Outdoor life was probably not foremost in the minds of brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle when they started knife production in the old forge at home on their farm in Holmeland in 1932. However, their sheath knives quickly became extremely popular among the locals and thus, the foundations were soon laid for a small piece of Norwegian craftsmanship history.
However, the local market soon became too small and consequently, new markets needed to be conquered. Therefore, Steinar Helle packed his rucksack full of knives and set off on the long trip over the mountains towards the east. On a bicycle!
Today, just as when the Helle brothers started making knives, much of the production is done manually but, the philosophy remains the same: Quality craftsmanship is best preserved by skilled craftsmen; craftsmen with extensive experience and knowledge who still take pride in making each and every Helle knife unique.
Consequently, today, Helle knives are sold all around the world and customers receive the same old world quality as when the Helle brothers first started making knives. In addition, each of their knives is specifically designed to meet the demands of the outdoor enthusiast and to last for generations.
For instance the, Helle “Temagami” fixed blade knife is just one of Helle’s many fine quality fixed blade knives and it was designed by well known outdoor survivalist Less Stroud (for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect) and who is the host of the popular television show “Survivor Man”. The Temagami fixed blade knife is designed with a 4 1/3″ (110 cm) blade made from a triple-laminated 18/8 stainless steel which features a core of high carbon steel surrounded by two layers of tough stainless steel similar in construction to the original Japanese Katana.
Thus, by starting with a layer of very hard, high carbon, steel the Helle Temagami is capable of taking and holding a very keen edge. However, exceptionally hard, high-carbon, steels are also brittle and thus, they are prone to chipping and breakage. But, when such steel is laminated to a tougher stainless steel, the result is a knife blade that is sharp, tough, and rust resistant. In addition, the semi-full tang provides the knife with the needed extra strength that is so vital in a properly designed survival knife.
Also, the triple laminated carbon steel tang is exposed on the top and pommel end of the hilt but, is covered by the 4 3/4″ burl Maple wood of the handle on the finger side and the handle has a bit of a finger guard to help keep your index finger off the edge when the handle is slippery. In addition, the handle shape on the updated version of the Temagami CA provides better control of the knife when holding it in different positions. Last, the Temagami CA comes with a Scandinavian style pouch sheath retains the knife securely without the need for snaps or straps.
Now, concerning the knife’s suitability as a dedicated survival tool, in addition to the laminated construction of the blade steel, I happen to really like the slight forward positive angle of the drop point blade which magnifies its cutting power. Also, I really like the straight edge combined with the excellently designed sweep to the tip of the blade. In my opinion, this configuration provides the user with the fine control needed for creating both set and spring snares as well as the ability to skin any game caught in such snares. In addition, the drop point and slight forward positive angle are perfect for gutting small fish such as trout.
But, it also strikes me as being way too short for use as a single survival knife. However, I believe that it would be an excellent addition to a much larger and longer and heavier knife. The reason that I say this is because, in any outdoor survival situation, in my opinion shelter is the number one concern and building a shelter often requires you to cut and shape saplings to create a structure which can be covered with a water proof material such as layers of tree bark from fallen logs. Thus, when removing such bark, I like to have a longer blade to assist with prying it off.
In addition, building fish, squirrel, and bird traps also requires the cutting and shaping of saplings and thus, I prefer to have a knife that is both longer and heavier than the Temagami to aide in chopping down the needed saplings. Also, I am not particularly pleased with the narrow, flat ground bevel. While the flat grind is second in strength only to the convex grind (which is nearly impossible to sharpen without a belt sander), it requires the user to create a deep secondary bevel when initially sharpening the knife in order to create a truly razor sharp edge.
Thus, I believe that if the initial bevel were to be ground a bit wider it would make it far easier for the user to obtain a truly sharp edge. On the other hand, widening the initial bevel does weaken the edge. But, since this knife is not large enough to chop with, I don’t see that widening the bevel would create a problem for the user since its size limits it to carving and slicing tasks.
In addition, the Helle web site makes no mention of whether or not the maple burl used in the handle of the Temagami is stabilized (pressure impregnated with epoxy resin) and I can tell you from personal experience that non-stabilized wooden knife handles do eventually absorb moisture and swell somewhat. Also, wood is not a particularly tough material when compared to such materials as Micarta, Rucartca, Grivory, and Krayton.
Thus, due to the overall size of the Helle Temagami combined with the maple burl handle, I feel like this knife is better suited as a dedicated hunting knife or as a companion to a much larger survival knife than it is a sole survival knife.
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