Forged in Fire champ credits grandmother’s gift for kickstart


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

Justin Hammond passed right by the dessert menu and went straight for the main entree when he left the restaurant business to begin a career of making knives.

That was only a couple of years ago. Just recently, Hammond was chosen as champion of the History Channel’s Forged in Fire competition, seasons 9, episode 10, “The Revolutionary War Forge.”

Hammond, who resides between Lockhart and Luling, has found much demand for his craft following his victory on the show. The entire experience has been a blessing and something he is extremely thankful for having been through.

“I’m loving it,” Hammond said. “Of course, I’m up to my ears in work now.”

He credits a Christmas gift from his grandmother as changing his career path.

Growing up the small town of Cibolo, and attending Steele High School, Hammond’s family moved to Kyle where he graduated from Lehman High School. He moved to Austin to pursue a culinary career. He stayed there about 10 years.

“I started sharpening everybody’s knives because I was the only one that knew how,” he said. “I did some productive procrastinating. I started refurbishing old knives for five years.”

Then came a gift from his grandmother.

“About two-and-a-half years ago, my Grandma bought me a forge set for Christmas,” Hammond said. “Grandma has bought me loads of tools through the years.“

Hammond and his wife, Gwyn Wilkerson, were co-owners and executive chefs of Kindling Texas Kitchen in Cibolo.

About five years ago, Justin and Gwyn moved to Caldwell County where her family had some land that is technically in Luling but just as close to Lockhart. That’s when Justin decided to get serious about his hobby.

 “I quit my job and I said I’ve got to do it,” he said. “I had the network, the skill set, and the knowledge. But did I think it would happen this quickly? No.”

Justin and Gwyn, who makes ceramics, moved to her family’s land. They live on 20 acres, while other family members live on adjoining land. Her last name – Wilkerson – and his – Hammond – was combined and became the basis for naming the company Hammerson Forge.

“Someday, we may actually change our name to Hammerson to reflect both names,” Justin said. “My wife is my biggest supporter and my biggest critic.”

What he had been “dabbling” in became a full-time profession. While he does a little “blacksmithing” on the side, Hammond said 90 percent of his work is with knives. His goal, was to be successful, but just when things would “hit” were anyone’s guess.

In July 2021, contact was initiated with the History Channel, which had aired Forged in Fire since 2015.

“It was a three-month process from August to October,” Hammond said. “I flew to their studio in Connecticut. There were three rounds of competition. The first round was at their studio, and they asked us to make a style of knife for them. We had three hours to make it. The second round they eliminated another person and we had to finish, make a handle, and sharpen it. Then they did a torture test for the knives. I did mine on a Revolutionary War Rifleman’s Knife with a 13- to 15-inch blade.

“They did a strength test where they stabbed it in a wooden crate. It was terrifying. They kept jabbing it trying to rip up the knife. There was a sharpness test where they had fake British redcoats and they were stabbing to see if it would still be sharp after stabbing it several times.”

During the next phase of the competition, Hammond had 35 hours over a four-day period to build what he called “an insane” sword.

“It was a Continental Army Calvary Saber,” Hammond said. “It was 33- to 35-inches long and had to have a 2 ½-inch curvature. I finished it in three days. It went through similar testing. They hung up a 300-pound pig and it needed to cut the pig in half. The judge went to hacking at it. They were smashing it.”

Despite the barrage of testing, Hammond always felt confident in his product.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I felt confident in my abilities throughout.”

Hammond edged a military man in the finals who was from Louisiana.

Aside from having the title of Forged in Fire champion, a $10,000 first prize is also award, something Hammond said he’s almost spent already on more tools.

“The entire thing was an absolute blast.,” he said. “It was fun even if I hadn’t won, just meeting the judges.”

Hammond takes special pride in telling everyone he meets about Lockhart.

“I call Lockhart home,” he said. “People should skip Austin and visit Lockhart because we have great barbecue and swimming holes here.”

Did the show provide more ideas for him in the future?

“They gave me an elevator cable at first to make a knife out of and I stared at it for five minutes and said ‘nope,’ so I grabbed something else and made a knife out of it. I would like to try to redeem myself with an elevator cable.”

People can order Hammond’s items at There is also information on where he will be on the website, including on occasion coming to the Farmers Market in Lockhart, although with his big workload now those are not as regular.

Winners do not get to keep the swords they made on the show. They are hung up at the studio and can be seen during some episodes.

Hammond said his favorite item he’s made was probably his 100th blade to make, a replica of George Washington’s sword with a green handle seen in paintings.

“I made it all from the scrap steel,” Hammond said. “When you make those, they temper them with oil in 475- to 500-degrees and soak them for about five hours. I didn’t have one, so I used my smoker and basically barbecued it. It’s one of the only barbecue swords you’ll ever see.”


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