The King of Crafts

As I prepare to leave, I thought I would share a story that illustrates why I want to be a blacksmith…

Camelot had been finished for a month or so, the concrete curing to perfection. King Arthur had decided to throw a feast to honor all the craftsmen that had helped construct the place.

As the craftsmen entered the great hall, they were instructed to seat themselves in a manner where those that had most to do with the construction sit nearest the king and those that had the least to do with it sit furthest away. In that way honor could be given in an equitable fashion.

Arthur was renowned for his wisdom and council throughout the kingdom. Part way through the main course Arthur looked about the room. He stood after the main meal and walked about the tables.

He approached the craftsman nearest him and asked what was his occupation? The man replied, “Why sire, I am your tailor!” Arthur asked what he had constructed. The tailor replied “Those fine robes that you’re wearing sire, the tapestry that hangs on the wall. I made those!” Arthur congratulated him on his fine workmanship and moved to the next person.

He asked the same questions. The man replied, “I am your goldsmith sire. That platter that you eat from, the goblet that you drink from, I made both of those. I even made the fine gold thread in the tapestry.” Arthur again offered his congratulations and moved on.

The next in line was the silversmith. His reply to Arthur’s question was to point out the cutlery at the king’s table and the fine candle sticks adorning the king’s table.

And so Arthur made his was down the table. Stone mason, carpenter and so on, until he reached the blacksmith sitting at the far end of the room.

He asked the blacksmith what he had contributed to the palace. The blacksmith replied that he had made the hinges for the door, but not much else. Seeming satisfied with his meetings, Arthur returned to his seat.

After the fine dessert, Arthur again stood and walked around the table.

He approached the tailor. Arthur asked, “Tell me, your scissors, your needles, where do you get those?” The tailor replied, “Sire, I go to the blacksmith!”

Arthur asked the question of the goldsmith. “Your hammer and stakes, where do you get those?” The goldsmith replied, “Sire, I have the blacksmith make them.”

Arthur got the same response all the way along the table until he reached the blacksmith. Arthur asked his question of the blacksmith and the smith replied, “Sire I make my own tools, and those of others. That is my trade.”

Arthur exclaimed, “Smith! By your hammer and hand all crafts do stand! You shall be seated at the top of the table.”

Arthur bade the blacksmith to move to the top of the table. He asked the tailor to swap seats as he thought the smith had been done an injustice. The smith was very embarrassed, as he had just come from the forge and was still wearing his apron. The tailor was livid.

So intent was the tailor to exact some sort of revenge that he snuck beneath the table with his scissors and when he reached the blacksmith, he cut a fringe on the blacksmith’s apron.

After the meal the smith noticed his apron and understood what had happened. He continued to wear the apron for work at the forge and always exclaimed with delight when someone would ask him the story behind the fringe.

“Why,” he would say, “the tailor gave me this as recognition of my services to the crafts.”

That is why, to this day, a blacksmith should have fringe cut on the bottom of his/her apron. And make his/her own tools.

From The Skills of a Blacksmith, Volume I: Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing, by Mark Aspery. Copyright 2006. Used with permission.


Fire and Ice: Blacksmithing in Sweden

I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, a quest for knowledge and adventure. Although I am receding into the backwoods of Sweden, this blog is a way to stay connected and share my experiences with all those who are interested. I cannot guarantee the frequency of my posts, but hopefully this will allow a glimpse into my life over the next several months.

My destination is Gränsfors Bruk, and the forge of Fredrik Thelin. Gränsfors is a renowned maker of quality handmade axes, respected internationally in the bushcraft and primitive skills communities. Fredrik Thelin runs the educational side of the forge, as well as having his own shop and company, Järnsmide å sånt. My goal is to blacksmith as much as possible, learn as many things as I can, and see the country of Sweden through its backdoor. Let the travels begin!


Approximate location of Bergsjö, home of Gränsfors and Fredrik