The Takeaway: Simple though it may appear, the Temagami is meticulously crafted and very capable for cutting, carving, and bushcraft.
Semi-full tang design reduces weight and saves fingers from freezing in cold conditions
Available with stainless steel or carbon steel blade
Stays holstered without a strap in the Nordic-style leather sheath
Handsome isn’t a word we often associate with survival knives. We appreciate good-looking gear as much as anyone, but we’ll put it this way: In the wilderness, style can make about as much sense as the heels Bryce Dallas Howard’s character wears in Jurassic World. So, when a sample of the Helle Temagami arrived at the Pop Mech Test Zone this winter, it gave us pause. A deep brown leather sheath protects a blade so shiny it can double as a mirror, to say nothing of the blonde wooden handle that’s far from the tactical-looking norm.
The 9.1-inch Temagami is an beaut, but, as we’d discover, no mere display piece. Helle collaborated with Les Stroud, of Survivorman fame, to craft a fixed-blade knife that could handle as many tasks as possible, with a large enough blade for hefty jobs and a handle that wouldn’t invite fatigue or hotspots. Nailing the design took time, and the Temagami has seen some updates since its original release in 2011. Helle tweaked the sheath and adjusted the blade so it has a sharper curve down to the drop-point. The company also removed three notches on the blade’s spine, initially added to create a grippy spot for your index finger. Still, the knife is impressive as ever.
“The whole idea was to get something new,” says Anders Haglund, Helle’s marketing director who worked with Stroud on the project. “But then if you look at the knife, it resembles a lot from Helle.” It’s true the polished blade and striking wooden grip are hallmarks of the Norwegian knife-maker. But especially where the triple-laminated stainless steel blade is concerned, that emulation turned out to be a good thing.
Helle has been using laminated blades since the ’60s and carefully guards its formula. Haglund would only offer up the general idea: A soft steel sandwiches a harder steel, which is exposed at the edge. The hard steel has superior edge retention at the expense of brittleness, but the outer layers, which dull much more easily, protect it from cracks, chips, and other impacts that would otherwise cause it to break. Practically, that translated into a noticeably sharper knife right out of the box—it sliced through tomatoes and rope better than all the other fixed blades of similar size in our testing. Even after five months of use, the edge is still holding well, so we haven’t reached for our whetstone yet. But the wide Scandinavian grind will make for easy sharpening when we do. If you’re a carbon steel fan, Helle makes an identical carbon Temagami, which promises an even sharper—though more rust-prone—blade.
Helle didn’t follow the company line with everything about the Temagami, though. This was the brand’s first knife with a semi-full tang. The steel runs the length of the handle but is encased by the handle on the edge side. With less metal, the Temagami is lighter than some full-tang fixed-blade knives and more comfortable to grip in the cold because there’s no exposed steel against your fingers. The construction also results in a stronger knife that’s more capable of carving than Helle’s previous designs, which all had stick tangs where thin strips of steel extend through just the core of the handles.
Helle Temagami Specifications
Overall Length: 9.1 in.
Weight: 5.3 oz.
Blade Length: 4.3 in.
Blade Thickness: 0.1 in.
Blade Steel: Triple-laminated stainless
Blade Style: Plain drop-point
Handle Material: Curly birch
Sheath Weight: 2.1 oz.
Overall, we were impressed with the handle, which was sizable enough to grasp with our entire hand for maximum power. When we really laid in, though, our grip slipped slightly on the smooth handcrafted curly birch. Still, the ergonomic shape remained comfortable as we whittled roasting sticks and stakes, made kindling, and attempted more sophisticated carving work. We found a reassuring degree of protection from the small finger guard and liked that the wood narrows where the handle meets the blade (another detail that was changed after the original release). This allowed for a better grip when choking up.
At just over five ounces, the knife was easy to carry, and the tight Nordic-style sheath, which doesn’t require a strap to keep the knife holstered, provided quick access. Plus, the sheath’s belt loop is attached with a rivet, which allows for vertical or horizontal carry. Either way, this heirloom-worthy piece doesn’t go unnoticed when we wear it, not that we mind showing it off.
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