PT bladesmith competes in forging reality TV show

Carmen Jaramillo
cjaramillo@ptleader.com
Posted 2/19/20

Mike Poor first watched the reality show “Forged in Fire” when it aired in 2015. As soon as he saw it, he was hooked and couldn’t get enough.

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PT bladesmith competes in forging reality TV show

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Mike Poor first watched the reality show “Forged in Fire” when it aired in 2015. As soon as he saw it, he was hooked and couldn’t get enough.

His love for the show and passion for knives inspired him to start his own forge, which would eventually lead him to compete in the seventh season of the show, which aired last month.

The History Channel show pits four bladesmiths against each other for a three-round elimination contest to forge bladed weapons. In the first round, participants are challenged to craft a weapon from a starting material to meet certain requirements like length or shape in three hours. Those are then examined and judged by a panel of knife and sword experts. They are evaluated for the specified requirements as well as quality, design and workmanship —then one smith is eliminated.

The second round gives the remaining three smiths another three hours to change their blade based on the critiques, add a handle and then grind, sharpen and polish the blade. The blades are then put through multiple stress tests to determine their sharpness, durability and ease of use. If a blade suffers catastrophic failure during a test, the maker is immediately disqualified.

The final round sees the remaining two smiths sent back to their home forges where they are given four days to craft a certain type of weapon, usually a historical weapon like a viking battle axe or a Roman gladius. The winner of the final round goes home with $10,000 and the title of being a “Forged in Fire Champion.”

Poor said he saw a casting call for the show on Instagram, which is the main platform through which he sells his knives. The desire to be on the show started from watching an episode where several participants failed in the first challenge. Poor said he began thinking of how he would approach the task and decided to try it. He failed similarly on his first attempts, but was eventually able to get something usable.

When he saw the casting call and decided to apply, his wife Liz Henry said to him, “You know they’re going to pick you right?”

Poor said the most rewarding part of the experience was giving himself challenges to prepare for the competition.

While Poor was eliminated in the first round, he met the two goals he set for himself while on the show. The first was not being eliminated for medical reasons and the second was to not be eliminated for not meeting the stated specifications. Contestants of the show are often times disqualified or unable to continue because of dehydration or injuries.

Poor said nothing could have prepared him for how hot it would be on the set. With four 2,000-degree forges running constantly on the sound stage, it was well over 100 degrees. He said the way he chose to combat that was by drinking water anytime he stopped swinging his hammer.

The initial challenge for Poor and his opponents was to harvest materials from a captain’s wheel and then use the 1095 steel to forge each person’s signature weapon that was between 12 and 14 inches.

Poor’s bread and butter that he creates at home and sells online is the chef’s knife, but those, at 6 to 10 inches, are much shorter than the specifications, so Poor decided to forge a pirate’s cutlass to stay true to his maritime roots in Port Townsend.

Being on the show was less about the actual competition, he said, and more about getting to be a part of the show’s brotherhood of contestants. He said since starting his own forge he has become close friends online with several people who have been on the show and he now feels he gets to be a part of the club.

The pitfall for people like Poor who get to experience something they’ve always dreamed of ,is that it often doesn’t meet their expectations. Many participants of reality shows have reported no longer watching the show after being a contestant because now the magic is lost, or now they know how much of the show is faked.

Poor said that was not at all the case for him, and he now has a deeper appreciation for the show than he did before. He said everything is exactly like it really happened and there is no tricky editing or staged sequences.

Other shows also often have manufactured drama or what Poor called “catty” behavior, but when he was on “Forged In Fire,” he said competitors were helpful and friendly and there was less a sense of direct competition versus individual challenge and camaraderie.

Poor said if the producers ever wanted to bring him back to the show, which they sometimes do with previous contestants, he would love another shot. He said he had hoped to at least make it to the second round so his weapon could be tested, but he would rather be eliminated in the first round than have his knife be destroyed during the test.

Since being on the show Poor said his friends and family have been very supportive. Some people were sympathetic for his quick elimination, but Poor said there was nothing that he would have gotten out of winning except for bragging rights.

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