West Valley bladesmith forges sword for History Channel competitionFeb 02, 2022 02:58PM ● By Darrell Kirby
Nate Anderson makes custom-made knives in his garage-turned-shop at his West Valley City home. His skills led to a spot on the bladesmithing competition show “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
When Nate Anderson took an art class at the University of Utah, little did he know at the time that he would be cut out for an art form a bit different than what one typically thinks of as art.
The West Valley City resident finished second on a recent episode of History Channel’s blade-making competition show “Forged in Fire,” which the cable network describes as a program where “world-class bladesmiths recreate historical edged weapons in a cutthroat competition.”
Anderson and three other competing bladesmiths were required to make what he described as a “historically accurate, functioning” executioner’s sword. The weapon was judged on everything from its handle to blade design and construction, the precision of its measurements, and its functionality (no, that doesn’t mean it was actually tested on someone). Anderson finished second, still a big accomplishment and a testament to his bladesmithing skills on a national stage. It’s not even his full-time vocation—yet. He works it in around his day job at Thanksgiving Point but hopes to someday make a living at it.
It all started when Anderson had to write a report for the U of U art class on a field of art that interested him. To do that, he tracked down a master bladesmith by the name of Jim Sigg, a long-time bladesmith who now plies his craft in Duchesne, Utah. Sigg has carved quite a reputation in the business by designing and selling custom knives to people all over the world. He made one for Angelina Jolie, who used it for a scene in the 2021 movie “Those Who Wish Me Dead.”
Anderson also signed up for a one-on-one class taught by Sigg to learn more about the trade. “He did exceptionally well,” Sigg said, citing Nate’s hand-eye coordination for such detailed work.
The student volunteered to help the teacher when needed to sharpen his skills. “I can always use help,” Sigg said. “The older I get, the slower I get,” the 77-year-old added.
Anderson’s appearance on “Forged in Fire” was sparked when a show producer saw his talents on display in a couple of knife-making groups on Facebook. “I started the application, which was really extensive, asking all sorts of questions,” Anderson said.
That led to an interview by video call, a request from the show for videos and photos of Anderson’s work, and finally an invitation to be a contestant on the program. “Then I had to fill out a background check, which was really extensive, for obvious reasons. They don’t need crazy people going on (the show) making weapons,” he said with a laugh.
That process and the filming of the show in Connecticut took almost a year and a half, delayed in part by the pandemic. Crews even came to Anderson’s West Valley City home to film a profile segment for the show on his bladesmithing skills.
Similar to TV cooking competitions like Gordon Ramsay’s “MasterChef,” “Forged in Fire” contestants are given an assignment to demonstrate their skills, judges critique their work, and gradually whittle the participants down to two finalists and pick a winner. “They’re not gentle,” Anderson said. “When they’re testing it, they want to make sure that it’s an actual, real, tough, functioning weapon, historically accurate in measurements, dimensions, and everything like that.” Anderson’s sword admirably held up to the judge’s trial by fire, so to speak. “It didn’t sustain any damage, which I’m super pleased with. It was just a bit too heavy,” he explained.
Anderson has no regrets about finishing runner-up. “In my world of knifemaking, even getting selected to be on the show is a huge thing,” he said.