Blacksmiths might be away from the public eye in our technology-driven existence today, but their craft is far from a lost art. It is the hidden domain of Britain’s blacksmithing community that is explored in the new miniseries Forged in Britain, based on the HISTORY® Channel’s popular series Forged in Fire.
The show, which launched on the 1st of June, follows five talented British blacksmiths – Alec Steele, Joshua Burrell, Owen Bush, Rod Hughes and Grace Horne – hammering and molding everything from Damascus cleavers to pirate cutlasses. Forged in Fire brings to life the fascinating history of the most forgotten weapons that were popular in past bladesmithing times.
Read up on these incredibly passionate people who are bringing this incredible craft into the new era through love, skill and dedication.
Alec Steele, 19, is a full-time blacksmith based in Norwich, East Anglia. The teenager runs his own forge and is the only blacksmith who ‘vlogs’ about his craftsmanship on a daily basis – his Youtube profile is followed by more than 200,000 users and receives seven million views a month.
“I think blacksmithing is badass!” Alec says.
“I started blacksmithing at a very young age and when I was just 16. I left school because I was so entrenched in this passion. I was completely convinced and knew I would make it work – honestly, it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” he revealed. Blacksmithing is something that is surging in popularity, I would argue, faster than ever.
“Blacksmithing is something that is surging in popularity, I would argue, faster than ever. What Forged in Fire does, is it shows how awesome and cool it is to make knives and have awesome, creative fun.”
Father and son duo, Joshua and Graham Burrell, specialize in forging woodworking axes and other traditional British edged tools. Josh, who works from his home in the Midlands, is following in his father’s footsteps – his father has been working in the trade since 1983 and has taught him everything he needs to know.
Josh said: “Forged in Fire has shown people that bladesmithing and blacksmithing can be a viable career. It’s a continuation of tradition and heritage.”
Owen Bush and Rod Hughes, two of Britain’s more experienced blacksmiths, are also passionate about continuing the blacksmithing trade in the XXI century.
Owen, 45, runs his own forging school and is hoping to pass his knowledge to the next generation. A full-time bladesmith and swordsmith, he specializes in making Saxon pattern welded swords, the seax (Saxon long knife), Viking axes and kitchen knives. The craftsman has appeared as an expert on various television networks over the years and is widely regarded as one of the best blacksmiths in the country.
“I’ve been a bladesmith for 22 years. For me, it’s really important that I’m still an active maker so that every year I’m setting myself challenges and walking the walk,” he says.
“I love hammering hot metal, as a bladesmith, it’s the best part! It’s dangerous in all sorts of ways; we’ve got fire and power hammers and sharp edges. To work successfully with these dangerous things you have to have a combination of having confidence and then also respect.”
60-year-old Rod Hughes describes himself as a bladesmith and after practicing the trade for the last decade, he has now earned a reputation as a master craftsman of ‘historical original’ reproductions. Working from his Viking-style forge in Surrey that he constructed from local timber on the side of the Golden Valley, he produces swords ranging from the Bronze Age to the fourteenth century which are showcased in a selection of museums throughout the country.
And if you thought this business is an exclusively male affair, you would very much be mistaken. Mother-of-two Grace Horne, 46, has been a knife maker for over two decades.
Living in Sheffield, the one-time center of British steelmaking, Grace identifies with her city’s long-standing tradition of women working in the industry while raising families.
“I’ve been a knife maker for the last 23 years; I like making objects that are useful,” she reveals. “Forged in Fire is great. I think the program introduces a whole new audience to the complexities and intricacies of working in steel.”