Review: Helle Kletten

Piotr Ma shares his thoughts on the traditional Scandinavian style, pocket-sized EDC knife by Helle.

I’ve been using Helle for years and they always been a traditional fixed blade producer in my mind. The Bleja changed that view, but the Bleja was still a full-size belt knife just in a folding form.

Now it’s about time for me to change that perception of Helle again… please welcome the Kletten! Finally, a true pocket-sized EDC knife by Helle. But the best part is… it’s still 100% a Scandinavian style knife – made in Norway, with traditional materials and a classic Puukko shape.

Let’s start with the blade. It’s just 55mm long (about 2.10 inch) but very capable with a full scandi grind profile. It’s just as sharp as a true puukko should be – shaves hair, whittles wood, cuts rope – with ease.

The laminated blade stock is a nice touch, and also practical – you get the best of both worlds: wear-resistant cutting edge and an overall tough blade, which won’t break easily, even under moderate abuse.

The Kletten is a short bladed knife, but the great news is – the cutting edge is scandi ground and goes up to the handle line, so not even 0.01” of the blade is left unsharpened – just like on real classic Puukko.

The overall shape could be a definition of scandinavian puukko style, just a compact one. And last but not least, that opening nail-nick adds some old-school charm to this blade. Well done Helle, that’s exactly what I’d expect on a Scandinavian folder!

So what about the handle? Well, you have to admit that Lapland birchwood on my knife really stands out with burly figuring that’s nothing short of amazing.

It’s clearly nicer than on my Utvaer, which I’ve always considered a really good looking one. But tell me Helle, why did you put so many big screws and tube on that tiny piece of timber? I know it’s not easy to make screw-less handle slabs, but still I’d make at least the non-pivot screws a bit smaller… that is actually the only small gripe about my knife. It’s not bad, it still looks good, but could be just a bit more subtle.

The Helle Kletten is a true pocket knife, free riding in my right front one. Neither pocket clip, nor a belt sheath comes with this folder and in my opinion it’s just right – it’s simply a bit too small for sheath carry and of course a pocket clip would totally ruin the traditional look of the knife. So you just need to get used to that, but with such a tiny package it’s not a big deal.

Mechanics? Well, to me this is the best Helle folder in terms of how smooth it walks and how sharp it talks when it locks. The lockup is solid… and don’t let the size fool you, I mean it’s a REALLY rock solid mid-lock, no question about it.

It’s a tiny folder but not a flat one – so with a 3-finger grip I could lock positively on that handle, mainly thanks to beefy 3D wood sculpturing. And I could also put a relatively serious force behind that blade (compared to other knives of that size). It’s actually quite interesting to compare the overall size and shape to other small knives – the Kletten might be small, but the handle offers substantial grip area for 3 fingers and the blade is wider at the base than on some longer knives. It’s a tiny pocket workhorse!

To my surprise I was able use it when wearing work gloves. So in an emergency I could use the Kletten to produce tinder and kindling so that I could start a fire – also in winter conditions. And that’s actually something I’d expect from a knife with a Scandinavian Puukko heritage.

As I said before, the blade has true a scandi-ground profile so it whittles and cuts wood (and other fibrous materials) extremely well. Just take a look at that sharpened tent stake I made – cuts are long and clean. My tiny Kletten shaved substantial chip off the wood with every single cut. Even with such a small blade (again, only about 2 inches) it cuts deep and with sort of scandi-grind aggression.

The 3-layer laminated steel, which the Kletten’s blade has been made of, offers a good mix of toughness and edge holding even in sub-zero temperatures. I used this knife in snowy winter conditions in February and didn’t notice any chipping on the edge. Of course, I was not chopping down trees with it, but I cut enough frozen spruce and pine (with knots in it) to tell you it was not a chippy edge.

Sharpening the Kletten is quite easy, except the area just next to the handle, which requires a bit of extra attention. Personally I think this knife would benefit from a slight secondary micro-bevel at the very edge, just enough to make that edge keep sharpness for longer when cutting through hard wood and other tough stuff. Of course it’d make the Kletten a bit less slicy too, so the choice is yours, but I’d do just that and actually I did.

Processing a split pieces of spruce and making some feathersticks was quick and easy – the scandi grind just shines at this kind of work. Just beware, the spine is not sharpened to 90° for easy fire starting using a ferrocerium rod, so you’d need to carry a dedicated ferro rod striker (or use back of your folding saw like I did with my Opinel 12 saw).

You can also try matches or a lighter to start a fire burning… that works as well and believe me, it won’t make you a lesser bushcrafter 😉 Now let’s face it, in a real-life scenario you’d more often carry tiny BIC lighter than Swedish army firestarter – at least I would.

The Kletten was free riding in my pocket for several weeks this year. It’s a fun, cute little knife and I honestly enjoyed playing with it during my winter outdoor adventures, using it every now and then, for small everyday stuff.

Just keep in mind – it’s a really small knife, so don’t expect it to do the same job as a 3-3.5 inch bladed folder like the Spyderco Slysz Bowie or even a small CRK Sebenza. It just belongs to a different weight class. I think it serves best as a razor-sharp accompanying knife when used with a mid-sized fixed blade (like Helle Utvaer) and a hand hatchet or even a small axe. With such a set you’d be ready for anything, big or small.

It’s a nice traditional-looking alternative to small-sized modern EDC folders, which not just works well but also won’t scare anyone around – neither on a trail, nor in a lunchroom after you get back to the office after your vacation adventure. The Helle Kletten could even be an awesome conversation starter with non-knife people.

So put it in your pocket and carry it through your urban jungle if you enjoy that feeling of a traditional knife close at hand. Just make sure it’s legal in your area, but with two-hand operation and 2 inch blade it should be legal most places. It’s a tiny (but useful) pocket cutting tool… and a real eye candy!

By Piotr Ma

Senior Contributor & Edge Specialist, more posts.