Working at Hults bruk

We sat down to have a chat with Lotta and Claes, two of our skilled blacksmiths that spend their days in the forge.

How long have you worked as a blacksmith?

Claes: 4.5 years approximately.

Lotta: 1 year! I don’t know if I can call myself a blacksmith yet? *laugh*

How come you chose the profession?

Claes: I was moving from Jämtland, saw the job and applied. So I ended up here!

Lotta: I lived and worked in Norway and I felt that I wanted to move back home again and looked around for a job. And then this came up and it sounded interesting.

What did you do before becoming a blacksmith?

Lotta: I was a product developer and category manager at a well-known sports brand.

Claes: I worked with forestry. But not with axes.

Can anyone become a blacksmith?

"Well, I do not think so. It's a craft after all. You simply need to have a feeling for craftsmanship, to work with your hands."

What does it take to become a good blacksmith?

Lotta: The look and sense of form and shape. I was fascinated by the fact that this work is between industry and crafts. I was also surprised that it takes so much precision to shape the axe. The first axe should preferably look similar to the last axe for the day, that you are consistent.

We measure all the time with calipers so that it is correct all the time.

Claes: Then it's good to be a mechanic too, because it's part of screwing and adjusting when changing tools.

Lotta: You must not be afraid to take in, patience and perseverance. That you do not give up in the first place. Everything must take its time. Some moments can be a bit monotonous, but you need to get it to settle in your body. 

Do you know when it will be right?

Claes: You learn to see it. The experience shows over time.

Lotta: Yes, and when you get every stroke so the material behaves as you intended.

How much time is needed to shape an axe?

Claes: When you are completely new, you absolutely have to start over sometimes because the piece got too cold. Then you may not forge it perfect every time. We work with two blacksmiths on each hammer. It takes about 40 seconds to make an axe on one side of the hammer. And then the other person takes over and finish the axe. So just over 1.5-2 min per axe I would say. Yes, and if you do it 400 times a day, it can easily become monotonous. 

The work sounds lonely?

Claes: Yes, there will be a lot of radio, podcasts and music in the headphones.

Lotta: I definitely listen to a lot of podcast!

What is the most critical moment during forging?

Lotta: As a newcomer, I think it's to get in the right shape before the piece gets too cold.

Claes: The most difficult thing is probably to set up the machine when we change the model. If the settings work as they should, there is no direct critical moment in the forging itself.

Do you need to adjust the machine during the day?

Lotta: As a newcomer, it is sometimes difficult to determine if it is me who is doing wrong or if the settings have gone wrong.

Claes: Sometimes we need to adjust the tools, but it's not very often.

What is the best thing about working as a blacksmith?

Claes: Free access to axes * laughs * But it's a difficult question … if you like craftsmanship, it's an interesting profession.

"To be able to work with products that are close to the user. We create tools that a user will use. We work in an industry, but at the same time it is a product that you can relate to. It is an old craft and a different material than the textile materials that I am used to from before."

Lotta: There is a lot of history and old customs and usages, at the same time it is 2022 and some things in technology are still the same. What should you keep from the old and what can you add from the new without losing the culture around the forge. It is an atmosphere that you want to live on. Then you want new ovens and make certain steps easier, but there is a balance all the time between new and old.

What was it like to start as a blacksmith?

"Everything was very different. To go from an office environment where the worst thing is to cut yourself on a piece of paper and here you have to think about where to put your hands so as not to burn your fingers off ... or cut yourself."

Are you blacksmiths for life now?

Claes: Well, you probably are not. It's tiring. And I prefer to work outdoors.

Lotta: With great respect for everyone who has worked as a blacksmith for a long time, not just that it is heavy but it is probably more that it becomes monotonous and it settles in the body. I simply get to see over time.

Interests outside the forge?

Claes: I really like nature photography and I like the outdoors. In Jämtland I worked with sled dogs.

Lotta: I'm an outdoor nerd, I like hiking and being out as much as possible. Life is outdoor. We're way too much inside, I think.

Tools we talked about