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Series / Forged in Fire

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The clock will burn you.
Left to right - Doug Marcaida, J. Neilson, Wil Willis, David Baker. Not shown - Jason Knight, Ben Abbott, Grady Powell, R.J. Marcaida and Doug's students.

"Bladesmiths, welcome to the Forge."

Forged In Fire is a reality Game Show about the art of bladesmithing, originally hosted by Wil Willis (Seasons 1-7) and currently hosted by Grady Powell (Season 8 to present). In each episode, four smiths compete to win $10,000 by forging bladed weapons in a three-round contest with a panel of expert judges judging their work.

The rounds take place as follows:

  • The first round normally takes place in The Forge, a studio stocked with a wide range of metalworking tools and equipment, sometimes the show will mix it up by having one or both of them take place in an alternative location such as a scrapyard or a farm. In this round, the bladesmiths are given some type of steel and must use it to make a blade in a style of their choosing. The type of steel can vary from a standard block, to a choice of scrap metal objects, to material salvaged from a junked car or lawnmower, to rejected blades from previous episodes. The host issues a set of specifications for the blade length, and sometimes gives an extra challenge (adding features like serrations or a fuller, or using a specific technique such as San Mai/Go Mai/a certain type of Damascus pattern, and so on). The bladesmiths are given usually three hours to forge their blades and deal with anything goes wrong. When the time is up, they present their blades to a panel of three judges who evaluate the craftsmanship/quality and point out any flaws or defects. The person who handed in the worst blade (or a blade which didn't meet the specifications) is eliminated from the competition, and must turn in their weapon and leave The Forge.note 
  • In the second round, also taking place in The Forge, the three remaining smiths are given another three hours (two in later seasons) to turn their blades into fully functional weapons, by attaching handles, grinding/sharpening/polishing, and cleaning up any problems noted by the judges in the first round. The judges then put the weapons through tests to gauge properties such as sharpness, durability, and ease of use, by chopping/slashing/stabbing objects which include logs, ropes, animal carcasses, and steel car doors. As before, the smith whose weapon is judged the least satisfactory has to turn it in and leave.
  • For the final round, the two remaining smiths are shown a historically significant weapon and have five days (four in later seasons) to create their own versions of it at their home forges. They then bring their weapons back to the Forge for in order to be tested for edge retention, strength and durability, and for lethality in the infamous KEAL test against an animal carcass or a ballistics dummy. The loser turns in their weapon, and the winner is named as the day's Forged In Fire Champion and receives the $10,000 prize.

The host does not take part in the judging, but sometimes offers insights based on their military service in order to give the judges a different perspective on the blades. Also, medics are on hand to treat any injuries or other health problems (usually caused by the intense heat) and may disqualify any smiths they feel are unable to continue safely.




  • J. Neilson: Master Smith with the American Bladesmith Society. Replaced by Jason Knight (another ABS Master Smith) during a medical leave for hand surgery during parts of Seasons 3 and 4, after which he returned as a regular judge.
  • Ben Abbott: Two-time Forged in Fire champion. Replaces Neilson for some episodes as of the end of Season 4, after which he would alternate with Neilson.
  • David Baker: Swordsmith and expert in fabricating replicas of rare weapons.
  • Doug Marcaida: Kali martial artist and edged- and impact-weapon specialist. When Doug was injured, his brother R. J. and two of his martial arts students tested in his place while he judged. After his recovery, he continued his role. He's also one of the judges in the Latinamerican version of the show, Desafío Sobre Fuego Latinoamérica.

The show's ninth season premiered in March 2022 and concluded in November 2022. A tenth season was confirmed in June 2023, to air in Fall 2023.

2018 also launched a spin-off show, Forged in Fire: Knife or Death, which is about wielding blades rather than making them. In this show, contestants pit themselves and a single blade against two courses of targets which must be cut, chopped through or destroyed with the weapon. The show test both the weapons' strength and durability as well as the contestants' skill, strength and endurance. The winner of each episode advances to the season finale, with a $20,000 cash prize at stake.

A second spin-off, Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges, premiered in 2020. On each episode, three previous Forged in Fire champions return to compete against each other through two rounds for a chance to face off against either Neilson, Baker, or Abbott in a head-to-head forging contest, with another $10,000 at stake.

All episodes of the series can be watched in History Channel's dedicated play page. The series also has a dedicated YouTube channel.

Compare The Butcher (2019), a show with a similar premise and format to Forged in Fire, but with butchery instead of bladesmithing.


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     Forged in Fire 
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • In one episode, the contestants are instructed to create Fully Functional Friction Folding knives.
    • In a later episode, Wil takes this even further by saying Forged in Fire Fully Functional Friction Folding knives, much to the judges' amazement.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • The series' power hammer is nicknamed "Big Blu", though this also doubles as a minor Product Placement.
    • The ballistics dummy got the name "George" from Doug in social media.
  • All or Nothing:
    • Quenching in water instead of oil. It confers greater hardness to the blade when it works, but it's much more likely to cause the blade to warp, crack, or even shatter.
    • Only the day's winner receives any prize money; the three eliminated smiths leave with nothing.
    • Only the winner of the Knife or Death season finale wins any money.
  • All Swords Are the Same: Averted. When the example weapon in the final round is revealed, the host or one of the judges makes sure to explain the way in which it was used: Katanas for slashing and quick draw, crusader swords for piercing armor, Shotels for hooking around enemy shields, etc.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Many winners, especially the more inexperienced ones, moved on to bigger and better things once they received the money and fame from the show. Blacksmithing is a continuously evolving art and learning experience; thus, most contestants actually perform better in Real Life after participating. Case in point: when the younger smiths eventually earned official recognition from their local governing bodies (usually ABS) after the show.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Ben Abbott, a two-time winner on the show, became a judge at the end of Season 4, most of Season 5, and large parts of subsequent seasons.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • In one episode, the contestants were tasked with designing their own "fantasy" blades. There is a reason why most often the contestants just make standard camp knives or bowie knives. These are tested designs which are sure to work. However, when told to design a "fantasy" blade, the contestants went overboard. One focused so much on his fancy blade he was eliminated because his hilt was too long. Another went for a fancy curved hilt which broke with the first serious hit. It did not help they were forced to use meteor metal which while cool sounding is actually pretty soft and has to be properly mixed with harder steel. Another of the blades was halfway ruined by the endurance test and would have been surely eliminated if the curved hilt blade did not break. The best of the knives was a fairly crude large knife which barely classified as "fantasy" but was sharp and solid.
    • One early episode example had the finalists required to make chakrams. One contestant made a more historically accurate piece close to the example, a simple edged ring. The second smith however, decided to make a fantasy design which included a "S" shaped grip in the middle and some embellishments to the grip and inside edge of the ring. While the judges praised the "cool" factor of fantasy-style chakram, they noted the added grip in the middle was counter-intuitive, as the added weight reduced its throwing distance, and didn't make it any more safe to wield for melee compared to just simply wrapping some protective material such as heavy cloth around a section of the ring. The classic-style chakram design was the one that eventually won the competition.
    • There are several challenges where some contestants are allowed to choose their own challenges. On a few occasions, one of the challengers will usually choose the most difficult ones to impress the judges, despite their choice not having any impact on their blades' performance.
    • Played with in an episode where the contestants have to choose which techniques they will employ to make a knife. If they choose the fancy, time-consuming technique they will have access to most of the power tools in the workshop. The less fancy the technique, the fewer tools they will be able to use. Choosing the simplest technique means they will have to do most of the work through muscle power alone. The two younger contestants choose the most difficult technique while the two older (and stronger) contestants choose the most basic technique. Once the contest begins, the judges explain to the audience the basic technique is a trap. It seems like the most practical approach and shows off the contestants' fundamental smithing skills but the metal bar they have to use is too big to be practically worked into a knife in the time allowed. Since they cannot use the power saw, they cannot cut it down into more manageable pieces. Sure enough, one of the contestants who chose the basic technique ends up turning in a piece of forged metal which barely resembles a knife and is eliminated. This is then flipped in the second round, where one of the other contestants chooses the more difficult technique and runs out of time to make a proper handle.
  • BFS:
    • The Scottish Claymore. Both of the people making it said it was the biggest blade they'd ever forged. It was brought back for the first Champions Edition episode, and again, it was the largest weapon either had made. The massive size of the weapon is a consistent problem for the smiths, as most don't have equipment large enough to properly heat treat it, forcing some improvisation and resulting in three of the four claymores made across the two challenges bending or breaking. Yes, this means both claymores succumbed on the first challenge - one bent, one shattered. (The smith whose claymore bent managed to straighten it enough for the second test and won.)
    • Later on, the Zweihander gets the same comments. Wil, in his explanation of the sword's history, notes it could only be wielded effectively by the strongest soldiers and was used to break up pike formations.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Broadly, it's either knife or sword but the competition chopper is preferred by most contestants. Several have even forged their weapons themselves. Special mention goes to Jason Johnson, professional knife thrower who made it to the season finale's Dead Run.
  • Boss Rush: An interesting special season called Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges, airing in 2020 (partially due to the COVID-19 risk, the number of people in the Forge is visibly reduced to a minimum for the episodes to be called a genuine competition).
    • First, three champions are pitted against one another with a signature blade (design and material parameters are relatively free), whom Doug alone judges the blades and eliminates one of the competitors. Their creations are visibly far, far more complicated and refined then the usual first round rush-jobs.
    • Second, the two remaining champions face-off in a mini-final round, where they're tasked with producing smaller swords in a reduced time in their home forges (typically 3-4 days only instead of the usual 5). One more judge, chosen by the producers, joins Doug to test the blades with the usual series of test gauntlet. Uniquely, the former will not participate in the next round and battle the competitors. One champion will be eliminated.
    • Third and finally, another judge will show up, also chosen by the producers, when he will stand in the forge and battle the remaining champion. They are given 8 hours to create a complicated project (typically also a smaller sword or a pair of large knives, worthy of a 5-day challenge if this is a usual episode/season), including the temper time which is normally cut out of the show's production (because they take more than an hour of sitting in the tempering oven with the smiths doing absolutely nothing). The remaining judges, including Doug, take their usual position in commenting like a regular episode and perform another series of test gauntlet. What's frightening is the clear difference in skill showed by the judges, showing why they are worthy of that position, compared to the regular competitors. It took Burt Foster, a seasoned ABS Master Smith, to beat J. Neilson (another ABS Master Smith), and for J. to really mess up his handles, showing the level of skill required just to contend with them.
  • Bringing in the Expert:
    • All weapons are tested by experts in both creating and using them. Usually the judges are enough for this, being a master smith, historical weapons expert, and master martial artist, but occasionally they need outside help; for example, when the challenge was a halligan bar (in a first responders episode), they brought in active-duty firefighters to do the testing. When Doug was injured, he brought his brother and two of his martial arts students to alternately test in his place while he remained as the judge.
    • Wil himself was called in to fire the shots for the bullet tests in a Season 5 episode.
  • Call-Back: Some of the losing weapons from previous episodes are hung up on the wall. There's a katana, a chakram, a katar, and a Roman gladius, among others.
    • In the first round of one Season 2 episode, each smith had to choose a blade which failed the first round in Season 1 and re-forge it.
    • The first Champions Edition episode asked the finalists to make claymores after the claymore had proven to be the most difficult weapon to forge among all final challenges, and the difficulties and failures the previous smiths had faced are noted. Rounding it off, the pig carcass slice which had proven ruinous to both prior claymores is brought back, and again proves decisive in determining a winner.
    • The exact tests the blades are subjected to often reference the source of the materials used in their construction earlier - for example when blades were made from steel harvested from motorcycles, the tests were batoning the blades into motorcycle handlebars to test their strength and slicing motorcycle seats to test their sharpness.
    • Every round in the 100th episode. In Round 1, the smiths were offered a smorgasbord of starting materials which had been used in all 99 previous episodes. One of the challenges in Round 2 was a rope slice, which had been used in the series premiere, but with the ropes set on fire this time. And in Round 3, the last two smiths were asked to forge a longer version of the katana which was assigned in the premiere.
  • The Cameo: In the WWE episode, Ric Flair appeared during the final round to award the winner the check as well as the WWE Championship replica. Both the champion and Flair also recreated Flair's "Woo!" chant.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Doug Marcaida: "It will cut/kill" (or some variation thereof; most commonly, "Your blade, sir? It will keal!", short for Keep Everyone ALive) after a weapon has performed well in the tests. After David Baker performs a kill test, he uses it. A couple of the contestants also borrow it.
    • Wil's "tiny little [insert number here] minutes" is a less popular version of this, as well as his loud voice (which is parodied in-episode by a challenger from the military, who's used to shouting himself).
  • Character Tics: With the contestants (and even the judges) coming from various backgrounds and cultures, it's not surprising there are countless examples of this in the show. Some more notable ones:
    • Among the double champions: Ben Abbott often quips in falsetto during his challenges; Theo Nazz loves making lame smithing-related jokes (and he knows it); Travis Wuertz's manic and almost crazed pace when making blades, as well as his jovial, frequent usage of slang words.
    • From the judges: J. Neilson's near-memetic sadistic grin prior to strength tests; Doug's super-fast test swings (owing to his martial arts training); Jason's "Yeah, man!" when questioned by Wil in the discussion room.
  • Cool Sword: Contestants make a lot of them.
  • Determinator: Many of the contestants keep powering through the tests even after severe setbacks.
    • One guy manages to work through severe pain caused by arthritis.
    • A few other contestants get overheated from the high forge temperatures and must step aside until they recover, but they still finish their tasks.
    • In the "Knights Templar" episode of Season 4, one smith's dagger completely broke in half during the second round. He welded the pieces back together and managed to turn in a finished blade before time ran out, and it did well enough in the tests to get him into the final round.
    • In the second Champion of Champions episode in Season 4, Neil Kamimura was unable to get his metal to properly forge weld and so abandoned it to forge a new canister damascus billet with 32 minutes remaining in the first round. In 1/6th of the time and using 1/3rd of the metal the other contestants were using, he pulled it off and it into the final round.
  • Do Not Try This at Home: The perils of an untrained person attempting to forge a blade were graphically shown when someone inspired by the show decided to try forging some metal over a barrel fire in 30mph winds in New York State. Burning embers started a fire which eventually ended up destroying several buildings and causing millions of dollars in damage. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt but they were charged with reckless endangerment and accidental arson and were sentenced to a year in jail. Following this incident the show added a Do Not Attempt bumper at the start of every episode.
Please, do not attempt without extensive training and safety measures in place.
  • Doctor's Orders: The on-set medics can medically disqualify a contestant if they feel they are unable to continue safely, and have done so on occasion. During at least one episode, a contestant was taken off set by paramedics to hospital after showing symptoms of a possible serious cardiac event, though they made a full recovery.
  • Down to the Last Play: Happens every so often after a few episodes. No matter how well a smith is doing, even to the point of clearly dominating the challenges and their competition with their skill and attention to detail, catastrophe will inevitably strike in the final seconds of the allotted time, or the final swing of the blades in the hands of the judges, granting passage/victory to the clear underdogs. Like Wil often remarks:
    Wil Willis: just never know what'll happen in the forge!
  • Dual Wielding:
    • One challenge was making a twin pair of butterfly swords which were then dual wielded in various tests.
    • Others have included pairs of "deer horn" knives and push knives.
    • One of the Season 4 challenges was a pair of Viking axes.
    • Season 5 had a Messer and Bi-knife combo.
    • Season 7 had a pair of Frankish Throwing Axes.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In earlier seasons, the judging for the first two rounds involved the judges and smiths going into separate rooms; while the judges deliberated, the smiths would be able to see but not hear them. Later seasons cut this part out and only show the judges evaluating the blades in front of the smiths on the forge floor.
    • In earlier seasons, smiths using whiteouts for canister damascus are praised for their willingness to go the extra time-consuming step to produce a cleaner billet (since when done right, the outer canister won't weld/merge with the inner billet because of the thin whiteout layer). However, in latter seasons, when the smiths' allocated time was reduced, doing such a step is often ridiculed by the judges because a clean billet's appearance doesn't mean jack squat to the blade's performance — may as well let the outer canister become a mild steel jacket and just have the inner, high-carbon edge show through enough to perform in the tests.
  • Eliminated from the Race: The show has a three-round elimination format. The first eliminated participant is the one whose knife rushjob impresses the less to the judges. In the second round, the finished knives are put to test in regards to strength and edge retention, and the eliminated person is the one whose knife impresses the judges the less. Finally, after both finalists craft their recreated weapons, it's the weapon that impresses the judges the less the one whose bladesmith is eliminated, with the last bladesmith standing being crowned Forged in Fire champion.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous:
    • Wil Willis is a former US Army Ranger and US Air Force Pararescueman (one of the guys who goes in and rescues other injured Special Forces operatives).
    • Willis's replacement, Grady Powell, is a US Army Green Beret.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Wil loves putting more and more epithet into J. Neilson's introductory title, such as "Beast from the East", "the O.G. Judge", "the J-minator", etc. J. uncomfortably grins every time Wil does this.
  • Enforced Plug: A stretch of season 5 episodes contain plugs for the mobile game DomiNations during the introduction of the final round, as the app was featuring tie-in challenges and unlocks related to the weapons featured in said episode.
  • Epic Fail: Every so often, something goes horribly wrong.
    • In the Scottish Claymore episode, both finalists' blades had serious problems- one bent during the kill test and the other shattered. The one which bent ended up winning because the bladesmith who made it was able to straighten it out enough to perform the next test.
    • The Kachin Dao episode had first contestant withdraw because of medical issues. During the second round knife of one contestant bent to the point of being one hit away from snapping in half entirely, resulting in their elimination. During the final round, one contestant didn't properly fix their hilt, making the weapon too dangerous for testing and thusly being eliminated without any weapon tests.
    • The Masai Lion Spear episode had a parade of them. First, the smiths were asked to make a hatchet head. Two of the four failed to make their hatchet heads meet length requirements. The one who was sent home not only failed to make parameters, but had a head which was far too brittle and thin to be usable. The second round, the smith who made his hatchet head too short fixed that issue, only to make his handle too long and get sent home (earning a comment from Wil he has the dubious distinction of being the only contender who failed both parameters). The two remaining contenders forged their spears, but the third contestant's blade had a catastrophic failure, snapping in half on the second strike of the kill test.
    • One contestant in the Sawback Hunting Sword episode had numerous instances of this; he didn't address the issues the judges brought up with the delaminations in his blade as well as adding some mass, and because it was so lean, he intentionally left the blade blunt to help it survive the strength test (an antler chop). Well, not only did his blade take damage from the strength test due to the delaminations, but it absolutely failed the cut test when it didn't even scour the meat. If you squinted, you could maybe see the shallow tracks it left behind. While the other two contestants' blades also took edge damage, they could still cut, and he was sent home.
    • Round three of the Sengese Sword episode saw both finalists' blades (basically "number 3"-shaped weapon, with a sharp top half and a backspike in the middle) break at the middle point during a strength test. The winner was declared because his blade survived nine swings while the loser's broke on the first hit.
    • An extreme example in Season 6. In the very first round, all bladesmiths fail to meet the parameters required from the challenge (which one of them is a ladder-pattern damascus), with one of them even failing to turn in a completed blade (somewhat justified due to said bladesmith having medical issues severe enough to require an ambulance). It got to the point where the show decided if any single one of the smiths actually made all the parameters, he'd be crowned the episode's champion right then and there. Naturally, none succeeded, forcing the judges to move them on to Round 2, having no way for the smiths to correct their mistakes. The trend continued for the episode with Round 2 and Round 3 both being decided by catastrophic failures and the winner still having his sword damaged pretty significantly damaged in the strength test.
    • In the second round of a Season 5 episode, a contestant failed to sharpen his blade at all, leaving him with a knife which couldn't cut a pillow. Notably, when asked to turn in his knife, Wil asks him to "surrender his work" rather than "surrender his blade" as was usually done.
    • Season 9, Episode 16 "Gladiators of the Forge: A Champions Quest", the 2nd 8-hour match up of the episode between the winner from the first half of the episode and the newest challenger is the Roman Gladius, with the requirement it be made with ball bearing canister damascus, and the can must be peeled off and removed from the billet. As an additional note, both smiths were warned after five and a half hours, the forges would be turned off. What follows is a demonstration of "what not to do" from one of the contestants who ends up being too perfectionist for the competition and dooms any chance at victory:
      • First, upon starting to remove the canister from the billet and only having just the start of one corner before deciding he sees something he doesn't like and chooses to discard and restart on a new canister. The judges are baffled by this decision, as they all point out he doesn't have enough of the canister removed yet to verify if whatever he saw is as bad as he thinks it is. This wastes at least one hour of time.
      • The second canister meets his approval, but of course now he has to spend more time removing the can, and then he starts to hammer out the blade profile on the anvil. Then, one single ball bearing on an outside corner pops off on a hammer strike. Instead of trying to fix this issue, such as forge welding the material, he chooses to discard this billet as well and start on a third canister. All of this costs him now over 4 hours.
      • After finally getting a bar of material to his standard and making the blade profile, the smith chooses to move right to the grinder without hardening and quenching the blade. Grady and the judges all note the forges are about to be shutoff and a properly hardened blade is a requirement of any weapon to be tested. The smith decides he can get away with only the edge hardened by using a gas torch, which he leaves at far too low of a setting to properly heat the metal and ends up going into the oil quench at a very low temperature, before frantically trying to finish the handle and guard for the Gladius. The final result of all this? Doug refuses to test the weapon because the handle has no mechanical means of staying in one piece, relying on the hastily applied glue and a very rough handle construction. Dave does a file test to see if the blade is hardened at all and the tool immediately grabs onto the "blade", instead of skating across like it should, proving the metal is far too soft and is an incomplete blade and immediate disqualification.
    • During the testing in one of the "Beat the Unbeaten" series episodes, both contending blades broke in the first strike. The one going through did so under an unprecedented reasoning: there's just more blade remaining on said contestant's work than the opponent (his blade broke in the middle), whose knife broke right at the handle transition.
  • Every Japanese Sword is a Katana: Averted. Contestants have made several non-katana Japanese blades. One of the contestants in the first episode made a tanto.
  • Exact Words:
    • Usually, the blade made for the first round is a knife, but after a contestant suffered a setback and didn't have time to make a knife, he made an ax blade instead.
    • One Season 4 episode required the smiths to harvest the steel for their blades from a chunk of elevator cable in Round 1. When one of them ran into trouble using the cable strands alone, he decided to use it in a damascus steel billet instead. The judges let him proceed because they hadn't specified how the smiths were supposed to work with the cable.
    • In a round where contestants were told to make knives from old lawn mowers, one contestant was eliminated because the judges felt he hadn't actually forged his blade because of how much he'd used a bench grinder to reduce his piece of steel.
  • Finagle's Law: Pretty much everything which can go wrong making a blade has happened to a contestant at some point: injury, heat exhaustion, failed welds, cracked/broken blades, and so on. Fortunately it hasn't all happened to the same bladesmith.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Doug uses the term "KEAL" instead of "KILL" because it means "Keep Everyone ALive", a reminder of Kali philosophy where the objective is not to murder, but to protect your loved ones.
  • Funny Background Event: In the "Kachin Dao" episode, while Doug Marcaida is explaining why he won't test a defective, potentially dangerous weapon, the head of the ballistic gel dummy which had been almost beheaded before finally falls off and rolls a little towards Marcaida's feet. Even the contestant whose Kachin Dao was being rejected can't help to look at it for a second.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Occasionally, a smith (or two) will end up hurting him/herself bad enough medical officers on standby medically disqualify them on the spot, or force the smiths themselves to give up.
    • J. and Doug had injuries serious enough to prevent them from testing the blades for a considerable amount of time.
    • Minor examples of this were blades uncomfortable/unsafe enough they actually injure the judges wielding them, rendering them inactive for the rest of the episode (usually, even the potential for that counts as a disqualifying trait immediately). As shown in one season 6 episode, this is true even if the other weapon has suffered minor damage; the contestants were making spiked maces, and one contestant had several spikes break off of his mace head, but the other, although the spikes survived the first test and would likely have survived the second, had made a mace whose balance made it unsafe to use. J. did note to the contestant with the damaged mace which even with spikes broken off, it was still deadly.
    • A literal example is when weapons suffer a "catastrophic failure" (either the main body or the handle outright breaks), meaning they're not allowed to continue with further testing. If the broken weapon was the first to be tested, this also means their opponent needs to only progress the current test past the point of failure to win the game (i.e. if one sword broke on the second swing, the other sword needs to survive two swings).
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • Generally averted. Most injuries in the forge are shown as they are, from a respectful and professional stand point, and not emphasized or Played for Drama as much as other reality shows.
    • Inverted regarding the blades themselves, though; total, "catastrophic" failures are always shown in slow motion, replayed, and zoomed in for all their glory.
  • Graceful Loser:
    • The eliminated contestants, while disappointed, usually accepts the judges' decision and understand why they made it.
    • The genuine camaraderie between the contestants is one of the primary features of the show. Everybody is just so darn nice to the point that contestants are often visibly disappointed when a competitor's blade under performs.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • Season 3 and the first half of Season 4 feature judge Jason Knight, filling in for J. Neilson while he recovered from hand surgery.
    • As of the end of Season 4, two-time champ Ben Abbott takes Neilson's seat on the panel for some episodes.
    • When Doug Marcaida can't test weapons himself due to injury, a co-worker or family member fills in for him. Doug still offers commentary on the weapons' design and balance, though.
  • Halloween Episode: Season 5 had a horror-themed episode where the first few rounds involved making Slasher Movie knives and the "historical" weapon was the Grim Reaper's scythe. Funnily, it missed Halloween for some reason and aired a week later.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Season 2 contestant "One-Chop" Shayne Carter (appears in the Butterfly Swords episode, where eventual final rival Andy Alm gave him the nickname) is colorblind, and when he does quenches he has to go by instinct rather than eye the heat glow. He ends up winning the episode.
    • Earlier on, one contestant's arthritis didn't prevent him from doing his best.
    • Matt, the very first Forged in Fire Champion, has asthma.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sometimes smiths injure themselves using the equipment. Luckily it's usually no worse than small cuts from the grinders, and there are medics on hand just in case. The editing team will definitely include ironic lines done during the interview sections into the show's flow.
    Random contestant: I guarantee my blade's strong!
    (knife breaks in one hit)
  • Home Field Advantage:
    • Invoked. The two finalists return to their home forge for the final challenge for this reason, with them usually saying "I'm happy be back in my home forge".
    • Inverted in cases where the final weapon is of unusual size or shape and the smiths' home equipment isn't geared to handle it, forcing them to improvise. In this case, the competitors usually say "I've never made a blade like this before".
  • Human Notepad: One smith in a Season 10 episode uses a Sharpie to scribble design notes all over her forearms. During the the first round, a glance at her arm reminds her of a feature she's overlooked, and she works it into her design in time.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Wil, Dave, and Doug are prone to making puns, sometimes trying to one-up each other, much to J.'s dismay. Sometimes it borders on Incredibly Lame Pun category, and Theo Nazz (a two-time champion) is also very fond of this, though he mostly interacts with the camera crew and the audience instead of with the judges.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Aside from the common forging mistakes in the first two challenges, some contestants have made downright stupid decisions like trying to forge two blades at once (despite the very tight time limit), and grinding the scrap metal into the shape of a blade, instead of forging it.
    • A repeated one is someone thinking they've got a fully completed blade/knife and then essentially spending the last half hour or so twiddling their thumbs. Inevitably the judges find some flaw which should have been addressed and it often results in that bladesmith being eliminated.
    • On occasion, smiths have completely forgotten to include a specified feature or forged a blade that falls well outside the length requirements, both of which are practically guaranteed to send them home.
    • Some smiths spend time making their blades more decorative rather than focusing on making a good blade.
  • Incendiary Exponent: The smiths' blades tend to catch fire quite a bit during the forging process, especially when quenched in a barrel of oil.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: An In-Universe example. Several bladesmiths have confessed entering into the contest specifically so they can hear Doug Marcaida say that their weapon "will KEAL".
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: A very important trait and one most of the contestants possess. When the making of one of their blades has gone horribly wrong, they abandon the effort and start over.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Several contestants create a kukri as their blade for the first two challenges, and one episode's final challenge was to make a kukri. Jason Knight's (one of the previous judges) signature/favorite blade is also a kukri, complete with a tattoo of it on his arm!
  • Luck-Based Mission: In season 1, the bladesmiths were not told the tests their blades would undergo if they got through to round 2 meaning a bladesmith who was lucky enough to choose a blade shape or type particularly suited to the test would have an advantage. Averted from season 2 onwards as the bladesmiths were either told what tests their blades would undergo at the end of round 2, allowing them to choose a design suited to them or they were all tasked to make the same type of weapon negating the possibility of an unfair advantage.
    • Played straight during one episode in which the smiths had to forge handles in Round 1, without being told what style of blade they needed to make or the tests those weapons would undergo. These details were only revealed at the start of Round 2.
    • In the "Marvel's Midnight Suns" episode (season 9), each smith had to draw one of six cards during the first round. Three of them showed villains from the Midnight Suns game and inflicted penalties or further criteria on the smiths (such as a weight limit, handle included), while the others showed heroes and gave benefits (such as adding time back to the clock).
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: One of the challenges was to make a spiked shield, and they shot arrows from a crossbow at it to test its strength. Unsurprisingly, it was Ilya Alekseyev of Man at Arms fame who won that match. Shields are also sometimes used as targets for strength tests.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Happens almost every time Doug uses the smiths' blades on a ballistics gel dummy during a kill test. It's rare for him not to leave fake blood, chunks of gel and plastic bone, and/or a decapitated head strewn across the studio floor.
  • MacGyvering: Many challenges involve using unusual sources and materials to make blades such as chainsaws, lawnmowers and car parts.
  • Martial Pacifist: Doug Marcaida is a very skilled practitioner of the Filipino martial art Kali but, as this quote from his website clearly shows, follows this philosophy.
    "It's not how many you can hurt, it's how many you can protect."
    • Also his "it will kill" catchphrase is actually "it will keal" which is an acronym for Keep Everyone ALive.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The judges when a contestant quenches his blade in water instead of oil. Water makes the blade harder, but carries a much higher chance of cracking or even breaking the blade. More generally this can happen whenever a contestant does something risky or wrong which can damage or destroy their work such as quenching at the wrong temperature, hammering steel which is too cold, trying to straighten warps by bending the blade in a vise etc.
  • Moving The Goal Posts: In one competition the smiths were not given all the parameters at the beginning of a round. Throughout the round, three more parameters would be revealed and the smiths would have to adjust to the new parameters or risk elimination. This meant a smith who was ahead of the others, might have his work derailed and be forced to backtrack to fit in a new parameter.
    • In a Season 5 episode, the judges noticed how the Round 2 contestants were quiet, unstressed, and being very productive in finishing their knives. Wil then called an audible and took away an hour of their time. All three still turned in finished knives with minutes to spare.
  • Mr. Exposition: The judges often explain exactly what the contestants are doing and what they're trying to achieve for the non-bladesmithing audience.
    • With eight seasons of episodes, the judges have had the same conversations many times. Sometimes it's a call back while for others they speak as if it's the first time they've discussed the situation.
  • Nice Guy: Doug is nearly always cheerful and upbeat, and will often go out of his way to complement a blade even if it fails.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: a variation on this as there is a fifth contestant each episode if you count the animal carcass which is going to be beat up, stabbed, or hacked during the final tests. Enough cows, fish, goats, deer, and pigs are strung up just for weapons testing to feed an army. Sometimes the animals win (see the Scottish Claymore episode- one pig did better than a steel sheet at stopping a sword). David Baker stated the meat is sent to a nearby wolf sanctuary while he takes the fish for his own fridge.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: At least three types have been seen on the show.
    • The first is combination of the standard "Evacuation/Quit", where a competitor starts showing or expressing some sort of medical concern, usually heat exhaustion or preexisting condition they have, they will be taken away from the forge floor to a cooler area for an examination and evaluated if its safe for them to continue.
    • The second type is for failure to meet parameters for the challenge, often a blade or grip length being too short or long, lacking a requested feature, or some other requirement.
    • The last type is a weapon being declared unsafe to wield or causing injury to one of the judges trying to wield it. A blade which is considered unsafe to wield often has problems with the handle or guard construction, or may be so heavy or unwieldy without risk of injury or losing control of the blade.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted in one double championship episode, when two contestants were named Mike. The judges settled for calling one "Big" Mike and the other "Spicy" Mike (after he ate a banana with hot sauce in his debut episode).
  • Only Sane Man: The show is almost unique amongst these type of reality competition shows by eschewing the normal paradigm of playing up interpersonal conflicts between contestants. The contestants show respect for each other and camaraderie is common. On occasions a contestant has shown exceptional sportsmanship and fair play by pointing out something obviously wrong with another contestants setup or work. Examples include:
    • Contestants often co-operate if an initial task requires more than one person to perform efficiently, for example harvesting leaf springs from a car.
    • One contestant showed another who’d never even seen, much less used, a coal forge how to open up the vent to allow air to flow through the forge so it would work correctly.
    • On another occasion one smith pointed out to another he was making a blade with a type of tang that wasn’t either of the types specified and would lead to his blade automatically being disqualified. The other smith checked with the producers and thanked the other smith for his sense of fair play on having the information confirmed. The judges, who’d all already seen the issue but were not allowed to bring it to the smiths attention applauded the first smith for his good sportsmanship.
    • In the Sword in the Stone episode, 18-year-old Colton was too light to properly twist his billet for twist Damascus, so he asked fellow competitor Sam (The Big Guy) to help him hold the vise still. Sam left his own work for a few minutes to help Colton, getting much approval for the judges for his sportsmanship.
    • One technique contestants use when making Damascus blades which are comprised of multiple layers of steel is to grind each section before use to remove any rough spots or surface impurities which can cause issues when it is forge welded. One contestant who’d brought a long magnet with him, allowing him to grind multiple sections simultaneously, generously lent it to another contestant to allow him to do the same wanting a level playing field.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Normally, the host and the judges are quite supportive of the contestants, even those who failed as forging weapons under such harsh time limits and circumstances are extremely difficult. However, when they run out of nice things to say from the start, you know that particular smith really screwed up. It's even more apparent for Doug, the resident Nice Guy, when he particularly struggles to find something positive to say about a weapon and personally disqualifies the offending weapon, and it's even worse when a weapon fails so bad he doesn't even address the good sides of it and quietly returns to his spot. There are also some occasions when the editing seems to show Wil eliminating a contestant without prior discussion with the judges, such is the glaring mistake usually justifying this.
  • A Rare Sentence: The episode where the first challenge was to salvage steel from a lawnmower gives us this gem, which makes all the judges start laughing:
    Wil Willis: Grab a lawnmower, your three-hour forging period starts... now!
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Several times, excellent smiths end up writing themselves out of the competition by forgetting minimum/maximum blade lengths or other requirements stated clearly at the start of the competition. They can apparently use presses, welders, and forges but not rulers?
    • Several contestants are shown measuring with rulers several times during the forging process, and still coming in over/under length.
  • Recycled In Space: Invoked: one of the show's creators explained he got the idea for this bladesmithing show after his daughter forced him to watch cooking shows. The concept of a weapon-making competition was combined with another producer's pitch for a similar show (described as being Project Runway with guns); the similarities in the overall format to Food Network competitive fare such as Chopped is readily evident.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Several contestants, most notably Ryu from the Viking battleaxe episode, have managed to win despite a severe disadvantage in tools.
    • While "home forge" means whatever they use day to day at their personal workshop, this was invoked deliberately by Ryu to show what primitive techniques can accomplish. In Ryu's case, "primitive" meant using a cast iron skillet to hold the coals with air pumped in by a hair dryer connected to a length of dryer vent hose, and when the skillet proved to be too small for the project, he upgraded it with a satellite dish.
  • Royal Rapier: Rapiers were the final challenge of one episode.
  • Schmuck Bait: Early seasons included 24-hour epoxy on the supply shelf, a glue which wouldn't be anywhere close to setting by the time the 3-4 hour round was up. Several contestants used it by mistake, eventually prompting one of the judges to remark, "I don't even know why we have that here."
  • Shout-Out: When the host explains the history and use of the blade the final two contestants will be making, he includes the places it's turned up in popular culture.
    • In the first episode, the katana is mentioned as the weapon of the Bride in Kill Bill.
    • In the second episode, a modified chakram (intended as a melee weapon instead of a throwing weapon) is mentioned as the weapon of choice of Xena: Warrior Princess.
    • The Hook Sword is mentioned as having been featured in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
    • Aside from that, J. during the Fan Favorites episode mentions he would like the final challenge in the series to be a lightsaber. The rest of the cast cracked up.
    • A meta example is present in one episode of Season 6. J. gives one to himself when he suddenly advertised his own DVD mid-sentence when trying to explain a particular blade fit-and-finish technique.
    • An inadvertent one to The Gong Show came up during the last round of a Season 8 episode. The smiths' swords were subjected to a "mystery strength test," being used on an object which was revealed just before the first hit. It turned out to be a gong, and that smith's sword snapped at the hilt on contact. He got gonged out with his own blade.
    • The Kriss episode outright invokes Mortal Kombat: Deception, as it's Ashrah's weapon of choice, with the episode showing a sepia'd screenshot from the game with her as one of the characters.
  • Shovel Strike: One episode's final challenge is the Spetsnaz Shovel, a shovel with sharpened edges used as a multipurpose tool and occasional weapon.
  • Signature Move: Invoked, though not emphasized. Because blacksmithing is also a form of art, listing all the blacksmiths' personal styles will take too long for the show. It's mostly subtly mentioned here or there, but never been focused on, barring several notable exceptions:
    • It's actually one of the main focus of the first "Invitational Tournament" in Season 5. Bladesmiths from 4 different backgrounds (in episode order): ferriers, armorers, blacksmiths, and modern metalworkers have their own school of techniques which is discussed among the judges. Ferriers have a distinct hammer swing, using the hips and wrists more flexibly than the average contestant; one of the armorers note they often 'planish' their work, whether it's a thin sheet armor piece or blades, along with their proficiency in shaping their projects to be biologically articulate; the blacksmiths imply their 'purer' and more pragmatic techniques; modern metalworkers prize their creativity, sourced from working with various sources of metals to create unique metal shapes.
    • Contestants who are official master bladesmiths (either rated by ABS or other organizations) tend to have visibly smoother and more efficient movements than other more informally-trained smiths, but this is noted to often slow their pace down. Judges often note the higher quality standard of a master smith may backfire in a timed competition, usually because they're so meticulous they lost track of time.
    • The host often encourages the smiths to include their signature styles into the first round and the final project, though this is sometimes specifically discouraged to emphasize the historical accuracy of the finale weapon. The judges also often prefer a more period-accurate piece than a more modern interpretation in the final round.
    • Invoked and played with in regards to pattern-welding. Smiths usually have their preferred combination of steels and pattern, and will often go for them when given the choice. The difference in coal and modern forge is also often brought up during specific challenges, when discussing the smiths' comfort with the equipment.
    • Occasionally, it becomes an in-joke regarding the challenges used against the blades. Some favored ones include ice blocks, leg bones, large carcasses, and so on.
      • But it is noted that when shields or armor are used, the proper culture is represented (African blades will be tested against a Rawhide Zulu shield, Arabic swords will crash into Crusader armor, and Chinese or Indian blades are tested against armor of their neighbors
  • The Smurfette Principle: Most contestants are male, but there have been quite a few female bladesmiths competing:
    • Kim Stahl was the first female competitor in the show, but was eliminated in the second round.
    • Kelly Potter was the second, Eliminated from the Race in the second round of the Nepalese Kukri episode. She was brought back as a fan favorite but got eliminated in round two again.
    • Kelly Vermeer-Vella appeared in the Falcata episode, becoming the first chick champion after her final round rival was eliminated due to a dangerous hook in his handle. She returned to battle champions in the T'ai Chi Sword episode but then suffered the same fate there as the other Kelly.
    • Rashelle Hams (Katzbalger episode) also was eliminated in the second round due to her blade's tip breaking off. Seems to be a curse with the women here...
    • The Chinese Dao team challenge featured all-girl duo Raleigh Desiato and Kelly Gregory, who were also eliminated after the second round, and Jessica Collins who was half of the duo who won the episode.
    • Since then, 2 more women have won: Rita Thurman ("Samurai Showdown" episode) and Felicia Howard ("Out to Sea" episode).
  • Sound Effects Bleep: Any swearing on the show (which is rather common when something's gone horribly wrong with the forging process) is bleeped out.
  • Stage Money: For one episode in Season 7, the smiths receive a certain amount of "Forged in Fire Dollars" depending on the starting material and forging technique they choose in Round 1. They have to use this money to pay for the use of tools and handle materials in the first two rounds.
  • Suddenly Significant Rule: As the name suggests, Forged In Fire is a forging competition, and all blades produced must have been forged (that is, shaped using heat and force/pressure). Since forging is the most common way of getting metal into the shape you want it to be and most of the metals needed to be forged to make a proper blade in the first place, the rule was mostly background info until a contestant looking to save time decided to grind the lawnmower blade he was using into shape, instead of forging it. This resulted in his blade being disqualified.
  • Swords: Swords are a very common final challenge for the bladesmiths. Some of the swords made:
    • Katana
    • Moro Kris
    • Roman Gladius
    • Crusader Sword
    • Elizabethan Rapier
    • Egyptian Khopesh
    • Scottish Claymore (twice!)
    • Viking Sword
    • Shotel
    • Cutlass
    • Khanda
    • Hook Sword
    • Butterfly Sword
    • Zweihander
    • Ngombe Ngulu
    • Shamshir
  • Team Spirit: Two episodes have had teams competing, one of which was of masters and apprentices.
  • There Can Be Only One: As the host often points out, only one bladesmith can become a champion in each episode. So far this rule has held - there have been no draws or double eliminations to date. Even if two or more smiths turn in weapons which fail in testing or don't meet the specs, the judges will only eliminate the smith who made the biggest screw-up.
  • Timed Mission: All of the rounds. The first two rounds are three hours each (though the first round can be raised to four hours if there's a big enough challenge), and the third round is five days. In the later seasons, it's reduced to two hours for the second round and four days for the third round to make things more difficult for the contestants.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Wil and Doug, the least-experienced in forging among the crew, noticeably improve their understanding over the seasons, varying their commentaries to showcase this.
  • Weapon Specialization: All of the judges and Wil have their preferred weapons revealed during several episodes.
    • Wil's are a K-Bar and most other survival/military knives.
    • J. Neilson and David Baker insisted on European daggers (fluted dagger for Nielson & dirk for Baker) during their version of the challenges. The latter also often proclaims his love for sabres.
    • Doug Marcaida actually demands karambits in two different episodes, and he often carries his own personal one around. Played for Laughs in one advertisement for the show which started airing in 2022 where a guy walks half-awake into his kitchen at sunrise for a cup of coffee, only to find some leftover coffee grinds on the counter-top and the grinder missing, turns to Doug and ask if he turned it into a karambit again. Cue Doug with a smile on his face declaring no, he turned it into two karambits.
    • Jason Knight's 'signature blade' in one episode is the kukri.
    • Ben Abbott, being English, chooses the Celtic Ring Knife as a challenge for the competitors.
  • Wrecked Weapon: A few blades have snapped in half or had their tips or handles break during testing. This almost always ends up being defined as a "catastrophic failure," enough to disqualify its maker on the spot.

    Knife or Death 
  • BFS: Michael Allenson's Oakeshott longsword helped him secure a spot in the season finale and then the $20,000 win. Guess size does matter.
  • Eliminated from the Race: Only two people who completed Knife Fight in the fastest times (including penalties) will make it to Dead Run.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Competitors' blades are given an onscreen final clearance by expert bladesmith Travis Wuertz. This is a formality for the clear majority of competitors, but very occasionally Wuertz will disqualify a blade (and, accordingly, its competitor) for a design or smithing flaw that makes it unsafe to use on the course. Once, he even did it without bothering to test-swing the weapon, knowing from simply a visual inspection that the competitor's sword was unfit for the course.
  • Flawless Victory: A few have gotten through Knife Fight without incurring a single penalty. The first to do it was Forged in Fire champion Josh Weston. However, it isn't the ultimate victory, as Josh's run also shows: his speed without any penalties was still slower than the speed of some competitors with penalties, so he didn't advance to the next round. Though he was only slower than one person who did advance by 6 seconds.
    • In the first season finale, Michael wins the first competition with a perfect run of the final round, in 2:06. However, the runner up's time was 2:13, with three penalties. Had he avoided even one of those three penalties, he'd have destroyed the course.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Downplayed when Jhoanna Trias, a 43-year-old 95-pound Filipino martial artist armed with a ginunting, was barely able to finish the first obstacle alone and despite her best efforts to keep going through the second, she was forced to stop when her fatigued efforts put her in danger.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The show's title, some of the episodes, and sometimes in the dialogue.
    • "All the Barong Moves" (Season 1 Episode 2).
    • Surprisingly averted with "Super Smash Bros." (Season 1 Episode 4). Shouldn't it be "Super Slash Bros"?
  • Idiot Ball: The round Two obstacle "Extinguisher" has competitors extinguish a flame to their right by cutting through a water tank swinging from a pendulum. Some of the competitors who miss on the first (left-to-right) swing of the pendulum try again on the return (right-to-left) swing... when there's no way for the water to reach the flame. So not only do competitors expend energy on the swing, they still take the penalty because now the tank is cut, there's no way to extinguish the flame. Waiting a couple seconds for another left-to-right swing of the pendulum would save much time.
  • Manly Man: Many of the male competitors are burly, outdoorsy, tough guys, but the one who really turns this up to 11 is host Bill Goldberg on his commentary. Cohost Tu Lam, despite having a more legit "tough guy" background as an ex-special forces operative, is a bit more staid in his commentary.
  • Rival Final Boss: Big Chris and Dwayne Unger have long been rivals in knife competitions and between the two, Chris always had the upper hand. As if by fate, Episode 4 has both of these two reaching Dead Run. Dwayne wins.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Every roster of contestants has featured at least one female competitor. One woman in season 1 became the first female competitor to complete Knife Fight, but she was not fast enough to make it to Dead Run. Later in season 2, another woman did become the first of her gender to head outside, but she ended the episode as runner-up.
  • Took a Level in Badass: They're pretty badass to begin with, but the courses themselves fall under this during the $20,000 grand champion episodes at the end of the season. The still generally-familiar obstacles are enhanced to make them even more difficult to complete.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Common due to the extreme abuse the weapons take during the course. However the contestant can continue even after a breakage as long as the weapon is still effective and safe to use.

"Troper, unfortunately your weapon didn't made the cut, so I'll ask you to please surrender your blade, salute your competitors and the judges, and leave the Forge."
"Congratulations, Trope-tan, your weapon did made the cut, and that comes with the title of Forged in Fire champion and a check for 10-grand." (Cue the clapping)