COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Competing on the show was his dream. Winning it was icing on the cake.
Andrew Hall, a Coeur d’Alene resident and firefighter for the city of Spokane, was ecstatic when he learned he won first place on “Forged in Fire,” a competition TV series featuring bladesmiths competing in a three-round elimination match, as reported by our news partner the Coeur d'Alene Press.
“I was over the moon,” said Hall, a long-time fan of the show. “It was everything that I could have hoped for.”
Hall said his goal going into the show was to make a Damascus sword on national television, whatever the results of the competition.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could,” Hall told The Press. “I wanted to go on the show and prove that I could do it to give myself some validation of my skill because I'm just a firefighter — I worked in my garage.”
“Barrel Full of Mystery” aired on the History channel July 14, a challenge in which Hall competed with three other bladesmiths in a timed competition to make the most durable weapon with good craftsmanship.
In the first round, Hall was given three hours to make a Bowie knife blade from horseshoes and high-carbon steel. The blade passed the testing for durability and Hall advanced to round two, where he had two hours to add a handle.
“I am totally a perfectionist,” Hall said. “There was a point where things weren't lying quite perfectly on the handle and I’d hear my wife in the back of my head, she's like, ‘Just leave it, just go.’ I'm glad because I used every minute of every hour that they gave us for each challenge.”
For the final round, Hall flew back home and was given four days to make a Walloon sword in his garage workshop. He chose to make it out of Damascus steel, which is layered and melded together, then drawn out and restacked multiple times to create a pattern.
The hard work paid off, as Hall’s sword passed tests of strength and sharpness. Hall received the $10,000 prize and champion title.
“I learned a lot from other people, and I want to be that person who can share what I've learned,” Hall said. “That's what's so cool about the community, getting to know other people.”
Hall said he's still in contact with his three competitors, chatting with them weekly to bounce ideas off each other.
“We all want to do the best we can,” Hall said. “The only way we can do that is by sharing knowledge.”
For Hall, the most important part of his passion is exposing the craft, sharing it with other people and creating tools that will last a lifetime.
“I call them legacy tools,” Hall said. “I like making things that will outlive me.”
Hall said he learned his skills from others who were willing to teach him, as well as a blacksmith class in high school, hundreds of hours of YouTube and thousands of hours of practice.
“I learned a lot of stuff from people when I was younger, who were willing to teach me and take the time to deal with this uppity kid,” Hall said. “I want to be able to provide that for other people.”
The obsession started in his late teens when Hall started designing knives he wanted but couldn’t afford.
After experimenting with woodworking to create handles, Hall built his first forge about five years ago and started forging blades.
“I wanted to be in control of every step of the process,” he said. “For the last five years I've done everything myself, which I like because it gives me nuanced control over every step, but when I make a mistake, it's all me.”
Hall, who shares his work under Flatline Knives, said he's grateful the show gave some exposure to the craft because he wants to promote the role of the modern blacksmith and blademaker.
“We still have that and I don’t want it to die out,” Hall said. “If we don’t keep it fun or interesting or applicable, it’s going to go by the wayside. I don’t want that.”
Outside of his run of fame, Hall uses the craft as a creative outlet to make tools that can be used every day.
“I'm just a regular guy,” Hall said. “I'm a dad. I got two dogs. I got a house I can't take care of, and I got a garage full of very specific tools for doing this. And I love it.”
The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our news partner, click here.