1 February 2009

A different kind of barrel knife

Some barrel knives have a mechanism that sets them apart from the standard versions. The two knives I show here differ so much from the rest that we may well discuss whether they should be classified as barrel knives or rather as relatives.

Is a barrel shaped handle the only condition? Or should they also have a typical barrel knife locking mechanism? No matter the outcome I guess these two knives will fit nicely into any collection of barrel knives.

Carl Hellberg

A couple of years ago I got this one on eBay:

From the top left picture it looks like a standard barrel knife. The barrel is 9,8 cm and made from brown-stained curly birch, with iron endcaps. Viewed from the other side it is very different from the others. It was made by Carl Hellberg in Eskilstuna, who patented his unusual locking devise.

I should have studied the patent description before showing the knife here, but I don't have old Swedish patents available just now. I will update this later.

Inserted into the side of the barrel is a lever, connected to the end of the blade, that can be used to slide the blade in and out and lock it in the open or closed position. The lever is stamped PATENT on both sides.

This is all there is to fix the blade into position. It is not much of a lock, and suddenly you may have a sharp blade loose in your pocket. Not very pleasant!

There is, however, more to the Hellberg patent. You may notice the round indention in the side of the blade, here barely visible to the left of the hinge. Apparently there was something inside each endcap to fix the blade. Perhaps a spring-loaded pin that was lost a long time ago.

Carl Hellberg is not mentioned in Arne Marmérs book Knivar från Eskilstuna. There is someone by the same name, but he was too early to be our man.

I guess that the knife was made fairly early in the barrel knife era, perhaps in the 1880s, while a lot of experimenting was going on.

There were many Hellbergs in Eskilstuna, and several of these were called Carl or Karl. May be this is the one I am looking for: Carl Emil Hellberg, who was born in Eskilstuna in 1871 and died before 1905. I suppose this will be clear when I get the patent description.


Barrel knife collector Rich Stein sent me these pictures of a similar knife.

It has the same locking devise as the Hellberg. The lever is stamped M. BST. and on the other side there is OLA NORMANN.

M. BST. is probably Gustav Magnus Blomqvist (1839-1918). In Marmér's book this stamp is not mentioned, but this one:
M. Blomqvist Torshälla
From 1876 till 1886 Blomqvist had a workshop in Torshälla, seven kilometers from Eskilstuna (today it is a part of Eskilstuna).

Who was "Ola Normann"? Usually spelled Ola Nordmann this is a friendly nickname for a Norwegian and here it is probably not the name of the knife's first owner. I guess it was more likely put there for marketing reasons, to sell the knife to Norwegians.