Helle is a 90-year-old Norwegian knife company that combines traditional designs with steels dedicated to highly sophisticated cutlery. I’ve been a fan for a long time and Helle has won my heart with two models – the Viking, which is modeled after a 1000-year-old knife found in Hrolfgaar’s grave. fixed blade as can be found, and the Buy, a large, sturdy closing file that is damn near equal to a fixed blade.
The new knife is called Nord. It is a bushcraft knife, or a field knife. Nord is not for working in the game, although it can. Nor is it a camping knife, which has a much longer blade, is significantly heavier, and is balanced differently. It is simply a heavy duty knife for any outdoor work. Let’s take a closer look.
Features and materials of Helle Nord
- Blade length: 5.78 inches
- Handle length: 5.4 inches
- Total weight: 10.2 ounces
- Blade material: Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel
- Handle Material: Curly birch
The Nord has a wide drop-point blade that is just over 5½ inches long and is made from a new stainless steel called Sandvik 14C28N. It is hardened to Rc 58-60, which is hard. The handle is curly birch, also about 5½ inches long, and is one of the best knife handles I’ve come across in 21str century. When you catch this, it grabs you right away.
(A quick digression about knife handles: Pay close attention to them, because how well they fit your hand dictates how well and how long you can use the knife. If you have to move your hand and squirm to grip, it’s a good fit. bad. A week ago, I had to return a very fine Japanese knife because the “ergonomic” handle was something I couldn’t figure out. Be suspicious of any handle that has finger grooves. They will fit perfect with someone’s fingers, but there’s a good chance they won’t be your fingers.)
The curly birch in the Nord handle is not an oily wood like tropical hardwoods like rosewood or cocobolo. After Helle cuts her birch logs, they are dried and when they are at the right moisture level, they are soaked in linseed oil for three days before being formed into glove scales. Helle recommends applying linseed to the handle from time to time to replace linseed that dries out or is washed away by water or blood, especially blood, which is very, very bad for both knife handles and blades.
I hadn’t heard of Sandvik 14C28N before, so I did some research and discovered that it contains 14 percent chromium, which qualifies it as stainless, meaning the Nord won’t rust. (In one test, a Nord was left in a bucket of salt water for three days plus and was untouched.)
Helle Nord sharpness and edge retention
Unlike many stainless steel knives, the Nord sharpens with extreme ease. I understand that the bevel of the edge is 22½ degrees, and Helle recommends that you sharpen a stone by hand. I can’t get that angle right so I used a stick with a 20 degree bevel and spent a few extra minutes setting the new angle and the knife was sharp enough to remove the hair from the arm. Sandvik 14C28N is described on knife steel blogs as “slightly harder than D-2”, which is a blade-making steel that is very strong indeed. Edge retention is good; not superior, good. But with something that sharpens so easily, who cares?
Dedicated steels are formulated to make knife blades, and Sandvik 14C28N was chosen for Nord because Helle decided that rust resistance and easy sharpening were the two properties they wanted most. (Second digression: A dedicated knife steel is one that was developed for use in cutlery. Before the year 2000 or so, almost all knives were made from steels that were developed for other uses and later adapted to knives . One example is D2. which began as a steel for the manufacture of hoods. Another is 5160, which began in automotive leaf springs. However, a third is 154 CM, which was first used in engines of aircraft.)
In the end, what Helle has produced with the Nord is a first-rate heavy duty knife (even the sheath is well made) that retails for $250 or thereabouts. The Nord is, for all intents and purposes, as good as anything you can buy unless you spend a lot more money, which will lead you into the wonderful world of “perfect” connections. As for me, I’ve been through more knives than there are stars in the sky, and the Nord suits me just fine.
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