Len Youngo – Artistry in Steel

Jul 12th 2011

[caption id="attachment_384" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Len Youngo diligently working on the next Wendell August masterpiece"][/caption] Len Youngo has a degree from Westminster College in math with a minor in biology. It may sound strange that Len is now a master die engraver, but like many of us who graduate college, he was left wondering what to do for a career. A college degree is of course extremely important, but in most cases, that degree is going to land you at a desk, and Len knew that he would not be happy there. His passion, like the artisans he is surrounded with at Wendell August, was working with his hands, and he knew he was good at it. During breaks from school, Len had worked at Wendell August Forge as a polishing craftsman; one of the last hands to touch one of our pieces before yours. In 1981 Len saw what he had been hoping for, an opening for a die engraver. He jumped at the opportunity, and his hands soon brought beautiful work to the shop floor. His career path was now clear, and for the last 30 years, this master die engraver has honed his skills to a level of perfection that few humans on Earth can match. Today, Len has engraved over 1700 dies! Each one meticulously and masterfully done one by one with a detail-oriented finesse. “The work came easy to me and it is very fulfilling,” says Len. He says one of the most challenging aspects of the job in the first few years was that he needed to slow down. “Now the fun is in the details for me.” Len, who engraves everything from landscapes to close-up flowers, says one of the most difficult images to capture is the human face…especially when it is meant to look like a particular person. He uses live models to capture details like how folds of clothing lie against the human body. His favorite project to date is the Old Stone Barn pattern. “There are so many different textures in that image: rocks, foliage, stone. It’s very free form – I didn’t have to adhere to a strict artwork,” he explains. The ability to use the images that are in his head and bring them to life; exactly what you would expect from a passionate artist. [caption id="attachment_397" align="alignleft" width="72" caption="Mike, Len's son, Youngo's mark"][/caption] Although Wendell August is nearly 90 years old, we consider ourselves to be a pretty tight knit family. However, Len Youngo and his family have taken this to a whole new level. Cathy Youngo, Len's mother, was F.W. Knecht III assistance for 25 years. For those of you who may not be too familiar with Wendell August history, F.W. Knecht III purchased Wendell August from Wendell's son Robert in 1978. Cathy still serves as Wendell August's historian. Len's son Mike has also come on board, and has followed in Len's footsteps as an apprentice die engraver. There is no doubt that Mike's talents will evolve, and he will create his own signature style just like his father. Beth, Len's lovely wife, also works in our retail stores during the holidays. Wendell August would not be the same without Len and the Youngo family. They have helped shape the business that we know and love today, and with the influx of a new generation, their influence will continue to be felt within our business and shown in the artistry of our pieces. [caption id="attachment_396" align="alignleft" width="74" caption="Len Youngo's Mark"]Len Youngos Mark[/caption] Next time you pick up a Wendell August piece study the design real close. Somewhere creatively hidden in that design is the mark of our die engraver. If you see a "LY" you're touching a piece that could not have come to be without Len Youngo. When you think of that mark, think of Len, his family, and their passion and dedication to bring you that beauty. We do, and feel truly blessed to have them as part of the family.