Helle Viking knife?
Helle Viking

This knife, I've looked for any mention of it in historically-oriented discussions, including these forums but thus far have been unable to find anything outside of knife discussion forums. No one seems to mention knives like this for viking era-re-enactors, instead favoring the seax/sax. To my, admittedly modern eye, this knife would appear to be much more useful than the sax as a general purpose utility knife (although a nice heavy sax would likely make a good parang/machete-like BFK and improvised weapon).

So, what is this knife's historical time period? I assume that it's a fairly accurate reproduction, given that it was designed by an archaeologist/historian to fund a global longship cruise. Is there anything else I can or should know about this knife? For a viking kit that already has a sword, would this be an appropriate 'substitute' for a sax? Given the ubiquity of the sax, was it a more common/popular knife in the viking world or just among viking fighting men or mariners or something else?

And, to be fair, while I have been meaning to ask about the Helle for sometime, it was this (similar to my eye) knife posted up in the Maker's/Manufacturer's forum that spurred me into action: link.

Hi Josh,

I got one of the Helle Viking knives a few years ago and I use it as a regular part of my Viking kit. I think the decoration on the sheath isn't too far off from the leather decor found on some of the York knife sheaths. As for the blade, I saw a newer one at a gun show recently and I swear the blade material looks a bit different. The website says it's triple laminated, but I thought they used to be something else. From what I've seen, the blade profile fits with utility knives of the period.
It's a small knife with a wooden handle, nothing about the shape of the blade makes it particularly 'Viking' as opposed to any small utility knife from the late Iron age through to....well...now really.
Peening the blade over a washer would be unusual for a small bladed knife of the period (usually the tang is blind within the handle) but not unheard of.

The way that the blade has been ground isn't period (as far as we can tell from the usually corroded lumps that come out of the ground, but the back-stitched sheath certainly is..although it looks like the bottom of the sheath has been left open, which I know is a feature of modern scandi sheaths rather than historical ones.

Seaxes turn up almost exclusively in male burials but little everyday knives ('cnif' in Old Engish, 'knifr' in Old Norse) like this are found in the graves of men, women, children....anyone who wasn't a slave would have one.

To quote Eleanor of Aquitaine in "The Lion in Winter";
Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It's 1183 and we're barbarians

Hi Joshua, this is a great question.

I haven't seen the complete viking Helle knife with handle, sceath and all, but I own one of the bare blades they sell under the same name. I think it's pretty neat as it is, though I plan to re-grind it into a different type of viking knife for one of my odd projects.

Any number of modern carbon steel knife blades can of course be historicalized (did I just make that up?;) ) to look fully viking authentic. I've done it with some blades in the past to good effect so they look like the archaeological finds. Most have triangular cross section, so one needs a thick blade to grind them out from, but not all of them.

With the extra thick blade of the Helle Viking it would be suitable to conversion into most of the Swedish knife finds from iron and viking age. But if you're lazy, just use it to build a replica of the find it's most likely based on, State Historical museum item # 416011 dated to betweeen 550 - 799 AD.

A photo of the find from Kringla.nu:
[ Linked Image ]

Link to the object in the Krningla.nu database (sorry, swedish only):

Link to the museum database (partially translated to English):

Note that this find has flat sides, just like most modern day fixed blade utility knives and is about the same size though a bit on the thick side.
The Helle knife blade replica seems to me to match the original quite closely, but has some minor details I'd change on it to make it picture perfect. You need to trim a little off the hump on the back to make it smoother, the edge grind is ended with a sharp corner rather than the originals rounded off end of edge and it has a makers mark stamped on the left side of the blade that you might want to remove if you're picky. Most won't even notice it since the blade's oil burnt dust black though. The tang is also less wide compared to the find, but no one will see that when it's fitted to a handle. None of this really needs to be fixed even for re-enactment standard, only for museum level photo perfect replicas.

Here's a pic of it:

[ Linked Image ]
It looks accurate to me so if you’re going with a Viking style it would look right but I wouldn’t call it a better weapon than a seax. Remember the armor of the time was chainmail and you would want a weapon that had a point that would get in between the links of the mail (see picture below) and rip the links apart as opposed to cutting through them.

[ Linked Image ]
I have one, but I refer to it as a "belt knife" or "ship's knife" or perhaps Viking utility knife rather than as a seax. Many of the crew aboard the Sae Hrafn viking ship carry one, on their belt in the middle of the back so as to be accessible by either hand.
Johan Gemvik wrote:
State Historical museum item # 416011 dated to betweeen 550 - 799 AD.

Thanks for that! Interesting to see that they actually had scandi grinds in the Viking age...

I do wonder a bit about the dating though: in the first place, 550 - 799 AD is a fairly long period. In the second place, how did they date it? And how do we know for sure that this knife is not, say, 100 years old?

R. Kolick wrote:
Remember the armor of the time was chainmail and you would want a weapon that had a point that would get in between the links of the mail (see picture below) and rip the links apart as opposed to cutting through them.

Sorry if it's off-topic, but that seems to be inaccurate.

Firstly, mail was very expensive and not at all widely used. Most Migration age and Viking age warriors would just wear woolen tunics and maybe a helmet. The main defense that every warrior had would be the shield.

Secondly, only a minority of saxes have an acute point like the one you posted. The vast majority of continental saxes have points like this one:
[ Linked Image ]
But neither type is specifically intended to pierce mail. It's not really relevant anyway, because the main weapon would be the spear. The sword or sax would only be a backup weapon. Also, swords are generally not designed to defeat armor. One exception to that would be the estoc, which appears in the late middle ages:
looks decent enough, i have only handled a bushcraft knife of theirs but it was good. from a bushcraft standard they are very, very, good.

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