The village of Skeppshult sits in the province of Småland in southern Sweden - a couple of hundred kilometres inland and south of Gothenburg.
It’s tiny - with less than 400 inhabitants and covering less than one square kilometre. Yet it’s home to two iconic industries - funky bicycle manufacturer Skeppshultcykeln, which started business in 1911, and Skeppshult Gjuteri AB, which opened a few years earlier and is now the last remaining foundry in Scandinavia. The names give you a clue about these brands. They’re resilient and anchored to their home patch with pride.
Skeppshult puts it this way: “Today’s society moves at a fast pace; products become obsolete within a year and many are mass-produced, usually in the Far East. Skeppshult is based on a different premise; we have made our products by hand since 1906 according to ancient methods and traditions.”
We fell in love with the rustic Viking feel and clever Scando design of Skeppshult’s cast-iron cookware. The combo sets where a casserole lid becomes its own pan or griddle are a particular favourite. But the waffle iron is not far behind !
The cast-iron cookware is handmade. Individual moulds are made from specially formulated sand compressed under several hundred tonnes of pressure. Recycled iron from scrap, castings and imperfect products is heated to a molten state in induction furnaces powered by renewable solar and hydro-generated electricity. It is carefully poured by the casting master into the moulds and left to set. In another piece of clever industrial design, the bottoms of the pans are made slightly concave to compensate for the metal’s natural expansion when heated. That means they do not become rounded with use, ensuring a balanced pan and even heat distribution.
The finishing touch is the seasoning with canola oil from Osterlen, which is further south in the province of Scania. This provides Nick with a bit of nostalgic comfort – as an ex-SAAB driver he well remembers the dragon-like griffin logo that is part of the region’s heraldry.
Here’s an insight to the factory and people who make it special...
There’s an interesting symmetry in Skeppshult’s history. The current CEO is Simon Bolmgren. Simon, with his father Thomas and the Bolmgren family, are the current owners. Simon is now applying the lessons learned in an investment / private equity house and business consultancies, including KMPG Advisory, in Sweden. His education was in America, including at Columbia University in New York City (which is where Amy did her art history degree). His return to the homeland with knowledge gained in the States is a direct parallel to the foundry’s founder, Carl E Andersson. He too learned some tricks in the States – but that was around the turn of the last century and the skillset was the art and science of casting. He returned to his beloved Skeppshult in 1906, determined to create a sustainable business. The enduring success of the foundry is testimony to his vision and the people of Skeppshult, whose craft and passion has passed down the generations and who continue to guide this proud brand into the 21st century.