The reality TV show Forged in Fire features the best blacksmiths competing against each other for a $10,000 prize. These smiths are performing high-pressure work under strict constraints while being judged by their ability to forge weapons out of materials provided on set.
The judging panel of Forged in Fire is just as impressive and talented as the bladesmiths they are there to judge. Learn us learn more about forged in fire judges, including past judges J. Neilson, competitor-turned-judge Ben Abbott, Doug Marcaida, and David Baker!
James Neilson holds the rank of Mastersmith with the American Blacksmith Society, a title shared by just over 100 people in the world. He has been on “Forged In Fire” since Season 1, Episode 1 — though that’s not to say he hasn’t missed an episode yet. During season 3 for instance, fans worried J had decided to leave when went missing from the judges’ panel but it turned out he needed surgery and fellow ABS Master Smith Jason Knight stood in for him while recovering. Fans worried J. was stepping back when Ben Abbott took his place in some episodes of Season 4, but the two shared a judge’s forge for “Road to Redemption,” which kicked off Season 6 with part one and two competitions.
When he’s not being a judge, J. is testing his own craftsmanship by working in Neilson’s Mountain Hollow Forge located in Towanda, Pennsylvania that specializes in custom high carbon and Damascus steel blades of all sizes and lengths as well as handmade handles/sheaths.
Ben is one of the most interesting contestants to ever come out of The Forge. He has a unique perspective on life after having won first in Season 2 and again in Champions edition, which pitted him against three other past winners. His interest in forging weapons comes from tours he took as a young teen through castles across England. However, his craft largely stems from self-teaching himself that helped guide him along the way. Being a former electrical engineer in Pasadena, California, and originally hailing from across the pond in England, John is an expert at creating any metal objects including pans and cutlery. His wife Mandy jokingly credits him for making most of their kitchen utensils.
Doug Marcaida, a Filipino martial arts expert and weapons specialist is known for his ability to put any weapon through its paces. In addition to being the founder of Marcaida Kali Studio located in Rochester New York, he also hosts classes teaching awareness about weapons uses from military professionals all the way down to private security professionals. Doug may not make weapons but he definitely knows how they work. He says he owes the success of his military career to martial arts because it taught him discipline and responsibility. There’s no better person to assess whether a blade will cut or kill than an experienced soldier like himself.
David Lain Baker is an expert weapons designer who specializes in historical weapons. He started out as a Hollywood actor, but soon developed an interest in props and ended up working for many television series and films such as Beowulf, Dragonball Evolution, etc. David, who was also the weapons master for Spike’s show Deadliest Warrior, where fictional and historical fighters are pitted against each other to see which would win in a one-on-one fight. David knows what a katana and catapult are. He also knows how they are made.
Watch Forged in Fire on the History Channel every Wednesday at 9 p.m
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