In its eighth season, History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” is as popular as ever drawing millions of viewers from across the globe to watch amateurs and professionals alike forge a wide variety of metals into knives and swords. The competition show also comes with a $10,000 prize as well as bragging rights amongst the elite bladesmiths.

For any weekend knifesmiths/blacksmiths, just making it on the competition show and giving it their all is a lifetime achievement – one that Beeville resident Jeremy Gonzales can now say he’s accomplished.

Back in 2019, after serving in the Navy for 11 years and 11 months, Gonzales found himself at the PTSD treatment center Warriors Heart in Bandera. He noticed the facility had a forge and some railroad spikes laying around, and being a fan of “Forged in Fire”, asked if he could use it.

“No one ever used it so when I asked they just said I could do whatever I wanted,” Gonzales said. “There was a bunch of railroad spikes and scrap metal I could pound on and I was already a fan of the show and I always wanted to try it so I made my first knife out of a railroad spike. No training, no guidance, just pounding through it.

“That’s what started my blacksmithing/knifesmithing journey.”

He then set up a rudimentary home forge with no power tools, just a hammer, a piece of steel acting as his anvil and some files.

Eventually he got good enough and upgraded his tools, but during the process he made a few forging friends from across the nation. It was while chatting with a friend from New Mexico that he learned he was about to appear on “Forged in Fire” and Gonzales asked how he could maybe try and get on the show.

“He sent me an email address so I sent (the show) an email saying, ‘Hey, I’d like to be considered for the show.’ Then it was just this huge, long process. I had to do a bunch of video interviews and videos that showed me actually working in the shop and that I actually have the skills that I say I have.

“It was pretty crazy.

“Six months later, I got an email, then a phone call – it all just seemed so surreal. I never thought it was actually going to happen until I got on the plane.”

Well, Gonzales actually got on a plane a few months after the initial invite. He was invited on the show in May of last year, but show producers required a COVID-19 test in order to fly out to New York, so he rushed to find a testing site that would deliver fast results. He said he looked all over Beeville, Victoria and Corpus Christi, but was unable to get one fast enough.

Thinking he had missed his shot, he informed the show that he would be unable to make the flight.

“They were really cool and really patient,” Gonzales said. “They said they always cast more smiths than they need for each episode just in case one falls through.

“They had their bases covered.”

His phone rang again last August and, this time, he was ready to head to the forge.

In Connecticut, where the show is filmed, he learned that he would be competing in a special series of episodes titled “Beat the Judges” and would be going against not only two other contestants, but judge Ben Abbott, who was also a two-time “Forged in Fire” champion.

“And I spent five hours straight just getting it,” Gonzales said. “And I actually did really good.”

Gonzales’ episode aired Jan. 12 on The History Channel and is now streaming on Hulu. He was unable to disclose the results because of a nondisclosure agreement.

When contestants arrive at the forge, they have a pile of unknown metal in front of them covered with a cloth. After a brief introduction by host Grady Powell, the bladesmiths are asked to pull off the cloth to reveal the material with which they must forge a knife.

“Because I’m such a huge fan of the show I kind of knew what to expect, but you have no idea what you have to use to make a knife – that part’s legit,” Gonzales laughed. “When they pull that cloth off, the expression is genuine.”

During each episode competitors also narrate what was going through their mind while racing around the forge trying to complete their blades.

Gonzales added that the producers said he looked calm and like he had everything under control.

“No, man, I was freaking out,” he said.

“While I’m forging I’m just quiet and super focused, like nothing can get to me. I’m just a duck in water.

“And when I’m interviewing, I’m a completely different person, my personality comes out and I’m just smiling and having a good time.

“It’s like two different parts of my personality get showcased which I thought that was pretty cool.”

After the blades were quenched and the cameras were off, Gonzales finally found himself back at home. He had fulfilled one of his bladesmithing dreams and took on the best of the best.

But he couldn’t rest.

“I came home and made the same knife, but I made it a lot better just to prove that I could do it because it kind of rocks you with all the mistakes that you make because of all the pressure,” Gonzales said. “And of course they judge you hardcore in front of cameras and now millions of people are going to see you judged.

“It kind of dampened my confidence a little bit but you just have to keep going, keep forging.

“I also haven’t seen the episode, so I get to watch it with everybody else.”

•pgonzales@mysoutex.com•

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