Saturday, March 18, 2017

'Forged in Fire'? - not this professional!


... I'm a Casting Producer with Leftfield Entertainment. We produce hits like Alone, Pawn Stars, American Restoration, and Counting Cars on The History Channel, as well as programming for networks like FOX, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic.

We’re currently casting competitors for the hit show Forged in Fire on the History Channel, and after taking a look at your site, I thought you might be interested in hearing more!

We're searching for bladesmiths and armourers.  This series focuses on experts who pride themselves on producing incredible blades, whether they be historical or modern, large or small.

Participants will be given the opportunity to showcase their talents for a chance to win a substantial cash prize.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in?

Please let me know if you have any questions or might be interested in applying!

For more information on Forged in Fire, please visit

(edit - all name information removed)

 Ok - So maybe I should be flattered that between all the possible choices of people available on the ever expanding mass of self promotion and anngrandizement that the internet has become, Leftfield Entertainment chose to contact me.

At this point I have watched the first three seasons of Forged in Fire.
My opinion of the program has dropped since I wrote my initial critique, based on the first three episodes:

Now, an argument could be made that I could be a true mercenary, jump through the pre-production hoops, and just play along for the personal experience and what is likely a free air ticket to the studio location.
But there is no reality in 'reality' TV.
Odds are much better I would end up damaging whatever reputation I have built over 4 decades of work.

So this is what I sent back:

If you check your records, you might see that I was contacted several years ago - for the original pilot episode of Forged in Fire.

Several emails.
A long phone conversation.
A painful set up for a Skype interview.
(This was four / five years ago. The intern could not seem to understand that rural Canada did not have high speed internet. 'Just use your phone...')

The end of that eventual Skype call went like this:

Intern - Great, now if you could please send us a copy of your audition tape!
Me - What ???
Intern - Your audition video.
Me - er.. You have seen my web site, which effectively is my portfolio of past work. I can send you a copy of my CV, although that also is on the web site. ???
Intern - No, we need to see what you look like on camera.
Me - (silence)
So what you are telling me is that you don't care about the quality of my work, or my past experience.
You just want to see if I'm a freak on camera???
Intern - (silence)
We're searching for bladesmiths and armourers.  This series focuses on experts who pride themselves on producing incredible blades, whether they be historical or modern, large or small.
Look - let us be honest here.

Forged in Fire has an absolutely horrible reputation between professional blade smiths.

- There are constant incorrect uses of technical language.
- The 'experts' often make comments / do things that are incorrect (This specifically to your 'historic' judge, who consistently has used historic weapons employing incorrect methods.)
- Contestants regularly make fundamental errors in the most basic forging techniques. (Burning metal / hammering cold / incorrect heat treating process)
- Often standard safety processes are ignored - in place of 'dramatic effect'. (So much so I am amazed your crew allows it.)
- It is obvious that most of your contestants are those who * grind *, not * forge * - despite the show title.
- The often heard statement 'I made my first knife at (insert pre teen age) - does not in any way indicate actual working experience.

You should be aware that the reputation of Forged in Fire is so bad that there is actually a Facebook group named : 'Bladesmiths who will never appear on Forged in Fire'.

 I can't imagine in any way you would want me.
Although I do have many decades at the forge (and as a professional working artisan blacksmith since the mid 1980's).
Although I have made many blades, from tools, to knives, to swords.
Although I have undertaken considerable work with museum quality replicas and reproductions.
I don't consider myself a 'professional blade maker'.
My teaching experience would make it extremely difficult for me to 'go with the flow' - in terms of agreeing with statements made by your judges that I know to be false information.
Past experience with TV productions has made me extremely wary of 'edit for effect' - and distortion from what was intended into what is broadcast.

Practically, you might also consider the mere logistics challenge of my involvement.
- Right off the start, as a working artisan smith, my next free block of uncommitted time is now into November.
- I am located in rural Ontario Canada. Two hours NW of Toronto.
Consider the raw problems of potentially mounting an in shop filming week at my home studio?
(With the current mess of US Homeland Paranoia at your boarder, even attempting to bring a box of tools via air flight is a dicey process at best - which my own past experience has proved.)
So - thanks for your interest.
Forged in Fire has certainly sparked an increase in interest in bladesmithing as a process.
Unfortunately, the huge amount of mis-information and mis-conceptions it has communicated has resulted in more problems for we professionals in the field - than advantages related to its popularity. 

A reputation takes years to forge.

But with one bad heat, all that work can be burned away.


Unknown said...

Very cool review of how most smiths felt Darrell ;-)
I felt the same, but instead of just saying no, I thought I'd invite them over. There's no way I'm going to improvise myself a knife maker with a gas furnace at a standing forge, but I thought I'd give them an opportunity to come and see how it was done in medieval Japan.

In the end, they aren't taking any foreigners because of visa issues...
I think always the same thing about TV: it's all an empty shell of a show, but it's great visibility. As they say in magazine ads: As seen on TV, as if this made the ad more serious. But maybe I should just stick to working.
Regards, Pierre

Unknown said...

On episode 3 season 5 the Sica sword kill test should be re done because there was an advantage when the kill test was administered. The weapon tester used one hand on the chest slice on the first competitor's Sica, where as on the second competitor's chest slice the tester used two hands on the test. Therefore the test should be done over to determine the winner.

Unknown said...

Just watched my last episode. They had the blacksmiths make 3 knives out of railroad spikes. 3 knives which they needed to make handles for. It's hard enough to make a handle for one knife. After all this, each of the judges take a knife and and test it with a railroad spike and pummel it with a sledge hammer. Destroying their edges.duh! Then do a sharpness test. Talk about screwing with people. These guys are on a power trip. It will kill. (Ratings)

Sam Harper said...

Being invited on Forged in Fire is not a complement. I was invited on the show with a message that read almost exactly as yours did, and I don't even forge blades. A casting agent saw a picture or two of my knives on Reddit and sent me a message. I seriously doubt you got anywhere with your email because casting agents aren't exactly affiliated with the show, and they probably don't care about the ins and outs of it. They're just casting agents. Their job is simply to find people and get them to apply. They're not responsible for all the flaws you perceive in the show.


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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