Graniteville man shares love of bladesmithing with others

Photos by Randy Pace

 

On a small street named Joy, in a quiet neighborhood in Graniteville, lives a Santa Claus whose chief gift is making and teaching others how to make knives.

Meet Joey “The Blade” Lynn. Aside from truly looking like the yuletide saint — and professionally playing the part in season — Lynn and his best friend, Scott “The Hammer” Titus (a modern-day Hephaestus), own and operate Joey’s Forge Handmade Knives LLC. This humble operation deserves a spot in this Best Of issue for its unique product: classes in forging. After a few hours of hammering, grinding and polishing, students can go home with an original knife that they made with their own two hands — under Lynn’s guidance, of course.

Having retired disabled from the Department of Corrections in 2015, Lynn undertook knifemaking primarily as a practical, though modest, means of supplementing his disability income. Finding the craft that best suited his interest, however, didn’t happen immediately.

“I’ve always been good with my hands and making stuff,” he said. “I’ve made anything from coin rings to paracord bracelets [and] carved a lot of walking sticks.”

Though these crafts yielded aesthetically pleasing objects for many people, they did not truly satisfy Lynn. “I was trying to find something I would want to keep doing,” he said. “And when I landed on [bladesmithing], I was like ‘Wow, I love this!’” 

That epiphany didn’t come until Lynn took a vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where he had the opportunity to make a knife under the tutelage of the charismatic “Smoky Mountain Cowboy,” Robby Bowman, a two-time contestant on the History Channel television show Forged in Fire. There, in Bowman’s smithy, Lynn not only made his first knife — a railroad spike knife — but he also discovered the “something” that he could see himself doing long-term.

For several months thereafter, Lynn sought out and absorbed as much knowledge about forging as he could. Gradually, he equipped a small garage at his home with the tools of the trade. Trained as a mechanical engineer and reared by a machinist father, Lynn knew how to make some of the tools he needed, including a souped-up high-speed grinder and a power-hammer affectionately termed “Frankenhammer,” a marvel of engineering.

It was during these months of building his own forge that Lynn met Titus.

Photo by Randy Pace

“I had just started doing this,” Lynn recalled, “and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe someone else would like to learn how to do this with me.’” He posted an open invitation on Facebook to anyone who would like to come over and make a knife. Titus answered the call, and a fast friendship formed between the men and their wives.

The more Lynn honed his craft, the more people noticed. “People kept telling me, ‘You need to go on that show.’” They meant, of course, the show that Lynn’s inspiration, Bowman, had been on twice before. History’s train seemed to be circling back around, this time to pick up Lynn. But he was reluctant to get on board.

“Maybe in two or three years, after I’ve got some experience, I might [try to go on the show],” he told his friends and supporters. Then, one day, “On a whim, I came across the application someone had posted on Facebook, and I said, ‘Shoot, I’m going to fill it out. What the heck.’”

The short version of the aftermath of that offhand choice is that the show’s producers asked Lynn to come onto the show. He accepted and in a couple weeks found himself flying to Brooklyn, New York, to compete against other bladesmith rookies in the heat of four blazing forges, television lights and cameras, and the judges’ — and millions of viewers’ — scrutiny. And he had never even flown on a jet before.

He did not return to Graniteville with the coveted moniker “Forged in Fire Champion,” but he did return with a greater knowledge of the ancient craft and with a greater awareness of himself as a bladesmith: “No matter what I thought I knew, I needed to know a whole lot more.”

That need to know more about the craft and the need to meet the rising demand for his classes — sparked in part by his appearance on the TV show — led Lynn to expand his forge. Many customers purchase a class as an anniversary, birthday or graduation gift, but no special occasion is necessary; many people take a class simply because of the awesome appeal of forging a knife, or, as Lynn puts it, of “watching a piece of metal become something it wasn’t.”

Before buying that gift knife from Bass Pro Shops or on Amazon, consider giving the gift of a hands-on experience of knifemaking at Joey’s Forge. Sign up for one of Lynn’s two classes: the $50 horseshoe knife class, good for younger children, or the $75 railroad spike knife class, a good introduction to knifemaking and his most popular class.

Appears in the October 2019 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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