18 October 2009
Lauffer, Richter and BAHCO
from Helle and Brusletto
Now and then we see knives from three manufacturers - Lauffer, Richter and BAHCO - with a NORWAY mark. Who made them?
None of these companies are Norwegian, but companies that sold Norwegian-produced knives under their name.
I don't know much about them. Here I just show some knives and tell the little I know.
From the U.S. company Lauffer we see mostly cutlery, with an occasional sheath knife. When they are marked NORWAY they are all made by Helle.
Lauffer was a major supplier of cutlery in the U.S. market. For many years Lauffer was Helle Fabrikker's largest customer.
Helle started making cutlery for Lauffer in 1962. Until it ended in 1977 Lauffer took half of Helle's production. It was especially after this period that Helle seriously went into production of sheath knives.
They all have blades marked with a copyright notice and LAUFFER NORWAY, without any Helle marking. It is a little strange with this copyright tag, as Lauffer hardly had anything to do with the design of these knives.
One of the knives has a handle in rosewood with plastic fittings. It is a rare exception among factory produced knives: a knife for the left-handed. Any knife with a symmetrical handle is just as good whether you use your right or your left hand, it is the sheath that matters. Many knives have a sheath that can be used both ways, but this sheath is intended for left-handed users.
Even handmade knives rarely have left-handed sheaths. Most traditional Norwegian knives have a straight handle, and the knife sits both ways in the sheath. Sami knives, with their curved sheaths, are the main exception. They have a high percentage of left-handed sheaths.
Here is Helle no 40, in this case with the Lauffer mark. I have seen the marking also on Helle no 30.
Sheath knives must have been a very small part of the Lauffer selection, but it is not unlikely that alle Helle models from the years 1962-1977 are in a Lauffer version.
Since they were intended for the U.S. market more or less all of them are in the U.S. and we don't find them in Norway.
A number of knives from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are stamped R.J. RICHTER followed by the country name.
Here is a batanga made by Finnish Hackman, marked R.J. RICHTER FINLAND. There are also standard Mora knives marked R.J. RICHTER MORA SWEDEN.
Rudolph J. Richter was a knife producer in Solingen, Germany, with a lot of models and quite a large knife production under a Solingen stamp. There was also a U.S. branch that sold these German knives and knives from various factories in several countries.
I have seen a knife with the blade marked R.J. RICHTER SOLINGEN GERMANY, and with the handle marked R.J. RICHTER CUTLERY ARLINGTON 74 MASS. The company's name mostly seems to indicate the importer rather than the factory in Solingen.
Helle's Richter knives
Norwegian-produced Richter knives are mostly from Helle, and most of them are in the model shown here. I am not sure which years they were made. Probably all in the 1970s or slightly earlier.
I have this one in three sizes. The sheaths are marked MADE IN GERMANY, and the original Helle sheaths were not used. The sheaths are found in several types.
The handles deviate slightly from Helle's usual: They have yellow and blue spacers and are slightly longer than the usual. Handles like these are also to be found in Helle's own knives from the time, but these are rather uncommon.
The largest I have. The sheath is lost.
Brusletto's Richter knives
Richter also sold knives from Brusletto. I have seen only a few, and only the model Hallingen.
The etching is so weak that you can hardly see it, but in the right light you can read R. J. RICHTER NORWAY.
Here also we have the yellow and blue spacers, and the handles that are slightly longer than on the standard model.
For several decades Helle made the model Fjellkniven, some of them with the blade marked like this:
R. MURPHY Co. MADE IN NORWAY
Mye guess is the 1970s.
Murphy has been a knife producer in Massachusetts, USA, from 1850, with knives in a variety of models. They also imported a large number of knife models. The company still exists.
Helle Fjellkniven is made today, but in a completely new design.
This knife has a strange marking:
According to the marking it is from both Norway and Sweden. This is one of the Swedish BAHCO's models, but manufactured by Helle.
Pre 1966 it was produced at the BAHCO factory in Eskilstuna, with this blade marking:
BAHCO ESKILSTUNA MADE IN SWEDEN
What is unusual is the sheath, in plastic and leather and with a whetstone. Patent was applied for in Sverige in 1965 and in the U.S. i 1966 (U.S. Patent from 1967).
You will find the American patent here, with text and pictures:
The knife was designed by the Swedish designer Arne Erkers. The patent belongs to him and the BAHCO employee Bengt Bruno Brunosson.
This was a popular hunting knife for many years, and is to be seen on Internet auktions from time to time. On the Internet it is often called a diving knife or a survival knife or a fighting knife, but it was always marketed as a hunting knife.
In 1966 BAHCO transferred its entire knife production to Helle, where the knives were produced under licence from 1966 till 1997. The knives were not made at Helle's main factory in Holmedal, but in Stongfjorden not far away, where Steinar Helle's son Odd had a mechanical workshop, car workshop and power plant since 1963, under the name Stongfjord Staal. In connection with the licence agreement, the two Helle companies merged under the name Helle Fabrikker. Until then the name had beed S&S Helle.
Another of Helle's BAHCO knives:
This is also one of BAHCO's standard models, with the BAHCO shark on blade and handle. As with the previous knife and a number of others, there are also Swedish produced knives from before 1966.
Whether they are made by Helle or BAHCO they all have solid steel blades and not laminated.
18 October 2009