Ron Hardman knows knives.
The blacksmith, who owns Kilroy’s Workshop in Colorado Springs, made his first at 15. He also made one this summer that might make him $10,000 richer. We won’t know for sure until Wednesday’s episode of “Forged in Fire,” which airs at 7 p.m. on History channel.
Hardman and his 20-year-old daughter, Jessica, were selected this year to participate on the popular reality series. Each episode pits four master bladesmiths against each other, as they work to forge some of history’s most well-known edged weapons. Once created, judges test the weapons; last blacksmith standing takes home the jackpot.
In July, the Hardmans competed in Stamford, Conn., against father-and-son shop teachers from Texas. “Being able to compete with my daughter and spend that time with her creating unbelievable memories was awesome,” Hardman said. “The performance on the show was secondary to having fun.”
Each bladesmith has a forge and an anvil. Round one features a challenge with specific parameters, and the dismissal of one competitor. In round two, blacksmiths put a handle on a knife, and another contestant is eliminated. For the finale, a weapon is revealed to the final two teams, who must fly home and over the course of four timed days, and with a film crew on their tail, re-create the weapon. The blacksmiths then fly back to Stamford to witness the judges try to destroy their creations.
The final two blacksmiths were tasked with creating a rapier inspired by Inigo Montoya from the 1987 fairy tale film “The Princess Bride.”
“If you’d given me a piece of paper and say write down your final weapon that you’d love to do, this is what I’d love to do,” Hardman said.
Blacksmithing is second nature to Hardman, who opened his shop six years ago. His trade is popular as more than 3,500 students have taken a class there this year. It appeals to a wide cross section of people, including a group from the Wounded Warrior Project and former Denver Broncos defensive lineman Harald Hasselbach, who made a sword there this month. Hardman’s shop is the only one in the country that offers training to people ages 9 and older, and about 30 percent of his students are women.
“It’s seriously contagious. You get to create stuff,” he said. “You get to heat stuff up and hit it.”
Jessica, who’s a sophomore at Colorado Christian University in Denver, is also a shop teacher at Kilroy’s. She picked up blacksmithing as a way to hang out with her dad and now teaches at the school during the summer.
“We’re a family-friendly shop,” Ron said. “When you come in the shop, there’s no swearing, no bad jokes. You just be here and have fun with each other.”
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