The history of the company
Svedbro Smide AB (1878 – 1940)
Svedbro Smide’s story starts in the late 19th century with a smith called Gustav Tiderman. In 1878, he established a water-powered forge in Svedbro, on the Annån river that crosses the road between Gnarp and Bergsjö, about 10 km from the village of Gränsfors. However, the business went bankrupt after just one year and the Svedbro forge was taken over by Johan Sjölander, who ran it for about 12 years. On Johan’s death in around 1890, the forge was sold by his widow, Kajsa-Stina, to Anders Erik Bergqvist, who in turn handed the forge on to his son Erik Bergqvist in 1924. Erik was a trained smith and farrier, with a wife called Britta. Erik died in 1941 and Britta was suddenly responsible for the forge. In contrast to that other forge widow Kajsa-Stina half a century before, Britta decided to hold on to the Svedbro forge.
Britta ran the forge for six years under the name “Erik Bergqvist Smide Sterbhus” with the help of John Enander and the smiths Rudolf Larsson. Their products included welded high-pressure boilers and water heaters. However, a shortage of materials during the Second World War brought such production to an end. Instead, they continued to manufacture grub hoes, lifting tongs and lifting hooks.
Partnership with Gränsfors Bruk (1940 – 1960)
1943, John Enander’s nephew Per Enander, aged 22, starts an apprenticeship at the Svedbro forge, which now produced a large number of contract pieces for ironmonger O Erikssons Järnhandel in Bergsjö. After a few years, Per married Britta’s only daughter Elsie and in 1947 took over the Svedbro forge, which also changed its name to Svedbro Smidesfabrik. Per continued to supply the ironmonger in Bergsjö and in 1948 also started making an older version of a wrecking bar that was sold to the axe company Gränsfors Bruk AB. 1951 marked the start of another partnership between Svedbro Smidesfabrik and the Stockholm-based company Skogsdon AB, with Svebro producing a number of different forestry tools for them.
In 1952, Gränsfors Bruk’s owner Torgny Eriksson, office manager Axel Bäckström and salesman Tore Vestin contacted Svedbro Smidesfabrik about them making a new wrecking bar, for which Gränsfors Bruk would provide the steel. The wrecking bars were branded TOVE after salesman Tore Vestin, and were based on an original design that Svedbro Smide had been making since 1942. However, the partnership between the two companies was not a great success, with the steel often running out and Gränsfors Bruk frequently dragging out payments to Svedbro Smidesfabrik. In 1960, Per Enander was offered the option of taking over from Axel Wennerström as forge manager at Gränsfors Bruk and at the same time selling Svedbro Smidesfabrik to Gränsfors Bruk. Per declined the offer. Instead, Per built a new forge in Gnarp with the help of Gnarp Municipality. Per and his wife Elsie worked here until their retirement in 1985.
Swedish state buys and sells (1960 – 1985)
During the 1960s, Svedbro Smidesfabrik expanded beyond wrecking bars and forestry tools to include forestry machines. In 1961 Skogsdon AB, a company whose business concept was “to develop and sell everything a forest worker needed”, became a minority shareholder in Svedbro Smidesfabrik. In 1971 Skogsdon was purchased by the state-owned Domänverket (now Sveaskog), giving the Swedish state a stake in Svedbro Smidesfabrik. In 1978, Skogsdon bought up all the shares in Svedbro Smidesfabrik, which now changed its name to Svedbro Smide AB. That same year saw Skogsdon acquire and merge with Nordforest Skogstillbehör AB, which had its offices and warehouse in Säter. With the merger, Skogsdon moved its headquarters from Stockholm and its warehouse, which had stood next to Svedbro since the 1960s, was relocated to Säter, making it more centrally positioned to serve the Swedish forest industry.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Svedbro Smide manufactured 50 or so different forestry tools alongside the wrecking bars. However, sales of these tools, which were sold through Skogsdon, later to become Nordforest Skogsdon, shrank as the number of active forest workers dropped due to increased mechanisation of forestry. Key products at that time included the Stalpen tree jack and planting equipment such as a new planting tube.
In 1982 Domänverket sold Svedbro Smide to Gabriel Brånby. He had previously been MD of Skogsdon from 1977 – 1980. In 1985 Svedbro Smide then bought up the bankrupt Gränsfors Bruks AB, paving the way for a new journey.
Svedbro Smide + Gränsfors Bruk (1985 – 2005)
In 1985, Svedbro Smide purchased the company Gränsfors Bruk. Svedbro Smide forged wrecking bars and forestry tools in Gnarp using technology that was similar to what Gränsfors had. The two businesses were merged into a single unit under the name of Gränsfors Bruks AB,
In 1988, Gränsfors Bruk sold off its forestry tools business to Sandvik’s subsidiary Eia and concentrated more on making axes, splitting mauls, tree jacks, planting tubes and wrecking bars. Some time later, the planting tube business was also sold off to Finnish company Lännen. In 2005, the business was once again split into two, with the wrecking bar business Gränsfors Bruks Kofotssmedja remaining in Gnarp and the axe business Gränsfors Bruks Yxsmedja in Gränsfors. On separating the businesses, Gränsfors Bruks Kofotssmedja also changed its name to Gränsfors Smide i Gnarp AB.
Svedbro Smide today
In recent years it has gradually been a generational change within the company, where two of Gabriel’s sons, Adam and Daniel has taken over.
In January 2015 the loop is closed in the name history of the company. To avoid confusion with the name of the sister company Gränsfors Bruks AB and also to connect to the company’s long history, Gränsfors Smide i Gnarp AB returns to the name the company had when the it was founded in 1878; Svedbro Smide AB.
In recent years, several forges in Sweden have been closed. Svedbro Smide, however, are going well, despite two large financial crises in recent years and despite great migration of production from Sweden to “low-wage” countries. Svedbro Smide has gradually increased sales and is today selling the crowbars, Stalpen and breaching tools in around thirty countries.