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

In this video-collection of historical photos, we reminisce about the dairy cow on the old Norwegian farm. We recommend that you watch with the sound on. Enjoy!
When the ice melted after the last ice age, herds of reindeer followed in its wake. And with the animals came their main predator: the humans.
It was midsummer 1895. An older man was found drifting in the fjord just outside Moss, Norway - shot in the temple with a revolver. Who was he?
The horse settled in the Scandinavian landscape after the last ice age. Let us meet this majestic animal - and follow in its footsteps.
In olden Norway, the farm-animals were sent off to the mountains and forests all summer. With them came a herder to guard them, and a maid to turn their milk into cheese and butter.
The rose painted chests of Norway - a treasure that will live for centuries to come.
Skjemat is a Norwegian noun that means food eaten with a spoon - often before or after the main course at dinner. It could be porridge, soup, dessert, and more.
Skigard is a Norwegian noun that means wooden fence. It is made of split tree trunks, using simple tools. Fence making and mending was a task for early summer.
Kantslått is a Norwegian noun that means (1) the grass that is cut along the edges of a field, a road, etc. or (2) the actual process of cutting this grass. Traditionally, the grass was used as animal fodder.
In 1935, Aslaug Engnæs published a guidance book on how to milk the cow.
In this post you will find a list of Norway’s 15 main historical eras - from the ice age to our modern day.
The traditional Sami houses, the goahti, were in use until well into our own time. Anders Larsen tells us how he remembers them from the coastal Sami communities in northern Norway.
Norway’s full independence came in AD 1905, and was the culmination of a process that had lasted for several decades.
Once upon a time in the distant past, imagine yourself sitting in a small boat, facing this mighty gateway into the bowels of the land.
A kjenge is a drinking bowl used in the old Norwegian farming society – usually with two handles - carved and hollowed out from one piece of wood.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
In 1938, Queen Maud died unexpectedly during a visit to the United Kingdom. But what happened to her unentombed coffin when the Germans attacked Norway in 1940?
In the old Norwegian farming society, a husmann was a man who was allowed to build his home on a small section of a farm’s land, and pay with his labour instead of rent.
For thousands of years, milk from the domesticated animals has had a dominant position in the Norwegian diet. People used milk from the cow, the reindeer, the sheep and the goat.
What beautiful needlework. A bonnet from the collections of Slottsfjellsmuseet - in the city of Tønsberg.
From the early 1800s and well into the 1900s, Norway was a significant exporter of natural ice. But how did they prevent the ice from melting?

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history