Ostehøvel | the Norwegian cheese slicer | Norway

There are many types of cheese slicers, but Norwegian furniture maker Thor Bjørklund invented the Norwegian version in 1925.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
This is a beautiful example of the Norwegian Bjørklund cheese slicer - part of the Norway-series, particularly made for the tourist market. | Photo: Gudbrandsdal Industrier AS - copyright.
This is a beautiful example of the Norwegian Bjørklund cheese slicer - part of the Norway-series, particularly made for the tourist market. | Photo: Gudbrandsdal Industrier AS - copyright.

Pronunciation

Ostehøvel

Norwegian cheese

Cheese has been part of the Norwegian diet since time immemorial. Every summer, the farmers sent their livestock out into the forests or up into the mountains to feed on Mother Nature’s offerings. With them came the milkmaid, who spent her whole summer churning butter and making cheese.

Finding inspiration in the carpenter’s toolkit

Through the centuries, people cut the cheese using a knife. This was not a very economical way of divvying up this valued food – and getting even-sized slices was difficult. Thor Bjørklund, a furniture maker from Fåberg in the region of Oppland, Norway, had long toyed with the idea of finding a better way. He wanted a tool that was kinder both to the cheese and to the household budget.

Finally – in 1925 – after many attempts, the Bjørklund cheese slicer was born. He patented the invention in the same year, and in 1927 he put it into industrial production in the town of Lillehammer. What was more natural for a furniture maker than to look to his everyday toolkit for inspiration. He based the model he came up with on the principles of a carpenter’s plane. His solution was simple but ingenious.

A carpenter's plane from Honningsvåg, Finnmark, Norway. | Photo: Museene for kystkultur og gjenreisning IKS - digitaltmuseum.no NO.004202 - cc by-sa.
A carpenter’s plane from Honningsvåg, Finnmark, Norway. | Photo: Museene for kystkultur og gjenreisning IKS – digitaltmuseum.no NO.004202 – cc by-sa.

Embraced by homemakers

The cheese slicer from Lillehammer was a big hit with the homemakers of the day. The 1920s was a time of hardship. People looked for ways to economise and make the most out of all food available. A bonus is that you can also use the tool to slice potatoes for potato chips – and to peel and cut a range of vegetables.

Some saw it as a threat

Not everyone was happy. The dairies and the cheesemakers up and down the country saw the newcomer as a threat. People worried about their livelihoods and feared a decline in sales. They even went as far as placing bags in locations across the country, accompanied by the text: «Throw your cheese slicer here! ». They have since come around, and now actively embrace the tool in a big way.

Thor Bjørklund (1889-1975), born in Fåberg, Oppland, Norway. Furniture maker and inventor. Patented the Bjørklund cheese slicer in 1925 and started industrial production in 1927. More than 60 million units have been sold worldwide.

The editor’s choice:
Norwegian food history | making butter


Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

The most significant sections of Norwegian productive soil can be found in the counties of Trøndelag, Hedmark, Oppland and Rogaland.
Here are 12 historical photos representing the fascinating Sami culture - with deep roots in the Norwegian and Nordic landscape.
In 1942, Hans Hyldbakk wrote the history of the local cotter's holdings in Surnadal, Nordmøre, Norway. The book was updated in 1966.
Some vintage photos - and more to come.
Carl Fredrik Sundt-Hansen created this fascinating oil painting in 1904. It is like a window leading into the house of history. If only we could climb through.
On an island in the Arctic Ocean, deep inside a permafrost mountain, we find a treasure trove of food-plant seeds: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
As far as palaces go, the main royal residence in Oslo is a modestly sized building. Here we see it from an unusual angle, painted by the architect himself.
Bondegård is a Norwegian noun that means farm. In informal speech and in many dialects, people only use the single word gård or gard.
In my childhood, life was simple. And the small joys of Christmas lifted our spirits - and delivered us safely into the new year.
Langfjordbotn - in Norway’s northernmost region Finnmark - was the birthplace of Oluf Røde, born in 1889.
During the AD 1970s, both an increased female participation in the labour market, and the green movement, were causes firmly added to the agenda. There was a heightened focus on maternity leave, access to kindergarten, and maternity benefits.
On 18 November 1905, after a supportive referendum, the Norwegian parliament unanimously elected the Danish Prince Carl as the country’s new king.
Watch some lovely vintage photos of mankinds's many good friends.
In this selection of beautiful hand-coloured lantern slides from around 1900, we visit the city of Bergen - and other west coast destinations. Enjoy!
The Black Death – mother of all plagues - ravaged humankind in the mid-1300s. A Norwegian scholar takes us through the lead up to the disaster.
10 July is the feast day of Saint Knut - Knutsok - and marks the beginning of the haymaking season - høyonna - in the old Norwegian farming calendar.
In this video-collection of historical photos, we visit the west coast of Norway and the region of Sogn og Fjordane. We recommend that you watch with the sound on. Enjoy!
Old objects tell stories, silent stories about a time gone by.
The Stone age people were master hunters, fishers, and gatherers. The lived with the seasons and followed the prey.
It is said that all people are equal in Heaven. But the historical churchyard shows us that no such equality applied here on Earth.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history