Sweden – Onward to Gransfors Bruks Axes
After the decision was made for Lisa to return to the UK for a short period a route change had to happen to meet the availability of an affordable airline. Using some accumulated Airmiles she could fly out of Stockholm (Sweden) and then return to Munich (Germany) where I would drive to and pick up up 5 days later.
In the initial planning stages of our trip I had always wanted to visit the handmade axe producers at Gransfors Bruks Axes. We were going to head up to the forge and then cut back across to Norway at Trondheim but as our departure grew closer it seemed a long way out and we would also miss out on the main fjord region of Norway (which seemed to be the main attraction). Things were changed last minute and I thought I would never get the opportunity to visit GBA again…
With Lisa now flying out of Stockholm we could drive straight down from Hetta (Finland) in a few days passing GBA within 15km of the E4. The only problem was the day we arrived was a Saturday evening… and they were closed all weekend. We wild-camped that night just north of Gransfors near a large lake and the next morning headed into Bergsjo (a small town to the South) to find some food and maybe a place to stay as we had been wild-camping for 4 nights straight. We happened across the Rike Per Guest house just on the outskirts of town. A large building very well decorated inside and out. I thought it was going to be too expensive and nearly didn’t bother calling the owner. On talking to Petra we managed to get a very reasonable room rate and once we were inside and had a look around realised it was a VERY reasonable rate. Those who know me and Lisa (and probably from reading this blog) will know that we don’t spend out (or even seek out) nice/lavish/unique accommodation when we travel. We travel cheap and one of the biggest savings when travelling comes from accommodation. However this place was fantastic, we both felt immediately at home. Furnished with the right mix of renovated old Scandinavian and modern décor where it was need we could relax with a comfy bed and large shower enjoying the time we had there. If your looking for a place to stay at a very competitive rate when you visit Gransfors Bruks then I would highly recommend this place (Mark also serves up an excellent breakfast). There is also a little known ski resort not far from here if that is your kind of thing. They can be found here: www.rikeper.com
Arriving at GBA we were immediately taken to the forge down a flight of steps where we were just left to look around! No safety briefing, no ‘Do’s & Don’t s’ just a Hi Vis vest and off you go! The main part of the forge is separated into a series of workstations (from what I could gather) each with a mechanical hammer/press powered by a large flywheel. The axe maker then heats up the end of a large solid section of steel (approx 1000 degrees C) before chopping off the malleable piece. With a pair of tongs he then holds it within the pre-set spaces of the hammer to form the axe head. Working rhythmically the axe maker can form the cutting piece of the axe head and the hole required for the handle in around 1-2 minutes.
Once the axe maker is happy with the piece he then stamps the axe head with his initials and the GBA seal of approval. The axeheads are then hung up to cool or ‘normalise’ for the next process. Generally each axe maker at the forge has his own preference for the type of axe he will produce. Some will only produce the specialist broad axes, whilst others splitting mauls and smaller axes/hatchets.
Once the axe heads have cooled they have to be hardened to produce a metal that is durable, can hold its edge and will no break, shatter or crack. We did not get to see this process so I’m a little unsure how it works but I think it involves the axe heads being super heated for some time before being quenched (cooled) quickly. Once this is done the heads are boxed up and put in storage for the sharpening room. Here each head gets it coarse sharpening and general shape before its final sharpening which is the finished product. The heads are again boxed before going back upstairs where the handles are fitted. Each axe is given its ‘axe book’ hand tied to the handle along with its 20 year Guarantee before being boxed ready for export. GBA can be found here: www.gransfors.com and there is a lot of info on their website so it is worth a look around.
I had to resist the urge to buy another axe, I could have justified at least another two! But I am happy with my forest axe, which is happy felling small trees, limbing branches and splitting firewood and will probably outlive me. It was worth visiting GBA and nice to meet Ulrik Nilsson (who made my axe). I’m sure it will see plenty more action as we travel onwards east to Siberia.
I would like to thank everyone at Gransfors Bruks Axes for taking the time to speak to us on our visit and Petra and Mark at the Rike Per Guest house for a fantastically relaxed stay.