Deliberation, The Second Judgement & The Weapon Reveal
Round two testing is over. My blade survived the strength test and had done well in the cutting test. Both Bob and John had an issue with their blades that could send them home. Bob's blade held up, but his handle broke. John's handle held up, but his blade chipped. We were directed to the couch so we could watch through the glass as they deliberated over our knives. We were each directed to sit on the couch in a particular spot and an off-screen producer encouraged us to talk about what had occurred and how we were feeling at the moment. It didn't take much encouragement. We sat and talked for the entire duration, probably 10-15 minutes or more, what you see on the show for this segment is just a short clip of our conversation. So much dialogue from rounds 1 and 2 never made the final edit of the show. We really and truly could not hear a thing the judges were saying about our blades while they are in the deliberation room. The angle that we were sitting at only gives a partial view of them as they hold up each of the knives and talk about them. While sitting on the couch I had no idea that my knife had been pulled to the side and that I was immediately passed into round 3. Later, when I would see the show for the first time during the watch party, hearing Wil Willis say "So, can we assume that Derek is moving forward and just leave him out of this portion of the deliberation?" was one of the most rewarding parts of my forged in fire experience, my chest puffed, my head swelled. It was another bit of personal validation as a blade maker, that I had done my best under the circumstances and been successful.
Time for a little inside baseball...
After the judges completed the deliberation we did not immediately return to our marks to stand in front of the judges. In reality, what happened was we were sent back to the 'green room' to wait, which in our case was a mini-van in the parking lot. Let me take a moment to explain a bit about how an average day shooting Forged in Fire goes down. They take care of all your travel and food expenses. We were put up in a very nice hotel, about 15-20 min away from the studio. Each morning we would get a text telling us that we would need to be outside the hotel, ready for a pickup. The first day, you're assigned a 'Contestant Wrangler,' someone who takes the 4 contestants to and from the hotel, makes sure we know where to be and when in the studio and literally never leaves our side from the time we arrive, to the time we go back to the hotel. This is partially to make sure that we are where we're supposed to be at all times and partially to make sure that we are not ever able to see elements of the show that might spoil surprises. In our case, this was "Team Amanda and Joy." They were really great at their job and never once allowed us to be late. Amanda was with us the most and she brooked no nonsense but also took great care of us under some interesting circumstances. The Studio in which they shoot Forged in Fire had recently moved from New York to Stamford, CT and when we arrived they had not fully completed the 'green room' for the contestants so we spent a fair amount of our time between shooting scenes either sitting in the van together, or standing just beside it. It wasn't bad really, just kind of funny. Besides, they really did take very good care of us. We were constantly offered food, drink and Amanda and Joy did a great job of making sure we knew how much time we had before the cameras were rolling again. During an average day of shooting we waited, a lot. We would arrive int he morning, get our clothes changed, the sound guy would come put microphones on us while makeup made us look good before shooting a pre-day interview. Then we'd wait, do some part of the competition, wait some more, shoot more interviews, wait more, etc.
So, after we sat on the couch for a bit during the deliberation we were directed off stage to go and wait. Again, there was a LOT of waiting during the filming of the show, each scene often has different lighting, sound and prop requirements so at times we would wait quite a while between scenes, sometimes hours. Amanda did a good job of making this waiting bearable. There were three things that we heard Amanda say repeatedly. "Smiths are 100," which meant she was telling the producers that we were ready to come onto the set; "SMITHS ON SET!" which told everyone in the studio that we were walking in and "BOB! Your glasses!!!" Bob wore 'transitions' glasses and every time we were in the sun, if he didn't have them in his pocket Amanda would (somewhat) playfully shout at him to make sure he had them covered so we wouldn't have to wait for them to un-darken before shooting. After a while, it got pretty funny. I told Amanda we needed to get a T-Shirt for her that said 'Smiths are 100' on the front and 'SMITHS ON SET!' on the back.
After a not-so-long wait in the van this time we heard Amanda say into her walkie-talkie "Smiths are 100" then she turned to us, "It's time boys, let's roll." Even knowing I was more than likely safe, it's kind of weird feeling walking into the judgement, you know that someones' time filming is about to end. It makes for an odd sense of camaraderie. We stood on our marks in front of the judges and waited to see who would be in the finale'. When Wil called John's name, again it was a bittersweet moment knowing that one of us was done. I was a little sad to see this part of the competition end but also excited knowing that a large part of my Forged in Fire journey was still ahead of me. We shook hands with John and then we were directed off set again to wait for the setup of the final weapon reveal.
When it was time for the reveal we stood before the judges and waited. I scrutinized the red, cloth-covered item. Not that it would make any difference but I tried to guess what it was. I was completely surprised when the cloth was taken away and a shiny European sword was underneath. Wil Willis called the 17th Century French Smallsword "The Hot Rod of Swords" and made sure to emphasize the fact that they were looking for detail as well as performance. As soon as the cloth was taken off I exclaimed, "We get to make Needle!" To which Bob just looked at me and said, "Huh?" I was excited and intimidated at the same time. I was really glad to get the opportunity to make a sword and happy not to be assigned some other, obscure weapon. After Wil finished speaking we shook hands, wished each other good luck and then walked off the set. When the cameras stopped, we were called into a rules and parameters meeting with some of the production staff as well as David Baker. We were not given any info on HOW to make a smallsword nor were we allowed any other view of the reveal weapon that David Baker had made, it was gone. David Baker was very encouraging and jovial during this meeting. We were given a parameter sheet that told what we were expected to make and what parameters were required and which of those were 'suggested.' We were given an opportunity to ask any questions regarding parameters and rules for the 5 day home forge session and then we were done.
Our parameters for the finale smallsword were as follows:
Blade length 32 inches from clam-shell guard to tip.
Blade must taper from 1 inch to zero point.
Sword blade must be in a triangular cross section.
Sword must include a clamshell guard, pommel, knucklebow, rear quillion and finger rings.
Weight 1.5lbs MAX (Suggested parameter, not required)
Bob and I both had to do an 'exit interview' afterwards to tell how we were feeling going into round 3 and then we met with John and Amanda drove us all back to the hotel. That night all four of us ate dinner together one last time and had a great time talking about the week. The next morning we all flew back home and Bob and I had just a few days before the film crew would arrive at our home forges. Bob and I were both given a package of new 5160 spring steel that we could use for the smallsword, we had to check this at the airport as baggage. =)
Up next - Round 3 - Day 1 of 5