Helle Heirlooms a Cool Stuff classic

Helle’s GT for the German hunting market would also serve us well in the Pacific Islands due to its solid no nonsense design and its highly retentive durable sheath. [Photo by Barry Markowitz]

We Coolio guys like classic Cool Stuff that we can pass on to our children or give to a special friend. Doesn't have to be expensive, doesn't have to be flash...just has to have that "it factor" that will never go out of style. Helle is an 80 year old family company that makes beautiful functioning heirlooms from their heart and from their hands in Holmedal, Norway.  

It's a land of Fjords, not Fords. Every Helle knife is almost a one- off custom piece featuring local Norwegian woods that will draw you in first as art, then as a functional tool. In 1932 Helle's Family cottage industry began with no electricity, which probably initiated the handmade tradition continued to this day.

I met Mr. Torodd Helle earlier this year and was taken back by his warmth and humility. I personally reviewed 15 of his offerings and came away understanding how Scandanavian sensibilities and style are vastly different than our Pacific Island ways or the omni present American influence.

The Helle line directly contrasts our Pacific Island down home fale taste for English forged machetes and Chinese chopping cleavers.  The Helles are a gentleman's knife for finese fine work, not slashing and bashing.  All Helles feature beautiful Norwegian natural leather engraved or cut out design sheaths and equal their Helle knives as works of art on their own merits. The unique feel and density of Helle leather sheaths is due to the cows being raised in the cold Northern European climates.

The Helle Family and their products are great ambassadors for the Nation of Norway. I would really like to shoot a video documentary of their factory, their village, eat lunch with the Helle artisans, and take a walk along a Fjord. Any extra airline miles Torodd? Sometimes our Commonwealth and American influences blind us to the other Cool Stuff and cool ways of the planet.

I can't think of a farther away place than Norway from our Samoa....but judging by Mr. Helle I bet the spirit of family and kindness are much the same, as each remote fjord village is a defacto island in its own.  Now if they only played rugby, American Samoa would have a great traditional rival.

Helle knives are beautiful, functional artwork that you can't help but cherish and you will take care of fondly.  They're handmade, with local Curly Birch handles reflecting the rough terrain and warm culture of Norway. You will not take a Helle Knife and baton it through a log of wood, as you would an American survival knife.

You will carry the diminutive brightly polished Helle Nying ($89 USD) proudly at your side to open packages, cut twine, or even slice a hunk of cheese for a lunch on the run.  It's got a real nice leather retainer flap that connects to a little knob on top.  The longer industrial Helle Viking ($99 USD) will be your blue collar pal at work. It's not a sapelu, it won't cut down a coconut tree, but it will master 90% of your daily chores and take the rougher work chores with its blade's plain unpolished finish. These are the blades embraced for years by the Norwegian people. Helle even features an official Boy Scout Knife for their young ones. If you grew up in Norway, you grew up with a Helle.

Expanding the extensive Helle line, Mr. Helle shared with me their Helle GT ($149 USD) designed for hunters in Germany, which is definitely a different breed from traditional Helles.

Helle's knife handles usually feature a smooth symetrical shape that works well with both hands and a multitude of tasks. The export knives for Germany and the rest of the world seem to have handles that contour more to the hand, but still retain the warmth of hand workmanship and feature the Norwegian Curly Birch.

Sheaths for knives intended for export out of Norway appear to feature a conventional broad belt loop style, while the domestic Helles hang on to the traditional rawhide loop.

At first my American preferences leaned towards the export sheaths, but then after weeks of wearing both I found why those pleasant Norwegians like the flexibility and comfort of the rawhide loop to their belts.  With the export belt loop sheaths the knife stays static to your hip which interferes with your seat belt, center console,etc. The rawhide belt loop moves freely to meet the confines of your vehicle, or restaurant booth without poking holes or making wear spots.

Of concern for travelers is the perception by some custom officers in a few locales that knives are potential weapons. A broken Vailima Beer bottle over the head, a hollow tile brick to the face, and an upset Salelologa sister in law swinging her purse are all potential weapons.

Helle knives project an understated happy functionallty, not mean spiritedness. So I will take a Helle with me when I make a journey that requires my passport. If not headed into a dramatic disaster for CNN, just normal pleasant documentary work, I would select Helle's high profile Les Stroud design Helle Temagami.

Les Stroud's Survivorman TV show is unique because he has no crew, shoots video of himself and his ordeals, and exercises a rare affinity for commonsense not found in other popular survivor TV shows.

Yes, the other shows sometimes feature their star jumping off cliffs into rivers, across gorges....not the message we regular guys need to learn.

The Temagami is an inauspicious 11' long, available in carbon or stainless steel ($198 USD), and features a lanyard hole, and a plain edge with small grooves on top for sparking a fire stone. My Temagami has a light color Curly Birch, and a overall solid firm feel. The Stroud Temagami, like all Helle's is made of a unique Helle tri-laminated steel created and fabricated in Norway...til recently. The steel manufacturer was sold and has been relocated to another country in Europe, but still maintains the rigid Helle quality control standards.

Helle distributor, Sport Hansa's website, http://sport-hansa.com/images/helle_dealers.pdf, will help you find where to purchase Helle products directly.

Or if you are an astute retailer that wants to carry Helle Cool Stuff, contact Sport Hansa Managing Director, Matt Huff thru the above website.

Ask him about the Lappland, the closest Helle gets to a sapelu...could be a Coolio future favorite.


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