Scandinavian Knives, Part 2 - Norway and Sweden
By Gary Zinn
In Scandinavian Knives, Part 1 - Finland, I explained my long held interest in the type of traditional outdoor knives made in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. I also provided a basic description of the characteristics of these so-called "puukko" knives. I will not repeat my summary of characteristics here; anyone unfamiliar with the type of knives in question can read the early paragraphs of the Part 1 article for this background.
I listed the notable Finnish makers of commercial knives, summarized the offerings of each maker and then briefly discussed a particular knife model made by each one. This article follows the same survey strategy, focusing on notable Norwegian and Swedish commercial makers of outdoor knives.
Brusletto has been in business since 1896. Their website lists 33 specific models of fixed blade knives, many of them following the classic puukko style, but others more contemporary in design.
Blade steel used in particular models include carbon, stainless and laminated. Given models feature the traditional and distinctive scandi grind (Brusletto calls this a "normal" grind), but some models get flat or hollow ground blades. Handle materials are listed as including curly birch, birch, root nut, olive and micarta.
Brusletto cites the Hunter model as their best selling knife, so I will use it as an example of their product line. The Hunter has a five inch blade of Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel, flat ground. The knife is 9-7/8 inches long overall. The curly birch handle has an aluminum ferrule at the front and a deep pouch leather sheath is included. The 2017 U.S. price of this knife is about $120.
Helle has been making outdoor knives since 1932. Helle is a small business, yet it has an impressive forty knife models listed on its website. All but two of these are fixed blade knives. Most models follow the puukko design, with a few full tang and Saami style knives mixed in.
Helle uses only three steels for its blades. The majority of models are triple laminated stainless steel, Sandvik 12C27 is used in several models, and a couple have triple laminated carbon steel. Helle describes their favored triple laminated stainless steel as follows:
"The core is made of high alloy steel which gives it a lasting, razor-sharp edge. This harder layer cannot, however, exclude the threat of rust or breakage. To exploit the superb qualities of the high alloy steel we added two layers of tough stainless steel (18/8) to protect the blade against breakage and corrosion, while the high carbon core still provides a superb cutting edge."
Curly birch is the most used handle material. Some models include stacked sections of antler, leather, or other woods, along with birch, to add visual interest to the handles. Brass or stainless steel bolsters, or finger guards, appear on some models and most use a pressed on brass nut to secure the end of the rattail tang to the handle.
The Eggen model is a good example of a no-nonsense Helle knife design. This knife has a four inch, triple laminated stainless steel blade, with the solid curly birch handle adding 4-3/8 inches to the total length. The blade is a sturdy 3.1 mm (0.122 inches) thick. The knife weighs 4.25 ounces.
In this simple and functional design, the front of the handle is shaped to provide an adequate finger guard and there is no hardware on the knife, except the brass nut on the end of the tang. The Eggen comes with a well-built leather pouch sheath, which weighs 1.75 ounces. U.S. price is about $110.
Three years ago I reviewed a pair of Helle knives. (See Helle Symfoni and Alden Hunting Knives.) I still have the Symfoni, which I sometimes carry as a "just in case" knife when knocking about in the woods.
I recently gave the Alden to a brother-in-law. He is an elk hunter and he dropped some broad hints that the Alden would be useful to him, so I made some brownie points in the family. I was quite complimentary of both knives in my review and I have found no reason to rethink this position. Helle knives provide both high quality and functionality at realistic prices.
Stromeng is the name of a family that has been making Saami (also spelled Sami or Same) style knives since the late 18th Century. The Saami knife style originated, and is still very much in evidence, in Lapland. Lapland loosely encompasses the arctic portions of Finland, Norway and Sweden.
I mentioned in Part 1 of this article that the Saami or Lapland style knife is somewhat distinct from the puukko style. The following copy from the Ragweed Forge website (slightly condensed) explains the traditional Saami style knife very well:
"Stromeng knives reflect the Saami (Laplander) culture. The blades are thin for efficient slicing and wide to retain strength. The handles are typical of those used in the far North. They provide a solid grip for the draw strokes that are favored where the hands are often gloved, or stiff with cold. The wide flat pommel allows the use of the second hand to apply force to the point. The blades are relatively thin and the knives are quite light for their size."
The image above is of the Stromeng KS8 model, which has an eight inch carbon steel blade, 1-9/16 inches wide and 0.110 inches (2.8 mm) thick. The birch wood handle is 4-5/8 inches long and generously sized. There is a brass ferrule at the front of the handle and a brass cap over the pommel. The knife weighs about 9-1/4 ounces, 12 ounces in the very deep leather pouch sheath. The 2017 U.S. price is about $115.
Stromeng currently lists only seven knife models on their website. These include three variants of the KS8 model, along with five, seven, and nine inch knives of the Saami pattern. There is also a 3.5 inch puukko pattern knife, which is paired with a KS8 in a two knife set. The 3.5 and five inch knives are stainless steel, all others are carbon steel. Ragweed Forge was the only vendor I found that carries these knives.
The limited model lineup relates to the size of the Stromeng operation, which involves only five people who produce a total of about 10,000 knives per year. Why is such a small knife maker notable? Because six generations of the family have made working knives of the true Saami type and continue to do so.
Casstrom Sweden has been a distributor of several brands of Scandinavian knives and related gear for some time. More recently, they have begun making and marketing knives under their own brand name. Notable Casstrom knife models include the No. 10, No. 14, Safari and Woodsman. All these are fixed blade knives. Most Casstrom knives are contemporary in design, with only a few nodding to the traditional puukko or Saami styles.
The two principal blade steels used are O2 (Bohler K720) tool steel and Sandvik 14C28N. Blades are ground flat, hollow, or scandi, depending on model or variant. Curly birch and other wood handle materials are used, along with micarta, G10 and even thermoplastic.
The No. 10 Swedish Forest Knife seems to be the flagship of the line and a particular variant identified as article number 13104 is a good example of the model. This is a full tang knife with a scandi ground, drop point blade of O2 steel and curly birch handle scales. This particular knife follows the puukko style with the blade grind and handle material used, but is contemporary in having a full tang and the overall profile of a modern outdoor knife.
This is a robust knife with a 3-7/8 inch blade that is 3.8mm (.150 inches) thick. The handle is a generous 4-7/8 inches long. The knife, in its deep pouch leather sheath, weighs 7 ounces. The 2017 U.S. retail price is about $150.
I like this knife, because it is a no-nonsense design. The front of the tang and the handle scales are shaped to form an adequate, but not conspicuous, finger guard. The handle scales are secured to the full tang with brass rivets and there is no other furniture added. The design is simple and functional.
EKA traces its roots back to 1882 and is, I infer, the sole surviving establishment of what was once a thriving knife making center at Eskilstuna, Sweden. EKA claims to be the leading folding knife manufacturer in Northern Europe, so their folders will be my main focus here.
EKA folder models include the Classic 5 and the Swede 8, 88, 9 and 10 models. All are single blade lock backs, with Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel blades. The Swede 8 is likely the most popular. This model has a 3.15 inch long, 2.8mm (.11 inch) thick, hollow ground blade with a very slight drop point profile. The closed length is 4.13 inches.
Handle material choices include bubinga wood, or orange or black Proflex (a grippy rubberized coating over a Zytel base). The knife weighs 3.5 ounces and comes with a Cordura belt sheath. The 2017 U.S. retail price is about $45.
EKA does make some fixed blade knives. A model called the Nordic is based on the puukko design. There is also a model with a paracord wrapped skeleton self handle (called the Cordblade), three swing blade variants and two four piece butcher sets. The EKA knife lineup is lean and mean, with a short list of well designed, practical models.
Fallkniven is a well known Swedish cutlery business. Fallkniven brand knives include an extensive line of high end products, both folding and fixed blade.
The catch is that Fallkniven is a cutlery marketing business, with its knives mostly made by Japanese manufacturers, for sale under the Fallkniven brand name. Only a scattered few of its many models are labeled as being made (assembled?) in Sweden. For instance, I found one folding knife that was so labeled, while another knife with the same pattern and materials bore a Made in Japan label. The only difference between the two knives was blade length.
Understand that I have nothing against Fallkniven products. They are made from premium blade steels and other components, and are probably worth the price for anyone who wants top quality knives.
However, my purpose in these articles was to acquaint readers with Scandinavian knife makers and their products. That Fallkniven can be only tenuously be classified as a Scandinavian knife maker came as a surprise to me. Given this fact, I decided not to summarize their product line, or describe a representative product. Again, this is not a putdown of Fallkniven products.
Karesuando Kniven takes its business name from the village of Karesuando, at the northern tip of Sweden and 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Not surprisingly, the knives the firm makes are reflective of the northern Scandinavian styles and traditions. It is stated on the Karesuando website that, "we make genuine products that are shaped by centuries of handicraft traditions and natural raw materials."
The traditions mentioned are well reflected in the styling of Karesuando knives. Most are puukko style, plus there are several models in the Saami style. There is one folding model and three fillet knives.
Over half of the roughly forty models or variants of Karesuando knives use Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel; a dozen have carbon steel blades and a handful boast Damascus steel. All of the blades are scandi ground, except for the flat ground fillet knives and a hollow ground folding model.
Curly birch, either natural or stained, is the most common handle material used. A significant number of knives have handles with sections of reindeer antler to accent the curly birch. The only furniture added on most models is a brass bolster disk at the front of the handle.
I chose the Willow Grouse knife as an example, because I love its handle. The alternating sections of unstained curly birch and reindeer antler, set off by the polished brass front bolster disk, are quite attractive.
The stainless steel blade is 3-7/8 inches long by 13/16 inch wide and is scandi ground. The handle is 4-5/8 inches long and fits onto a hidden rattail tang. The "boot" shape of the bottom of the tanned leather sheath is traditional for puukko and Saami sheaths. Altogether, a sharp looking package.
Karesuando knives, made in a small community in a remote part of the world, are (somewhat surprisingly) readily available on the internet market. The Discount Cutlery website, for instance, lists almost all of the Karesuando models and variants.
Morakniv is a name likely familiar to even the most casual student of Scandinavian knives, yet that company name is only a few years old; it was adopted in 2009. However, Morakniv traces its history back more than a century.
Frost-Erik Erson started making knives in the village of Ostnor, Sweden in 1891. (Ostnor is within the somewhat larger area known as Mora.) In 1912 KJ Ericsson started his own cutlery business in the same locality. The Ericsson firm acquired two other local knife makers in the early 1960s and then acquired the Erson business (by then called Frosts of Sweden) in stages between 1988 and 2005. The resulting business was named Mora of Sweden, which was streamlined to Morakniv in 2009.
Morakniv completed its consolidation of the Ericsson and Frosts businesses by moving all manufacturing operations into a single, modern factory in 2011. The upshot of the business and production consolidations is that Morakniv is the largest producer of fixed blade outdoor knives in Scandinavia and maybe in all of Europe.
The vast bulk of Mora knives feature "rubber" (thermoplastic) handles, injection molded onto blades with partial tangs. The blades, finished knives and injection molded polymer sheaths are produced by highly mechanized methods. They are therefore made in high volume at low per unit cost, so Mora knives are remarkably inexpensive at the point of sale. All but a few models can be bought for $50 or less in the U.S. market.
Listing the models and variations of Mora knives would require an entire dedicated article. The "Products" tab on the Mora website lists nine use categories, within which their many models may fit (some in more than one category). Anyone reading this would probably be most interested in knives listed in the Utility, Outdoor, or Survival categories.
For instance, a basic Morakniv model listed in the Outdoor knives category is called the Companion. The knife has a 4.1 inch long blade, 0.75 inch wide and 0.10 inch thick. The blade is Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel with a scandi grind and a slight drop point profile.
The 4-5/8 inch handle is molded from a grippy surfaced thermoplastic, with hard polymer bolsters at both ends. The molded sheath is the same plastic as the bolsters. (The bolsters and sheath of a Companion I own are orange; other color options are available.) The knife weighs 2.6 ounces and the sheath 1.0 ounce. The 2017 retail price of the basic Companion is about $16. There are variants of the model that are somewhat higher priced.
I have owned a Companion for some time. (Mora called this model "Clipper" at the time I got it.) I bought this for a true utility knife, which I mainly use when doing rough carpentry, landscaping and gardening. It could as readily be used to clean a bass or field dress a deer.
I dislike the rigid plastic sheath, aesthetically, but it is functional and protects the blade from damage when the knife is thrown into a tool box or gardening cart. The knife/sheath package is as tough as woodpecker lips and will doubtless outlast me.
It is clear that Morakniv products are designed and made for everyday use, where fancy materials, handcrafting and sharp looks are of no consequence. Mora knives should be appreciated for what they are, no-nonsense tools.
WHERE TO BUY THEM
Among the brands covered in this article, Mora knives are the most easily found, while the Stromeng brand is the rarest. In Part 1 of this two part article, I mentioned that many top internet knife vendors carry some of the brands I have mentioned. In addition, the Scandinavian knife specialist Puukko Cutlery markets Helle, EKA and Mora knives, while Ragweed Forge carries the Brusletto, Helle, Stormeng, Karesuando and Mora brands. Stealth knife marketer Optics Planet sells Brusletto, Casstrom, Fallkniven and Mora knives.
Some of the knife makers have online catalogs, so one could apparently order directly from the factory. I have no idea how easy or hard that might be, given potential complications involving currency exchange and international shipping. (International shipping might be a problem, but international purchases by credit card are usually not a problem, as the domestic and international banks involved sort out the exchange rate. -Editor.)
Norwegian and Swedish made knives range from the modern utilitarian (Mora) to the highly traditional (Stromeng, Karesuando). One may even find some very good, modern locking folders (EKA), while Finnish made knives (see Part 1) add to the choices available. The only problem for the Scandinavian knife fancier is deciding what type, brand and model of knife to favor.
Copyright 2017 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.