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.
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