I traveled to Brandon, Mississippi to that the "Tools To Make Tools" blacksmithing class with Lyle Wynn. Taking this class has been something I have wanted to do for a long time. I've seen pictures from when Brian Brazeale would teach it and hoped at some point in this adventure I would be able to attend this class and learn the skills that him and Lyle taught there.
I'll start by saying that choosing to take the class in August was not the smartest of ideas, but in the end the experience was more than worth it, as I learned so much in the week I was there.
The seven hour drive from South Carolina wasn't too bad at all. The highway driving was smooth and once in Brandon, finding the place was pretty easy. When I arrived Lyle and Stan were in the shop making things, after the introductions and hellos, it was time to settle in for the night.
What you see here is where I would be doing some serious work and learning for the week. There is very little time wasted, that is for sure during the class. Early morning, about 7:30 each day after a fantastic breakfast we stumbled to this old and dirty place to do work... and work we sure did.
Lyle's coke forge, that needs 8 pine cones to get started. The smell of a freshly lit coke forge was very pleasant. Much like a campfire.
Getting a drift punch nice and hot. This was the second one we did.
For the day we started with a cupping tool. Lyle was very clear in explaining the steps and techniques we would use. I was nervous, but I guess that was expected. As we wound down for lunch, I was amazed to see see what all we accomplished. A cupping tool, two drift punches and a hot cut.
After a filling lunch it was time to get back it. My inexperience showed and I was already smoked from the morning, so we switched to some smaller items to mess with for the remainder of the day.
Lyle walked me through making on of his Bulldog bottle openers. Watching him make it was awesome. Seeing a person who is great at something and just knocking it out of the park is always a great things to see.
Here is the bulldog portion of mine as I forged it under his watchful eye.
Lyle's is on top and mine on bottom.
After the bottle openers, he showed me how he forges leaves. Again, he made it look effortless. Mine on top and his on bottom.
Well after a full day in the shop we called it day around 5ish, a few cold beers and some laughter were shared as I looked back on the long day and what we got done. After the forge was shutdown and the light turned off I had learned to make the tools below. Two drift punches, a top fuller, cupping tool, hot cut, a bulldog opener and a leaf hair pin.
Again the sun came up and around 7am the forge was lit and the day begun much like before.
We started with the second top fuller. Another one closer to being finished and one more tool, closer to making hammers.
After the second top tool, it was time to begin on the bottom fullers. We needed to make a 1.5" and 3" radius.
Under Lyle's instruction and even though I was already hurting, we pushed on and tools kept multiplying.
This guy is a fantastic teacher and I am having a great time. The two bottom fullers and the last top were made all before lunch.
I think at this point, it all but became my responsibility to light the forge. I was always reminded of the 8 pine come rule though.
The use of the term "hills and valley's" in blacksmithing refers the depressions you see in what would become a hot cut below.
Using a flatter top tool, we were left with this.
Again it seemed more and more tools where piling up as the day went on.
A freshly hardened set hammer.
All that is left to do is clean them up, add handles and call it day.
This was the tally of tools at the end of day 2. We completed a hot cut, set hammer, two bottom fullers and a top fuller.
The state of my hands. Short of blacksmithing full time, I don't think anything could have prepared my hands for this class. Although this was the worst they would feel the rest of the week.
The morning started with Lyle cutting what would forever be known as the "little hammer"(3.5lbs)
Into the fire it goes, time to make tools!
That's a plug he says. That is also a mark from him missing his mark after I slipped with the tongs. It's amazing to punch a clean crisp hole through steel billet.
A billet becoming a hammer.
The little hammer is ready to cool off a bit.
Post lunch selfie for no reason at all.
An even smaller billet for the "littler" hammer, approx. 2.5lb.
Another cleanly punch hole.
I directed for this one and Lyle was striking. I nice change of pace, but I think more work in the end.
The first round of cheeking the sides to give it some shape. Hills and valleys...
The second round of cheeking and even more shape is visible.
A finished 2.5lb rounding hammer is born.
He is a complied image showing the progess side by side.
Checking the weight after cleaning on the little hammer. Lyle is good as knowing the billet length from stock to get the weight spot on.
The two rounding hammers we made for the day.
At the end of day 3, we added the two rounding hammer and started 9 punches.
We had planned on making a flatter, the 4.5lb hammer, some punches and a drift. I think I got this going without the daily, "Make sure you use 8 pine cones".
This is the flatter that Stan Bryant help me strike on.
"That's a nice tool" must have been said quite a few times after this was made.
Our before lunch pile of a flatter and 11 total punches made with the help of Stan's striking.
The hammer... 4.5lbs of forged steel beating awesome. Lyle's son Tyler helped on this one by doing the striking.
All it needs it a handle.. It's a beast.
The carnage of today.
The tally at the end of 4 days of laughing, learning, sweating and hammering away. A flatter, 4.5lb round hammer and 11 punches where made.
The three amigos of hammer. 2.5, 3.5 and a 4.5lb rounding hammers.
This was the point where we could breathe easy, all of the hard stuff was done. We had planned on making some hammer drifts and mostly likely going fishing.. That was until Tyler informed me about the fullering hammer that other students made. Lyle had told me it was just another "smaller" hammer. He was not to get off that easy.
Forge is going on Day 5! We got a fullering hammer, tongs and hammer eye drifts to go.
The hole punching is still awesome and that's a clean one.
The trough lines are taking shape.
The last of the bigger tools to be made. a 3.5lb fullering hammer.
After lunch we made a trip to the Craftsmens Guild of Mississippi facility where Lyle spends a lot of time to gather materials. It was an awesome place.
At Jim Pigott's shop to use his amazing Little Giant power hammer to make the drifts we needed.
Lyle cleaning up the fullering a hammer in Jim's shop.
The end of day 5 came quickly, we worked tirelessly into the late evening to get the hammer eye tongs done, but when the lights were flipped off and the forge left to go out for the last time for the week the fruits of our effort were there..
Lyle and I with the tools to make tools after 5 days.
There was no forge to be lit, no tools to make, just a long drive home to reflect on the amazing experience that this class was. Lyle is an fantastic teacher and a talented blacksmith. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from a person of caliber and hope I can take those skills he shared with me and continue on this adventure. A huge thanks to his wife Patricia for her hospitality and kindness. Stan and Tyler for taking time to help and swinging hammers. Jeff for allowing me to use your awesome shop and the laughs.
For anyone thinking about this taking this class, I can't say enough good things about it. DO IT. If your a budding blacksmith and want to learn literally more than you think is possible in a week, contact Lyle or Patricia and take this class.
I can't wait to go back and hope to spend more time at his shop and learn more from him in the near future.