Hultafors. All about the axes. Right?

A Hultafors axe head with a Hultafors 2m ruler

Perhaps it’s time to rethink and reframe how we think of Hultafors - to think rulers first, axes second.

Yes, Hultafors are world-renown axe makers. It’s what we, at Tinker and Fix, have always known and loved them for. But their history actually lies in measurements – namely the creation of the folding ruler.  

Surprisingly, this simple device came into being because of the French Revolution. Rewind to the late 18th century and the French system of measuring things (distance and weights) were chaotic and confusing – not only within France but also between nations too. The French National Assembly wanted (in 1791) to create a universal measurement system based on reason, and all the ensuing astronomic activity, triangulation and technical mastery led to the creation of the metric system.

Fast forward circa 100 years and countries begin to get on board and to grips with introducing this new system – including Sweden. When parliament made its decision in 1875 to be metric by 1889, it got a young Swedish engineer, called Karl-Hilmer Johansson Kollén, thinking. According to Hultafor’s history, he quickly realised the educational value of being able to see both measurement systems at the same time – so he developed a comparison rule that showed both the old inches and the new centimetres. As the ruler was awkward to handle in a single long piece, he set about inventing a rule that you could fold. By 1883 he had designed what is now the world-renowned folding rule.

After being initially based in Stockholm, the folding rule factory moved to be based in a small village called Hultafors, which gave the company its name and where the folding rules are still, to this day, made. At an astonishing rate – with nearly 14 million meters of folding rules being every year.

So, what makes the Hultafors wooden folding rule still so good (and why we think it's definitely a 'buy once, buy well' tool) , aside from its iconic design which remains after 140 years? There are a number of reasons that Hultafors give, but we reckon it comes down to its two main materials (wood and steel) and the production process:

  • Wood: They are made from Downy Birch - which has the ideal quality for making folding rules. The wood comes from the perfect growing climate within a belt that begins from nearby in Värmland, Sweden.
  • Steel: The joints are made of Swedish steel, and are oiled at three points to ensure its high-class properties. The steel is heat-treated and epoxy lacquered for rust protection.
  • Production: The rules are manufactured to the strictest and most stringent requirements – to ensure they are calibrated to the very highest levels of accuracy. For example, during production, each folding rule is photographed twice using a high-speed camera to check their quality.

We stock the 2m Hultafors ruler and we think it’s rather impressive that for just under £9 you can, to this day, hold a little bit of history in your hands and still find it hugely useful for general making and measuring.

If you’re at all interested in finding out more about the momentous movement of all countries across the world (apart from America, Liberia and Myanmar) to metric (and, of course, the UK with its own version of using it and not using it simultaneously) – then read this BBC story.

Finally, every month (or so) we chat about a different company that we rate as a 'buy once, buy well' brand.... because we reckon they should be celebrated for doing their bit to bring quality to our selection of DIY or gardening tools. If you haven't already done so, check out our chat 'buy once, buy well' Leatherman chat.... 

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