A Knife for Life: Helle Turns Norwegian Determination into American Outdoor Mastery
Published on 05/28/2013
You’ve likely heard the crusty old saying about getting it in gear, posed as a one-sided question: “Are you going to fish or cut bait?” The bait part is supposed to be the negative, sitting around poser part. Not the case at all if Steinar and Sigmund Helle’s legacy keeps taking hold in the United States. There’s a place in the remote reaches of Norway named Holmedal that’s the kind of rugged setting where Norse gods could let their powers loose. For Helle Knives, the magic of steel and wood comes to life as knives become badges of honor, tools to carve a living from a primeval setting since 1932.
Exaggeration? Not even close, as Active Junky studied these knives and their history long and hard before grabbing the curly birch handles of the Nying and Eggen models. While the former sports the shorter, traditional 70mm blade and the later reaches out with 101mm of glistening steel, both take wing from leather sheaths that are masterworks themselves.
Not so long ago, herders, hunters, fisherman and farmers took their Helle blades to work in earnest six days a week. On Sundays, the knife got cleaned and polished as an ornament to catch the eyes of the cornflower blue-eyed young women as the far-flung community gathered. At and around the dock, sideways glances turned into blossoming love as ornamental leatherwork spoke of style and success.
Whatever you’ve thought about knives, style- and function-wise, put your notions back in the drawer. Whether or not the local café or brewpub crowd appreciates the beauty of Helle’s triple-laminated stainless steel blades, anyone with real work to do will covet either model. Testers accustomed to high-performance cutlery kept notching these models up their Favorites list with every slice of beef, wood and webbing. Nying is ideal for close-in work, where control and precision count but the reserve power to cleave tendons and split bone can be activated. This style has sold over 1 million copies and only now is getting respect in the U.S. for its unique profile: Getting one today means staying ahead of the curve.
Eggen is more of a general-purpose knife for campers, hunters and backcountry travelers. This one’s ready if the going gets tough and a shelter needs building, game needs field dressing or lots of fish need processing. Indeed, now that cutting bait is easy with a Helle knife, there’s a lot more time to float a fly or bounce a beaded nymph. Forty-five manual steps are needed to turn the mystical into the practical as softer, 18/8 steel protects the high-alloy cutting edge. Sculpt a handle, top it with a brass knurl and it lacks only the protection of the finely tanned leather sheath. With decades of beautiful utility ahead, Helle knives are guaranteed to impress, whether purchased for personal use or to celebrate achievement, friendship and respect.
“In a country mostly covered with mountains, snow and deep forests, you need a strong will. And a sharp knife.” - Takk, Steinar and Sigmund