A boy’s dream that came true

One day as a young boy Jonas Grahn sat and listened to his schoolteacher in the second class when she read a story about some boys who were going to build a rocket to compete with.

This was at the time when the first man was to land on the moon and many things were inspired by space and space flight. Suddenly during the story the teacher reads the formula for the rocket powder and young Jonas who had just recently learnt to write, has no pen at hand to write down the formula. Afterwards Jonas asks his teacher what the powder formula was but the teacher declined to answer.

The years go by and in the fourth class the children learn that there is a word called dictionary and in a dictionary you can look things up. Jonas Grahn who not entirely lacks learning ability, immediately understands that you can look up the word rocket or maybe even the word gun-powder.

Jonas and a friend go to the school library and immediately ask the librarian where the dictionary is where you can look up the word gunpowder. The librarian didn’t want to answer the question since he presumably judged that two 10-year old gentlemen by rights should not have access to such information. Jonas Grahn who at this time didn’t know about asserting the principle of public access to official records, pretends to accept the answer and already during the next break and behind the librarians back, succeeds in finding the literature since he understood that it must be those thick brown books called Bonnier’s Encyclopedia that are presumably the so-called dictionaries.

Even though this event takes place at the time when a 10-year old boy’s daydreams do not necessarily have to be of a sexual nature, to quote a famous Christmas voice, it was with shaking hands that the boys turned over the pages to gunpowder, rocket powder, chocolate powder and similar headings with an excitement that only a young boy can have.

Jonas and his friend Stefan were two of those who were very interested in subjects that concerned gunpowder and rockets.

The classroom chemistry cupboard

At the school in question, subjects like chemistry, biology and physics were regarded as important subjects and were given high priority and in every classroom at that time there was a laboratory cupboard. In this cupboard there were some jars that particularly interested young Mr. Grahn and they were the jars that contained sulphur and saltpeter. Carbon, which young Mr. Grahn had learnt should be included in gunpowder could be arranged elsewhere.

Jonas already knew where the teacher had the key to the cupboard – it was in the top drawer of the teacher’s desk and on one occasion when the teacher had forgotten to lock the classroom door Jonas was quick to sneak into the classroom, borrow the key and requisition a considerable, but not thievish quantity of chemicals from the jars in question. This acquisition would, in spite of everything, be a benefit to science although that argument at the age Mr. Grahn was at the time would have been difficult to explain for others than friends of the same age.

So the first mixture of black powder was prepared and Jonas Grahn can still feel the smell in his nose as carbon dust and potassium nitrate penetrated his nostrils.

The first rocket experiment

It was now time to build rockets and the first one consisted of a toilet paper roll filled with a black powder mixture and a thousand broken-off heads of match sulphur. This toilet paper roll was taped to a guide stick and a sparkler was used for the fuse.

Jonas and his friend went out to a field near the croft Baggansås, placed the rocket behind a large stone and lit the sparkler fuse. Jonas and his friend now took cover on the other side of the stone together with some lazily grazing cows in the pasture.

The sparks from the sparkler finally reached the chemical mixture and a violent smoke cloud surrounded the flaming toilet paper roll. The cows ran off frightened in one direction and Jonas’ friend’s mother came rushing out of Baggansås just as frightened and wondered what in the whole world we were doing. However, she didn’t appear in any way to have any understanding for scientific experiments at advanced level…

Some weeks later we got the idea that if we could pinch together one end of a piece of copper tubing and leave the other end open we could have a good rocket motor. The first attempt only created smoke since we had a completely open hole but then we got the idea that if we nearly pinched the end of the tubing completely together and just left a small hole for the sparkler it could produce better wind in the gun powder. Sven Olof, my friend’s father, had a good vice in his garage and this gave a perfect smaller hole in the end of the copper tubing for the sparkler to fit into.

It was then time to shoot up the rocket and this time with a proper guide stick heavily taped with insulating tape to the copper tubing. The sparkler was lit and the rocket shot off with violent force. Once again my friend’s mother came rushing out of the house and this time showed even less understanding for scientific experiments at advanced level. This time we were banned from more attempts at the Baggansås site.

The first real rocket

We had come as far as the beginning of the 7th year class and had a form master who besides being a chemistry teacher also liked things that exploded and smelt bad. It wasn’t long before this chemistry teacher discovered that some of us pupils shared this interest. We carried out many interesting unscientific experiments under his guidance.

Among the school’s physics equipment there was also a small rocket model equipped with a camera that could be shot up with very small gunpowder motors imported from USA. One should remember that the interest for space and rocket flights was very great in many circles at this time after the landing of the first man on the moon.

During so-called free-choice studies we put together the rocket in question and then it was time to shoot up the creation during a long break. The school’s grass football pitch became the launching site and a large number of both teachers and pupils were present. The launch went well and the rocket came down again in a parachute and everyone was very impressed.

The first Zincite rocket

We had now got the taste of blood and that business with paper models we thought was for children and now we wanted to build steel rockets because they were for big boys. Thanks to director of studies Bengtsson at school we got the tip that there was a rocket fuel called Zincite and could be a mixture of zinc and sulphur.

In our free-choice studies we now had the chance of building our first steel rocket and for the rocket body we found an old worn out exhaust pipe from a Saab V4 that we thought seemed easy and suitable for the rocket to be able to fly as far as possible.

We got help from Våge Johansson and Bertil Olson with certain practical details that we couldn’t manage ourselves and in the background there was of course our interested and helpful chemistry teacher Gösta Lönnegren.

Now the rocket fuel was to be test-mixed and it was done in a mortar in the school’s chemistry lab. Our teacher, Gösta Lönnegren, held the match and lit a little mixture of about 50 grams. Completely surprisingly a violent cloud of smoke formed and everything in the room became white and when the smoke had died down somewhat we couldn’t see the chemistry teacher. For a short moment Jonas thought that the teacher must have been destroyed but the somewhat dazed teacher with a long experience of unscientific experiments soon crawled up from the other side of the teacher’s desk and as we understood completely uninjured which is remarkable to explain when thinking of the not so mild explosion.

On the other hand, the mortar that was used for the firing was completely gone and could not be found. The work with the rocket continued with welding and turning and even an application to the Civil Aviation Administration for rocket firing. The Administration authorized 14-year-old Jonas Grahn to be the State’s acting firing leader for the rocket firing that was to take place on Lidboholm’s meadows about 2 km north of Braås.

It was then time for the firing, the fuse was lit and the spectators could take cover in the vicinity. Bang!– and the rocket was destroyed in a single big cloud of smoke. That exhaust pipe which was light and should have lifted the rocket a long way was rusty – the reason for the low weight and the rocket was doomed to failure from the outset. The local newspaper, Smålandsposten, was there and the boys were mentioned in the paper for the first time.

The refuse dump rocket

All that business with rockets was fantastic fun and more were now to be built although we ourselves didn’t build rocket number two. My friend maintained that he had found it on the refuse dump in Rottne and even though I pressed him to tell me where exactly the rocket came from, he still maintained obstinately that the rocket really came from the refuse dump in Rottne. He also said that there wasn’t anything peculiar about finding rockets there, instead he meant that it was completely natural to find rockets here, there, and everywhere. Even today I don’t know where that rocket came from but one thing is for sure – it didn’t come from the refuse dump in Rottne.

The rocket in question was a rather large piece of ordnance, maybe 50 mm in diameter and about a metre long and the only parts missing were the top block and nose cone, otherwise everything was complete as well as a real nozzle. It was heavy and we never thought that it could lift off but we gladly loaded this piece of ordnance with probably 10 kg zinc and sulphur that I remember the school thought meant a considerable sum of money for this rocket fuel.

So it was time for the launching and the launching site was once again Lidboholm’s meadows. Everyone took cover behind a pile of timber, my friend lit the fuse and I looked after the filming with my 8 mm super-eight film camera. Bang! The rocket took off and disappeared up into the sky and we stood there gaping and looking at each other. Where did the rocket really go to? Did it go into orbit?, we wondered. Obviously the rocket disappeared maybe a few kilometers away and at this time there was no one who understood just how dangerous the whole thing was. This was lucky in a way because otherwise we had never been allowed to continue. We never saw the rocket again but the experience was unique.

Later calculations proved that a rocket of this type could easily reach an altitude of 2000 meters.

The Rocket Club, Rocket Group PYRO - Pyrotechnical Youth Rocket Organisation

The school had probably begun to be somewhat doubtful where our experiments were concerned and that was surely completely right since Jonas Grahn was already at this time not completely unknown for being, shall we say, a little full of ideas.

It may be true that Jonas Grahn was involved in the exploding of bricks in the school wall but he was totally uninvolved when his considerably younger friend on his own blew up the telephone booth at Braås station so that it rained kronor coins over half of the center of Braås. The reason why nobody suspected Jonas’ friend was that he was only in the 5th year class when the bomb attack took place – he was absolutely too little to do such a thing. The fact that his 5-year older brother during a large part of 9th year class drove a car to school can be explained by the fact that his father was the dentist in the village and at that time children from the then social group 1 could do a little as they liked because the adults and teachers knew well that they didn’t willingly get on the wrong side of a dentist – it wasn’t suitable.

From one of the teachers we got the tip that we could form a club and receive contributions from the local authority and I remember my first telephone call to the then youth board at the Växjö local authority where Stig Carlsson was manager. He told me that, meetings, activities, etc, were entitled to contributions and Jonas understood that there was money to be made here. In addition, we planned to organize discos, walking and quiz competitions and other activities to contribute to the club cash box.

The club was started and the first annual meeting was held in 1978 when Jonas was 16 years old and had succeeded in assembling some 20 youngsters of the same age and some younger. Nearly all of them were boys but there were a few girls as well.

We now built a big rocket that we called Kebo Grave II after a chemical company who sponsored us with zinc and sulphur. It was a big piece of ordnance, maybe 4 meters long and was charged with a considerable quantity of zinc and sulphur. We called the whole project Europe Record Attempt without really knowing very much about any records for rockets using the fuel Zincite, that is to say zinc and sulphur.

The creation was to be launched from Kosta firing range where we had received military permission to be and as usual we even had permission from the Civil Aviation Administration. The club members stayed overnight in military tents that we had borrowed from the scouts and helpful parents had assisted with transport. The transmitter for the rocket was built by Kronoberg’s radio amateurs who had set up a base station at the camp.

The press were present and it was time launch the rocket that shot up with violent speed, broke through the sound barrier at least once with a massive sound bang as a result and disappeared up into the clouds.

Once again everyone stood gaping and after about a minute we heard the typical whistling, roaring sound when a projectile comes from nowhere. This went on for about fifteen seconds and then came a violent crash about 300 meters from the launching site. We rushed over there and saw that the rocket had buried itself deep into the ground. On the gravel road beside stood some spectators who were rather shocked since the rocket had crashed down only a few meters away from them, something that must have been very staggering.

We got into the newspaper and not only locally but also into the Evening Post. Even Stockholm’s bureaucrats could read the Evening Post and in particular a gentleman at the then National Inspectorate of Explosives and Flammables with the name Rune Tillman moreover director general of the said authority. In retrospect Jonas Grahn can confess that he has in fact been in contact with Rune Tillman regarding a permit for the manufacture of explosive goods. Tillman had explained for Jonas that one must be at least 18 years of age to be able to apply for a permit and Jonas not being able to accept this answer instead had told Mr. Tillman to go to a considerably deeper and hotter place. Tillman ordered a police investigation and Jonas confessed straight out. Very correctly and justly Jonas was declared guilty to a breach of the law governing the manufacture of explosive goods and was sentenced to 10 daily income fines à 5 kronor that in retrospect must be regarded as very symbolical from Växjö district court’s side, probably mostly to satisfy Mr. Tillman.

That week Jonas had to survive without his weekly pocket money since his very understanding mother had kindly paid in the amount to the Swedish state.

The Danish rocket club DARK

What we then did not know, this is before Internet and the home computer’s time, was that there existed a Danish rocket club and this club bought newspaper cuttings with search words rocket and rockets.

One evening when Jonas sat at home with his parents the telephone suddenly rang and in the other end a youthful voice was heard in Danish talking about something very difficult to understand about rockets and that they, together with a Frenchman, wanted to come to Sweden to meet us and to test a rocket motor. Danish is not always so easy to understand for the untrained ear but we decided a meeting at the Braås camping site where we had put up the scouts’ military tents.

Just as planned, several Danish cars in terrible condition turned up and out pour some 20 youngsters who were quite well drunk. At first we were a little frightened since they were much older than us, a few nearly twenty years old and we around fifteen or sixteen. We wondered what sort of gang this was and we hadn’t planned to drink a lot of beer but the Danes are of a completely different opinion.

However, it became apparent that the Danes are very serious and way ahead of us with the techniques and when they had sobered up the next morning they had both computers and advanced instruments to show us. They love mathematical calculations and in fact have quite a lot to teach us even if we, at that time, being somewhat younger, really thought that it was more fun to build and launch rockets than to calculate a lot first.

This weekend a rocket motor was tested with melted zinc and sulphur and this first melt was done on the slope down to the lake Örken at the camping site. The Frenchman who came with the Danes relates that there is an international rocket organization called Youth and Space and is sorted under the European Space Agency. This organization is known in the French-speaking countries but unknown in Sweden.

It was then the cooperation with Youth and Space was started and some years later Jonas was elected to Vice President. An international rocket launching camp was also organized in Sweden at Skillingaryd’s firing range and this was also observed by the Ministry of Industry’s space delegation that visited the launching site. Saab Combitech in Jönköping sponsored with bus transport to and from the launching site and Skillingaryd’s camp.

During a period of three days some fifteen rockets from seven different countries were launched and a satellite link to the launch control’s weather station. Nitro Nobel sponsored by lending and assembling a thunder warning system. We also received great help from the Vaggeryd local authority and in particular from the then recreation officer. Later on Jonas Grahn and his friends visited the rocket base Esrange in Kiruna, which was surrounded with great secrecy at that time and there they could witness some scientific experiments. The rocket club also visited the Defence Research Establishment at Grindsjön.

Young Researchers

Throughout the entire club period the rocket club belonged to the association Young Researchers that is an association acting on behalf of scientifically interested youngsters.

Within Young Researchers there was now an interest for rockets and some of the association’s clubs wanted to buy Zincite from the rocket club. This is how Jonas started his first real pyrotechnical business by delivering a few kilos of Zincite to the Young Researcher clubs.

Jonas’ way of learning when it concerned the high fine of fifty kronor now made him want to apply for a permit, if possible. The law was scrutinized by young Jonas and suitable premises were found in a village nearby where we could have our facilities.

A permit was applied for and despite a very sceptical police authority, a permit was granted to Jonas at the age of 18 for the manufacture of explosive goods. This was probably the first and last permit that the State grants to an 18-year-old youngster with regard to the handling of explosive goods in the kingdom of Sweden. In other words it was now possible to start selling explosive goods to those in need throughout the whole of Sweden and it was soon time to start a firm.

The PYRO firm

Jonas started his business carefully and some of the very first customers were the association Young Researchers and above all cooperation was initiated at an early stage with the Western Town, High Chaparall in the municipality of Gnosjö in Småland.

High Chaparall used and still uses a lot of special effects in its Western show and Jonas, young as he was, didn’t really realize how good the effects were that he produced because High Chaparall had previously had another well-known pyrotechnical supplier in Sweden who was now completely out of the picture as SFX supplier to Chaparall. During this first year, High Chaparall and some film companies stood for the main part of Jonas’ modest turnover at that time.


At that time there was absolutely no training for people where the safe handling of pyrotechnical special effects was concerned.

Training courses were then started at an early stage, a two-day training that quickly became very popular. It was now possible for like-minded to meet and exchange experiences at the same time as one was given a good insight and orientation in the problems of the safe handling of pyrotechnical special effects. During a 15-year period Jonas has trained approximately 300 people.

However, there are risks for a company that trains people for several established special effects companies on the Scandinavian market, people who have completed their first practical period with Jonas and who are today competitors to Smålands Krutbruk. This doesn’t matter too much because it’s important that every user has good training as long as Småland’s Krutbruk can keep one step ahead, it’s purely a positive aspect with other companies on the scene.

The company’s courses are today highly respected and many police authorities demand that people have taken part in Småland’s Krutbruk’s basic course in pyrotechnical special effects as this is a requirement for the police authority to be able to issue a permit.

The shelter in Böksholm and the cellar at Konsum

The first manufacturing permit was issued in a previous shelter belonging to Böksholm’s Works under the so-called sawmill in Böksholm and this is an old building where there was an ironworks during the 1700’s. This shelter was raw and cold and we preferred to keep to the clubroom under Konsum in Braås.

At the same time as Jonas ran the firm he carried out rocketry experiments in the organization Youth and Space. It became quite natural to combine club activities with the firm.

The Inspectorate of Explosives and Flammables and Carl Lindgren

At this time a Carl Lindgren worked at the Inspectorate of Explosives and Flammables and since new legislation had come into force, legislation that meant that all pyrotechnical goods should be approved article by article, this Carl Lindgren became Jonas’ contact person at the Inspectorate of Explosives and Flammables.

Jonas and Carl Lindgren met many times, both in Böksholm and under Konsum in Braås and Carl Lindgren was a very pleasant and sympathetic man.

Jonas and Carl together carried out many test launches for approval. Carl Lindgren was very adaptable but didn’t make things unnecessarily complicated. However, one should consider the fact that, at this time, there were no more than 10 pyrotechnical companies in the country and since then we have seen an explosive expansion of the market which has also meant that the previously very easy exercise of authority today requires completely different or instead, rather tough hands to keep the unruly pyrotechnics branch in check.


Because Jonas had plans for expansion he and Carl went round in the Braås district looking for suitable sites or buildings where Jonas could develop his business.

They found facilities near Braås that were previously a mirror factory and this came to be the first Krutbruket in Braås. After putting in a lot of his own work for more than a year with a total renovation of the building Jonas could move his business.

This building is located right near the lake Örken’s beach and one could say that the company has a beach site. Now there was space completely different to what he had previously and Jonas had many pioneering ideas.

However the renovation was very costly and at one time the building had a mortgage of 750 000 kronor but today, 10 years later it is completely free from debts.

Factory sales and demonstration firing of fireworks

A few years earlier Jonas had done his military service and in the beginning he had considered a military career but an unsympathetic captain at the I 12 regiment in Eksjö and a highly insolent lieutenant colonel at the same regiment gave Jonas completely different thoughts. At this time the Armed Forces had no time for individuals who thought independently and this obviously made a young innovator feel handicapped.

However, Jonas did learn a few good things from the military service and without in any way ranking them in order there are things like Order, Overlearning, Clarity, Control and Safety – characteristics that are very important when exercising pyrotechnics.

On several occasions Jonas also witnessed so-called demonstration firings in the military –firings that demonstrated, for example, different types of weapons and their effectiveness. Jonas got the idea to concentrate on demonstration firings and I still remember at the first demo how nervous I was that nobody would come to the firings and that one of the comrades had said that nobody would come to a thing like that.

That evening Braås and the powder mill were invaded. Thousands of people poured in from the whole county and the company was totally taken by surprise. There were no loudspeakers and the firings were carried out with the visiting customers bordering on rebellion since the company had totally sold out every piece of fireworks.

The day after the Smålandsposten newspaper wrote about a complete success. Selling fireworks in connection with demonstration firings was very successful and it only took a few years for other sales companies to join in. Today there are DEMOs at a large number of places in the country and the phenomenon has even spread to countries abroad.

The original demo is and will remain in Braås and no one, nowhere else, can yet demonstrate such an enjoyable and respected business as the company’s factory sales with demonstration firings.

Kruthuset is acquired

Already after a few years there was the need for additional facilities and in particular in connection with the demonstration firings.

At this time there was, in the vicinity of the powder mill, a larger industry building that had previously been used as a floor material factory but now had become bankrupt. Jonas at first contacted Sparbanken in Gothenburg that owned the building and discussed a possible purchase. Sparbanken was willing to do quick business and over 3000 square meters of industry building with 5-8 meters roof height could now be bought in cash.

The facilities have earlier mortgage deeds for over 15 million kronor which are today in the company’s possession. The building was, however, very badly maintained and the renovation and putting in order has cost nearly a million kronor, this also paid in cash.

Extensive ground work has also been carried out in connection with roads and the hardening of ground for demos and parking areas. Approximately 10000 cubic meters of filling material has been laid out in the area. The company has also acquired about 2 hectares of water and ground as well as fishing rights for the already 4 hectares large property by means of a purchase from the property committee in the diocese of Växjö.

Extensive cleaning of the stream has been carried out and this has considerably improved the fishing possibilities in the little stretch of stream from the part of the Mörrum river that is owned by the company and runs beside.

In a short time the company became Sweden’s largest individual sale point for fireworks directly to the consumer, very much thanks to fine, practical facilities. The company also attempts to show unique fireworks and firework combinations in connection with every DEMO and we always have the objective to create, as far as possible, a total experience for the visitors. Some customers drive nearly 1000 kilometres in a day to experience a DEMO.


A black chapter in the company’s history was a tragic accident in the 90’s when Jonas’ colleague Peter was seriously injured in connection with an explosion in the production room at the powder mill. The accident was probably caused by static electricity in a pyrotechnical batch that triggered off a hot wire fuse lighter that was being mounted in the batch by Peter.

A violent explosion resulted and the roof of the production part of the building lifted 50 cm. Jonas was in the office and a trainee with the name Karl was in the assembly room when the explosion occurred.

Jonas thought that it sounded like a heavy avalanche of snow from the roof but a second later the fire alarm sounded and Jonas rushed out to the production room that was filled with smoke. A few seconds later came Peter with burning clothes through the corridor part and Jonas and Peter together succeeded in tearing off Peter’s burning sweater.

Then Jonas and Peter ran quickly to the office section where they with help from Karl cooled an extensive burn injury on Peter’s body. Jonas was able to alarm SOS but decided to drive men Peter to the nearby district health care centre where they could immediately commence help.

Both Jonas and Peter were driven by ambulance to Växjö hospital where Jonas could stay for the care of burn injuries on his hands while Peter was driven to the burn injury clinic in Linköping where he was forced to stay for a longer period.

Immediately after this event the company received great support from the National Inspectorate of Explosives and Flammables that could establish, together with the police and the Labour Inspectorate, that no fault had been committed. However, Jonas personally took the event very hard and decided after the accident to phase out a part of the production.

The old premises were renovated but were never used again. Instead, all operations were moved to the powder house.

Final word

The company’s objective is to be able to offer customers good service at a reasonable cost level but above all to strive to offer unique and good products.

The company of course needs to make money in order to maintain the level of service that Smålands Krutbruk’s customers can demand. It is important that the customer feels and knows that there is valuable and solid substance in the company’s participation and appearance.

The customer must be able to trust the company in the event of problems that can always occur in risk operations such as pyrotechnics. Furthermore the company shall ensure that the operations are characterized by order and safety but also with boyish interest acquire and convey pyrotechnical products.

Never let yourself be embarrassed by your own ingenuity and childishness. To dream is to live.