Melton Forge Works - DerekMelton.com

Forged in Fire

A blog where I detail some of my thought processes and experiences from being on Forged in Fire Season 5, episode 20 in April 2018. The episode aired July 24, 2018.

Round 3 - Day 1 in Clinton, MS

As soon as I got home from filming rounds 1 and 2 I immediately began research on the smallsword. I stayed up late drawing out a few designs, working out on paper how I planned to forge certain shapes for the guard and handle. I made sure the shop was as clean as I could get it, worked on a couple of tools that I knew I would need and ordered some new sanding belts with fast shipping. Bob and I were both given a total of 48 hours to complete the final weapon build. On the first day both Bob and I were given a total of 8 hours to work and 10 hours for the following four days with one hour of break time. The typical day of work/filming would start sometime around 8-30 and end 10 hours later. The film crew that comes to your house for round 3 is typically just two people, a field producer and an assistant field producer. For me, that was Stav and Monica. They were absolutely awesome to work with. They were both really professional, easy to talk to and they did a good job of making me feel at ease in front of the camera. I had a lot of fun getting to know them and by the end of the 5 days, I was sad to see them leave.

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Each day pretty much started the same. The film crew would arrive at the house, they’d get settled in by setting up a camera on a tripod to film the ‘pre-day’ interview. At the start of each day we would do a pre-day interview to give a short description of my plan for the day, how I was feeling and anything that I was apprehensive about regarding the weapon build. Stav did most of the camera work while Monica processed all the footage, trimming out what was unnecessary to get it ready to send off to the studio. The camera(s) were running almost non-stop during every day of round 3. On day one we started in the yard, I stood about 10-15 feet from the camera and responded to a few questions about my game plan and then gave an intro statement before going into a quick ‘welcome to my shop tour.’ (this is the mini shop tour that appears in the ‘cutting deeper’ episode.  

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Once the interview was done, I grabbed some coffee and told Stav I was ready to start. Stav started a stopwatch and it was time to get started. I began the sword building process by drawing out a rough design of the blade I wanted to forge on the shop floor with a Sharpie, marking the length of the tang and the overall length, width and profile of the blade, making sure to put marks for the required parameters. I then began to forge out the blade, both by hand and at the power hammer using the template on the floor to stay within length and width. I did 100% of the forging of my sword blade in a small 8x12 single venturi-burner forge.

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I cut about half of the bar of 5160 that I was given and I used the power hammer for the majority of the drawing out and tapering. Even with the power hammer, the thick bar of 5160 took a while to get things moving in the right direction. I would go to the anvil for straightening and refining of the forged shape between sessions on the power hammer. I only had the power hammer in my shop for about 2 months before I filmed my episode so I was still fairly new to it but even so it was a huge help. More than once during the forging I thought about making two blades, to go ahead and have a second one rough-forged in case of a failure but at some point I decided not to. After the forging was complete I spent time straightening and making sure the blade was as equal in thickness as I could make it. Once, when I was working on getting a slight bend out, I forgot which end of the sword was hot and I grabbed the 7-800 degree steel with my right hand and severely burned the ends of 4 fingers. I jumped up and down and made a lot of noise. I was really surprised that didn’t make the final cut of the show. =)  After straightening as much as I could I normalized the blade three times in the big forge. My normalizing process for the smallsword was as follows: I would bring the blade up to temp inside a 2 inch square steel tube inside the forge to avoid hot/cold spots and to ensure an even heat. I brought the blade to a high orange/critical heat and then allowed it to cool to gray each time. I would keep gently straightening during the normalizing cycles, I was constantly aware of trying to keep warps and bends under control.

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My final rough forging was 32 inches worth of blade and I'd left the ricasso area just over the required one inch width to allow me room for grinding and mistakes. I finished the first day of round 3 with a forged and normalized blade. After the end of day interview, (where we would go back over each part of the day) I went inside and got cleaned up and went to bed. I spent a rather sleepless night debating whether to quench and temper the blade before or after the grinding. I finally convinced myself that it may be better to grind after heat treat given the complexity of the triangular blade profile that was required. I finally drifted off to sleep, tired but excited to continue on day 2 with the most important part of the process, heat treating.

*The order in which the show displays my progress during round 3 was not exactly the way things went, stay tuned here for the full details of what I did on each day.

Up Next - Round 3 - Day 2  Heat Treat & Grind

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