This October I had the pleasure of taking a metalworking class at Fournier Enterprises in Shelby Township Michigan, which sits in the halo of Detroit’s automotive history. My hope was to gain some skills needed as I crack into the custom grill shell I have planned for the ’27 T roadster build. A 3-day intensive class, Fournier takes a hands-on approach to the techniques for using hammers and shot bag, and planishing with the English Wheel.
I started day 1 not sure what to expect, but showed up early and was greeted by Ron Fournier’s daughter who runs the front office and 2 other students (they limit classes to 6). The lessons were taught by Jeff Fournier, a relative of Ron’s who just happened to run into him at the Detroit Autorama and soon after became his apprentice. While Jeff is young, it’s clear that Ron’s talent certainly rubbed off on him. He started with some basic explanation of techniques and theory and then we dove right in. On day one, he had us make a speed blister, bowl and the start of a hood scoop all out of annealed aluminum. I was stoked and super excited with what I had learned just in the first few hours.
Day 2 — sore right arm from the first day, but still eager to get into it. We did some flanging on the pieces we had made in the morning, practicing use of a bead roller and some other tools. Around lunch Ron showed up to the shop to see how things were progressing. Ron’s retired — but do any of these guys ever really retire? Ron grabs one of the pieces I’m working on (a steel hood scoop) and looks it over… and I have to ask, “What do you think Sir?” to which Ron replies “First time?” I nod yes…., he says “You got it man…. good work!”. Huge exhale. We all head to lunch together entertained by stories from Ron and the rest of the group. We return to learn some more and tighten up all of our pieces using techniques that Ron taught Jeff.
Day 3 – My arm’s REALLY sore now… but I jump in with Jeff’s hands-on instruction for making a small scale Cobra style fender; combining a bunch of the techniques we used in the previous days. We all start hammering away, and break only for lunch again with Ron. I really can’t believe how quickly I was making beautiful things from raw materials in this class. Jeff’s instruction was top notch, and the experience was 100% worth the price of the class and travel. Before I left I ordered some tools and a kit to build my own large English Wheel.