A/S Helle Fabrikker was established in 1932 by the brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle (28 and 21 years old) in the old blacksmith shop on the family farm. Their father was the village smith and he had passed on the craft traditions to his sons.
From the very beginning knives were the most important products. The first knives were sold locally, but as production increased, markets had to be found farther away. On his first sales trip to Oslo, Steinar took the steamer to Bergen, from there he bicycled the 375 miles to Oslo, over several mountain passes, with a backpack full of knives. The knives were sold - for 6 cents each!
Until 1941 the village had no electricity, but the Helle brothers had a solution. They built a little dam in the hills behind the shop and installed a turbine. The production went beautifully - while it rained. But there was only enough water for about half a day in dry weather, and when the water ran out, everything had to be powered by hand.
For the first 15 years Helle made only simple sheath knives, but in 1948 production of table knives started. Forks and spoons were added later. For the next 25 years stainless cutlery was Helle's main product line. But sports knives became the most important products from about 1975, and the production of stainless flatware was discontinued in 1988.
Today the company employs about 50 people. It is Norway's leading knife manufacturer, and about 2/3 of the capacity is applied to the production of knives for hunting, fishing, and outdoor use. The remaining part goes into hot forged knife blades for silver cutlery, where Helle supplies 80% of the Scandinavian Market.
A/S Helle Fabrikker is a cornerstone in the remote village of Holmedal. Only 500 people live here, and a total population of 3000 live within commuting distance of the factory. There are some problems operating an industrial company in a remote location, but the disadvantages are more than compensated for by a stable, trained, and dedicated labor force. The advantages gained would be hard to duplicate in a more populated area, and are particularly important for the kinds of products Helle manufactures.