Brandon Hyner typically takes anywhere from 10 to 25 hours spread over a few weeks to make a knife. But while competing on History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” show, he had to make one in less than five hours.
“Honestly the first thing going through my head was, ‘Holy crap, what the hell am I going to do?'” Hyner said.
Fortunately, the 23-year-old West Babylon-native’s initial shock dissipated pretty quick. After two rounds during which he forged a knife and a sword, Hyner was declared champion of in a season eight episode of “Forged in Fire.”
In the first five-hour round, he and three other blacksmiths had free rein to make any knife blade they desired — as long it measure between 12-15 inches. Hyner chose his Damascus steel, “steel that I know how to work very well, and is something I can get some creativity out of and a little bit of a wow factor,” he said.
“Wow” factor was essential, as the knife the judges found most impressive bypassed the round of rigorous testing, sending its blacksmith straight to the final round.
“Out of the four smiths, I had the most going on with my blade between the little texturing and the saw teeth that I put on the blade, as well as the Damascus pattern and the complexity of my handle,” Hyner said.
The handle of his sheepsfoot chopper boasted an ornate red and white swirl that gave way to a coal black as it met the blade and its etchings.
“All those things, they told a lot of story and they had enough of a ‘wow’ factor over the other competitors to send me to the final round,” Hyner said.
The final round
Bypassing the testing round, Hyner entered the final round of competition on a high note. He and his competitors were tasked to forge a Firangi sword, an Indian sword with a Western European blade.
Precision was key for this challenge. The blade had to be between 31-33 inches long and have a curve between 2.5-3.5 inches.
“It was very hard to figure that one out,” Hyner said. “I had to do a full-scale rendering in chalk on my big welding table and that’s pretty much what I used and I made sure I did all the math right. I used the measuring tape to make sure it was accurate.
“It was a full-size rendering of the sword, so that I could kind of go back and forth and put my blade up to the drawing I made. So, it was as close as I could get it,” he added.
After examining his sword with its brass bronze hilt, the judges declared Hyner the winner.
Invest in himself
Hyner, who moved to New London, Connecticut, last year, first took to forging about the time he graduated from West Babylon Senior High School in 2016 and enrolled in SUNY Maritime to study engineering in naval architecture.
“In high school, I was very artsy fartsy,” he said. “I took a lot of AP art classes and I was very into music. I play guitar a little bit, and I couldn’t figure out what I liked to do that just kept me interested constantly.”
Around this time, he began watching the very show on which he became a champion. Then a family friend made his own coal forge and invited Hyner to test it out.
“Me and my friend both made some very primitive looking, very rough knifes, if you even want to call them that, out of a piece of rebar,” he said. “And from then on I was pretty much hooked.”
“I realized it was something I could finish,” he added. “It’s not something I could spend weeks and weeks and weeks on like a painting or a drawing, and I get super detail oriented. This is one of those outlets where I can finish it, I’m happy with it, and it’s a piece of functional art basically.”
He decided to start selling that functional art through his Instagram page, where he still sells pieces today. He balances this hobby turned entrepreneurial enterprise with his job at General Dynamics Electric Boat, which designs and constructs submarines for the U.S. Navy.
In addition to pride and good publicity, the “Forged In Fire” win includes $10,000, most of which Hyner said he will reinvest in his business. He plans to buy more equipment, bigger tools and squirrel some of that money away to put toward a much needed new car.
‘The best experience of 2021’
Hyner knew he won the competition six months ago, but he was under contract with the producers to keep his victory a secret.
“My family is a very talkative family, so I was a little worried they might have said something, and I had to keep it from everybody,” he said. “It was very nice because we had a little watch party during the episode, and once they finally called my name and said I was the “Forged In Fire” champion, everybody was ecstatic. I got it on video, which is a great memory for me for the future.
“Just having everybody super excited and screaming and yelling and hooting and hollering. It was a very memorable, very positive experience, especially ending the year,” he added. “It was probably the best experience of 2021 and was a good highlight for the end of the year.”
Top: Brandon Hyner (Photo by Debra Hayes).