A big part of my life is building. I moved into my own hand-built cob house two summers ago, and currently I’m building a timber frame kitchen, and planning for a another house. I pursue natural building, using local and recycled materials, and with that, using traditional techniques. This includes the use of hand tools. One of my goals is to pursue building with as little power tool and high tech gadget influence as possible — give me a good hand saw, chisels, axes, and I’m much happier.
In this day and age of high tech gadgets and tools, you might be surprised to learn there are tool manufacturers still using traditional techniques to make their products, too. Gränsfors Bruks, a Swedish axe company, is one of them. They have recently inspired me with their counter-intuitive business model, and of course, their very stunning hand forged axes and hatchets. Amazing!
Hand Forging Tools Today
Gränsfors Bruks is one of very few companies in Sweden still using traditional hand forging techniques to create their axes and hatchets. Under the motto, “an axe becomes as good as its smith,” they take their work very seriously, and employ a number of skilled blacksmiths to hand forge their complete line of tools. Most axe companies these days do no such thing, and axe heads are machine made, often overseas, and as a result, they severely lack in quality when compared to a hand forged tool.
What does hand forging an axe look like in this modern age? Check out this video inside the Gränsfors Bruks company that I recently stumbled upon:
The History of Gränsfors Bruks
The history of this company is fascinating, and very worth mentioning here, too. The owner of Gränsfors Bruks, Gabriel Branby, transformed the company from a bankrupt, mass production-style axe manufacturer, to a small scale, high quality shop with skilled smiths that hand forge their products with the utmost care and attention. In this age of “quick and cheap is better” kind of culture, and mass production of products, Branby took a step backwards and did just the opposite, and because of that, his company is now successful. If that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is. It gives me great hope for hand crafts and small scale, sustainable economic models. Here’s another video with Branby and the story of his company. It’s a bit long, but I recommend it to people interested in hand tool craft and production, and sustainable economics.
p.s. Want to learn how to build your own natural home with old fashioned hand tools? Check out these opportunities: a 2012 timber frame workshop, and straw bale workshops at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri.