The reason for being able to attend this course from Australia in the first place was taking advantage of a work paid conference in Las Vegas & then tacking on some personal holidays. My intention in attending the training with Brian was always to learn process & methodology and not about producing project items. I did have some specific requirements for home such as a hot cut hardie for my 330lb anvil (1 5/16” / 33mm hardie) & ultimate tongs but was always focused on learning how to forge & the actual techniques. The by-product of which should result in tools & project items.
This concept was absolutely in alignment with the way Brian teaches as he wishes to expose individuals to correct techniques & forging methodology. He will always ensure students walk away with tools & project elements.
A case in point, on day 3, Brian asked what I wanted to do next I replied your “ultimate tongs”. Brian looked over his glasses with a facial expression that said this is going to be challenging! We discussed how I would like to go about it & I believe the process agreed was perfect for learning. Brian provide material for two sets of tongs, demonstrated technique & process in a staged & step by step approach; sending me away to produce mine after each staged instruction & illustration. This was a great learning experience which resulted in two sets of Brian Brazeal “Ultimate Tongs” now in my smithy in Australia!
After ten days Brian, Lyle & I had produced the following tools; 2 hammers (1 rounding & 1 fullering), Habermann style hammer tongs, 2 X Ultimate tongs, 2 Hot cut hardies (one large to fit my 33mm hardie), handled hot cut, drift, handled punch, 2 handled fullers (1 ½” & 3”) with matching (2) hardie fullers, hex edge tool (hardie), cupping tool (hardie), hump tools, 15 punches & a fire rake. Total of 33 individual tools and an estimated conservative retail value of $1000!
In terms of projects & templates for learning this included, a trivet, 4 X scroll jigs, 1” X 1” 3D horse head, 2D story board of how to make horse heads, Seahorse, Crane, Cross, Leaf, Calla Lily, Cable Knife & various attempts at these techniques.
In fact I had to get a second suit case to transport back 62lb of tools & projects to Australia (thanks Lyle Wynn for the suit case!).
Brian is passionate about Blacksmithing who lives & breathes this wonderful trade. He is very humble, generous & enthusiastic about passing on knowledge. In fact the analogy I use is that it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant being around Brian Brazeal! For those who take the opportunity to learn from Brian, my tip is take lots of notes, photographs & video to maximise your learning experience because you can only drink so much. I did all of these (including pictures of chalk diagrams on the shop floor) & use them to reflect & practice the things I have learned now that I am back in OZ. He has a lot to offer the Blacksmithing community & this is clearly evident and demonstrated time and time again as illustrated through the various posts on this forum & demonstrations at various events.
His work ethic is very high & is the same way I like to work; day one 7:30 am to 8 pm. In fact I actually arrived late afternoon the previous day from the work conference & Brian had me in the shop even before the course started striking to make a hot cut hardie! Over dinner & late into the evening we would talk some more about all different aspects of blacksmithing. He shared his experiences & time (approximately 12 months in total) with Alfred Habermann one of the great European artists of our time. Thinking about my comments here, this is Blacksmithing boot camp .
You can clearly see many years of harden skill as you watch Brian forge. He is very particular about correct forging techniques because if you follow these; as Brian would say “it practically makes itself”. The final observation I will make is that Brian is a perfectionist, an incredible eye for detail, composition, proportions & perspective. I have always considered myself a perfectionist but over the years I have allowed this to wane for commercial reasons. Having watched how accurate he is from making out to grinding & polishing; I will be reinstating my attempts for perfection. Even if I slightly fall short I will be so much closer than most .
There is so much to learn & I have a lot of information to digest & put into practice from my time in Brandon Mississippi. The southern hospitality is absolutely all that is said about it & Lyle Wynn (LDW)is the epitome of it. Lyle would visit the shop each day & contribute to my learning’s in many ways. Brian & his wife Karen are wonderful generous hosts whilst I there with them that made my learning easy & a very comfortable stay. Karen’s support was terrific from pick up & drop off at the airport, to meals & sometimes conversations other than Blacksmithing .
I believe I have forged a friendship with them & Lyle, & thank you all for my stay in Mississippi.