Hilt of blade designed by UT's Bladesmithing Club

Forging A Path

By Cameron Hale. Photography by Steven Bridges.

Like many students, I would occasionally day-dream in class, and I remember one day when we were discussing the Iron-Carbide phase diagram and forging in my Introduction to Materials Science class. Naturally, my mind began to wander to blacksmithing, and the idea stuck with me for days, weeks, even months. I began to look up forging videos, ordering books on blacksmithing, and even doing quick sketches until one day my sophomore year, I impulse-bought a small gas forge online.

At this point, I’d had no experience and no other equipment, but I began to purchase the minimal amount of equipment for the cheapest I could and started to make knives in my garage out of pieces of scrap steel. I then joined the Clinch River Blacksmithing Guild, which meets every month in Knoxville and allowed me to see, in person, what a professional blacksmith looks like. However, their emphasis on bladesmithing was weak and I was still curious.

After a few months, I decided I’d ask around the MSE department to see if anyone else was into blacksmithing and Senior Lecturer Chris Wetteland directed me to fellow student Cullen Pearson. Cullen had been forging for years and was enthusiastic about someone else sharing the interest. He also discussed the frustration of not having any good groups or outlets to forge at in Knoxville. Around the same time, there was some hype about the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) conference, specifically their bladesmithing conference, and I expressed interest in it. Cullen suggested that we assemble a group here and compete, which I loved.

We spent the next semester or so getting all the administrative and technical aspects sorted out and finally created the Bladesmithing Club at UT! The goal was to participate in TMS and submit a blade that UT could be proud of, while simultaneously creating a place where students who are interested in metalworking could try it out. The reception was massive, and around forty students showed up to our first meeting. With the help of Fuad Accawi, a master bladesmith who works in Oak Ridge, we were able to forge a beautiful blade for TMS, winning the Most Beautiful Blade Commendation at the conference.

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