Helle knives are handcrafted in Holmedal, Norway by skilled knife makers. The company has been around since 1932, started by brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle, who offered a simple hand-made sheathed knife. Today Helle offers 38 unique variations, each one with it’s own purpose – some are offered as replacements to various other tools, or to serve as a multitool, while others may serve a specific niche. The folks who make the knives use the knives themselves, and are encouraged to act as the company’s R&D – if a knife doesn’t stand up to it’s namesake it’s cut, and the knives are without any gimmicks.
Helle places a lot of emphasis on the fact that while their knives are beautiful and works of art, they are MADE TO BE USED. The handles are crafted from wood (often birch, which may be accented with metals and/or leathers) and the blade is a unique triple laminated steel: a high carbon alloy core is sandwiched between 18-8 stainless steel (a 300 series of stainless steel), providing superior corrosion resistance and strength while maintaining a razor sharp edge.
The beautiful hand-carved wooden handles caught my eye first, each one unique, no two handles having the same grain. The blades’ mirror polish reflected the outdoor store’s harsh fluorescent lighting, somehow softening it. By the time my eyes grazed over the leather sheaths I knew I was in trouble of leaving the store with a knife.
I wouldn’t consider myself a knife guy, but I might be a knife guy. I always have a pocket knife on me at the least. I find it essential to my daily life whether it’s to open packages, boxes or beers, to cutting rope and shaving. Ok, so I don’t shave with them. Looks and name brands are nice, but in order for me to carry a knife it needs to be functional, first and foremost.
I don’t know how, but I managed to leave the store, socks in hand, without purchasing a knife. A week later I was back well educated with the information above, money in hand. The knife I purchased was a Helle Futura. Beth had been hinting at how she needed a good reliable knife, and since Valentine’s Day was just around the corner I couldn’t resist. Taking it home that night I opened the cylindrical tube that the knife is packaged within. Inside was a handkerchief of sorts, a manual on how to care for your knife (don’t rub it on hard stuff, hone the blade when it needs it, sharpen when it’s dull, oil the handle and leather) as well as the history of Helle, and of course the knife and sheath. The Futura was gorgeous – red leather sandwiched between stainless steel formed a bolster with no finger guard, the blade had a gentle drop point and was perfectly balanced. The sheath was simple in design, low hanging (the handle of the knife is at/below where it would sit on the belt) with a simple buttoned strap for retaining. The knife’s edge was razor sharp straight out of the box, almost daring me to test it’s limits. I had to remind myself it was a present.
Later that same day I came home with a Helle Eggen. I couldn’t let Beth have all the fun! The Eggen is marketed as their “most used well-rounded outdoor knives,” featuring a simple drop point and leather sheath. The handle is made from beautifully unique curly birch, with the wood carved to form a finger guard. Unlike the Futura, there is no bolster between the handle and blade other than this curved carved part. The sheath is of a simple retention style, and sits a bit higher than the Futura- the handle is just above the belt-line when worn. It was a struggle to keep this knife hidden and unworn for the week leading up to Valentine’s, but I made it!
LONG TERM USE
It has been well over a year since we first used our knives. Both of us fell in love with them, and have had the knives by our sides nearly all the time, literally. The edges of the blades have held up incredibly well – I have only had to hone them a few times with regular use. The outer steel is a bit soft and seems to take scratches quite easily, but as this is a tool and not something to show off, it’s not a big deal. The handles have provided adequate grip for every scenario we have been in, wet, dry, hot, cold – damn near anything. The wooden handles and leather sheaths have aged while retaining their beauty. Every scratch and scuff tells of them being worn through all we’ve seen and done.
Holding either of the blades instills confidence in the handler. Personally I prefer the grip the Futura provides as I find the finger guard on the Eggen sometimes gets in my way, but this may not be the case for all. The retention on the Eggen‘s sheath seems to have loosened up and I wish it had a secondary strap like the Futura does, but so far I have not had the knife unholster by accident.
They garnish quite a bit of attention, which any large-ish knife on your hip will do. I have people ask me about my knife often and I have been asked to store it in my vehicle or lockers when visiting museums or other private events/buildings, something that I am not used to from using a pocket knife in the past. This is more of my own fault than that of the knife. My biggest gripe would be that the knives are too damn nice looking! I have to remind myself constantly to actually use the knife. If their manual and website didn’t reiterate this a half-dozen times, this knife might stay on my hip and never see the light of day.
All in all I would highly recommend this knife to anyone who finds themselves in varied outdoor environments. This isn’t a walk-around-town knife for the faint of heart – if you choose to do so, prepare to be compared to Crocodile Dundee or similar. If you want a great all around pocket knife, I highly recommend the Spyderco Endura 4 Wave, or the Mercator K55K The Helle knives would serve as great tools for other nomadic travelers – we continue to use them as daily utensils as well as utility tools: shaving bark from a branch, slicing cheese, opening a beer, spreading peanut butter, cutting rope – both have handled all we’ve thrown at them. These knives are not cheap – I purchased them for $150 new, but on Amazon.com they hover around $20 less with free shipping. Regardless of the price they are worth every penny and I foresee them lasting for many years to come.
If you decide to purchase either of these knives, please consider doing so through the links provided on this page. Doing so will help to support our travels and continued maintenance of this website. Thank you!
Info on any of their knives can be found through their website: Helle.no