. A con­ven­tional loop re­tainer that en­cir­cles the handle is used on one or two larger Helle mod­els.

Like most peo­ple who spend much time out­doors, some­times in re­mote ar­eas, we have many op­tions when it comes to cut­lery. Our first Helle knives were a fixed-blade Eggen (hers) and the fold­ing Skåla (his). How­ever, we quickly fell in love with these su­perb knives to the point that we now own seven mod­els. That alone in­di­cates our sat­is­fac­tion and con­fi­dence in Helle knives. Two of our knives in­clude two dis­con­tin­ued mod­els that were ob­tained as “new old-stock” mod­els, the Trophé and the Leir, both fixed-blades.

Although we en­joy Helle knives for aes­thetic rea­sons, they per­form ad­mirably. We don’t strike them with a ba­ton to split wood, but they’re well de­signed for gen­eral camp use. Pre­par­ing shav­ings for tin­der is quick and easy with any of our Helle knives.

Helle knives are su­perb for food prepa­ra­tion, in­clud­ing slic­ing veg­eta­bles and peel­ing op­er­a­tions. The smallest Helle, Ola Kniven, has a blade mea­sur­ing only 57mm (2.25 inches) long,

and it func­tions well as a par­ing knife. For those who’re so in­clined, this small knife is very use­ful for wood­carv­ing, too. Its small size and fin­ger groove on the handle pro­vide ex­cel­lent con­trol. With an $80 MSRP, it’s also quite af­ford­able.

Some­thing for Ev­ery­one

The Helle line in­cludes mod­els that run the gamut from the large La­p­land hunt­ing knife with an 8.38-inch blade to the diminu­tive Ola Kniven. Within that ar­ray, there are mod­els to suit al­most any taste with re­gard to ap­pear­ance and per­for­mance. Man­u­fac­turer sug­gested re­tail prices for Helle knives range from about $70 for the very small mod­els to ap­prox­i­mately $250 for the largest mod­els.

The mar­ket has cheaper knives and many cus­tom knives that are also more el­e­gant, how­ever, Helle knives com­bine el­e­gance and ca­pa­bil­ity. Those qual­i­ties are ir­re­place­able. We en­joy us­ing our Helle knives so much that we won’t be sur­prised if our Helle knife col­lec­tion grows larger in the near fu­ture.

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