THE HELKO WERK MANUFACTURING PROCESS
All Helko tools are manufactured in Germany from C50 high carbon steel.
Helko axe heads are individually forged by hand using a drop hammer on open dies. The blacksmith does this work on a drop forge, using tongs to hold and shape the hot steel as a hammer falls repeatedly onto it. The drop hammer runs continuously at remarkable speed, requiring a highly skilled and time-tested smith. The hand-eye coordination and judgment required for this process can only come from years of experience, as every split-second decision ultimately affects the shape and integrity of the final product.
Once satisfied with his work, the smith hammers the Helko Werk crown logo into the cheek. Only minimal supplementary work is performed, allowing each blade to proudly display its forging marks and ensuring that no two pieces are exactly alike.
Rockwell hardness is an important factor to consider when evaluating the quality of an axe. The steel must be tempered just right, without being too soft to hold an edge or hard enough to become brittle. A soft bit will lose its edge quickly, requiring constant sharpening and honing. Conversely, over-hardened bits are liable to chip or crack during normal use. Helko's Master Smiths have cumulatively spent hundreds of years perfecting the hardness and temper of our axes, creating an ideal balance between superior edge holding ability, ease of sharpening, and resistance to chipping.
After forging, the heads are hardened and cooled in a continuously running 70°C oil bath. They are then heated to 180-200°C to relieve strain on the surface of the steel and achieve the desired level of hardness. The blade edges are hardened to approximately 53-56 HRC (Rockwell) up to 30 millimeters from the cutting edge, while the eye is generally left unhardened to prevent cracks in the steel. Afterwards, the heads are sandblasted to remove steel slag and oil residue prior to grinding, sharpening, and finishing.
Helko axes are hardened to within 53-56 HRC 30mm from the cutting edge.
The Helko handle factory
The quality of the handle is also a significant measure of the tool’s integrity. Helko handles are proudly crafted from sustainably sourced Grade A American hickory. Helko promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous management of the world's forests.
Our saw mill cuts the hickory logs into planks, which are then stored and softly air dried for 9 to 10 months, depending on the weather in Northern Europe that season. Our proprietary drying process will bring the wood's moisture content down to a precise level, before the wood is ready to be made into handles.
American hickory, growing between 60 and 120 feet high, is a hardwood that maintains remarkable bending properties and flexibility. Hickory is known for its shock absorbing and resistance capabilities. It has a coarse texture and a straight grain, and is receptive to oils and finishes. Hickory’s sapwood, or outer layer, is primarily white with shades of yellowed brown, while the heartwood is a pale reddish brown. Due to natural variations, our handles may be lighter or darker than those pictured. There is no mechanical difference between sapwood or heartwood, and neither will affect the strength or integrity of your handle.
Our Leather sheaths are made from vegetable tanned, full grain, cowhide leather. We install a heavy duty welt in all of our sheaths, which is an added strip of leather that rests against the blade, for maximum blade protection. The buckle fasteners are nickel plated with an adjustable strap that will always ensure a snug fit, even if the leather stretches over time.
Tips and techniques for conditioning and caring for your sheath are available on the Axe Maintenance & Safety page.