☞ Hi Svante, this is Jenny from The Spoon Crank. Would you have time for the interview talked about for our blog?
Sure, right now is fine. I’m sitting here working as we speak…
☞ Great, let’s dive in. What is the best part of being a blacksmith?
☞ When and how did S. Djärv Hantverk start?
Well, that’s easier to ask than to answer actually. Everything began a couple of generations ago. My dad was an engineer and a craftsman. His father built, among other things, his own house all by himself and my nan was a weaver. My other grandfather, who was a carpenter by trade, spent most of his spare time crafting, and actually started making a living from crafting during the big strike of 1920. My grandmother used to work at a factory called Bulten. It was pretty unusual for women to work in the heavy industry back then. Basically, I was indoctrinated with craft since I was a child.
☞ What was the role of your mother in this?
She would take care of the household mainly, though she tried to find a job towards the end. She’d often look at all my dirty and muddy trousers in despair. There were no locker rooms in the work places back then so my dad used to always come home in muddy clothes. My mum died when I was ten. After that it was me and the old man only.
☞ Did you look up to your dad?
Absolutely! My dad used to buy broken cars to repair. Having a car was important growing up. The alternative was busses and gravelled roads, but having a car allowed us to rent a cottage on the island of Tjörn – the car gave us freedom. My dad would let me join him at work though I wasn’t allowed to do certain stuff. I wasn’t allowed to screw the nuts for example. He used to say “You are the assistant handyman, you must always stay one step ahead…” He was my mentor. I learned to predict what and when he needed something, I learned about metal. Yeah, omg, if I looked up to my dad!
☞ When you grew up and considered future careers, how did your thoughts go?
I knew that I wanted to work with my hands, so I studied fine woodworking. After that I joined the school Sjöviks Folkhögskola where I became a certified nature guide. We learnt how to craft our own tools such as knives, kuksas and kayaks. During the second year I made my own kayak, which I took for a five-week journey in Norway. There were plenty of stuff I didn’t have time to try during the course! I just dabbled with forging then. Mainly I worked with wood. Most importantly, at the school I met Elsa, my wife.
At some point during the 80’s, Elsa and I wanted to realise our dream about buying a little red cottage. We managed to end up with a yellow brick house instead, haha. It had a warm garage though, which we could use as a workshop. Somewhere there the journey for S. Djärv Hantverk began. I didn’t really know where it would end. I just knew that I wanted something of my own.
☞ When did you start forging?
I was really into fine knife making. I used to buy blades and make the rest such as handles, sheaths and silver-work. Apart from knives I used to make sculptures, kayaks and work on the lathe. I wanted to forge the blades for the knives as well. Starting with the blades as an entry point to forging was slightly overambitious. I could have started with something simpler. The first forge was a masonite shed. The wind used to blow straight through. Minus 20Cº behind me and 100Cº in front of me. Two years after, we decided to invest in a construction barrack. A red one actually. So instead of a red cottage, we got a red workshop!
I was asked to make spoon knives and tools and thought “What? How trivial… I’m a fine knife maker!”. It felt slightly beneath me. But after the third request the penny dropped that perhaps this was something to get into.
I tried it and really learnt the craft. I slowly realised that I made pretty good edges. There was an old man in the north, whose his name unfortunately escapes my memory, who used to make spoon knives for pretty much everyone back then. But when he died the orders started coming in. The knives being ordered up front meant more financial security for me.
S. Djärv now celebrates 30 years. Or rather, we agreed it was last year…
☞ Do you ever use your own tools?
☞ Do you have any tips for someone who wants to become a blacksmith?
Let’s just say; during the first five years I was on an extremely low income. Then the following five, was pretty much the same. You need to have a passion and a vision and preferably, be totally clueless about money, haha. You need to consider yourself a producer rather than consumer. I still feel like I’ll go broke every time I buy something. With the money we used to make, we’d buy materials and machines. Being a blacksmith it’s not easy to build a business living la vida loca from. Never been used to having money around while growing up has helped.
☞ I’ve heard you are very busy now and have long delivery times. Can you let us know why?
We had a delivery time of about three weeks, but now we are around one year a bit depending on the order of course. A private person rarely have to wait for so long, probably about three to five months.
It all started six or seven years ago due to internet as well as having too many retailers. In the beginning it was stressful, but at the same time it’s nice that the products are sought after. It’s a sign of being established.