On a muggy night in the artistic magnet of Austin, Texas, I ventured into the quaint backyard shop of bladesmith and Forged in Fire Champion: Chris Farrell to learn more about his experience as a knife maker.
Chris is the owner/operator of Fearghal Blades. He was born in Wichita Falls, Texas and raised in Staten Island, New York. Chris’ interest in blade-smithing was fostered in his youth through time spent at Renaissance faires, the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism – an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe – Wikipedia), as well as an avid passion for martial arts. Chris found a connection with the intention and spirituality that resonates within the craft’s history and teachings. As life meandered and with his tongue in cheek saying, “a series of bad decisions were made,” he became set on a path to become a professional bladesmith. Chris returned to Texas and started his company Fearghal Blades in Austin in 2011. He was interviewed by cracked.com writer, Robert Evans, as a weapons expert for the article: 6 Things Movies Get Wrong About Swords (An Inside Look).
The article went viral. Chris’ knowledge, expertise, and art was spotlighted in the article and won the attention of the History Channel’s competitive bladesmithing show: Forged In Fire (Season 1: Episode 2). As the owner of Fearghal Blades, Chris has made all kinds of weaponry, but the strangest one he has ever forged was the assignment for the Championship round of the competition: the Chakram. The Chakram is a traditional throwing weapon for the Sikhs. It is a round circular disc and a very difficult piece to create.
Blade-smithing is not for the faint of heart. The hours can be long and hot! The number of hours required to make one blade is staggering. Chris swings a hammer from six to eight hours a day in a relatively primitive shop to create custom pieces tailored to the user’s specified design and use. Blades with more intricate designs can take weeks and weeks to complete, so it is amazing Forged in Fire contestants complete a knife within 6 hours! Chris was able to keep his composure during the intense heat endured during filming, thanks in part to the prime conditioning of our Texas climate.
Always the artist, Chris was a professional drummer for many years and used music as a means of expression. Now, he uses the bladesmithing as his medium and continues to grow and develop his artistic prowess. Forged In Fire has contributed to this evolution by introducing him to a whole new group of smiths and fellow craftsmen. It has allowed the spotlight to be shined on his work and enabled him to reach a much larger audience.
Chris has had apprentices over the years and is now hosting informative demos and one on one workshops, but the most difficult challenge for young people and beginners is patience. This art form is a life-long pursuit and investing time, making mistakes, and gaining experience is part of the cost. This may be one of the reasons that this show resonates with families, as it highlights the weapons, but also the idea of community, hard work and determination, and it is refreshing to see a show where the contestants are truly supportive of one another.
As a member of the first season, Chris got to be the guinea pig and see the evolution of this community built upon the show’s founding and the smith’s hard work. Early on the production team and audience could see that the petty drama generally spurred from competitive reality TV would not be a highlight for the show as bladesmiths truly enjoy the camaraderie of the craft and competed in the spirit of shared experience. The bladesmiths allowed for the competition to strengthen the community of the trade, and to help form strong connections not only with their show-mates but to all participants and fans of the show. It has become a cherished fellowship.
Regarding his inspiration for his Texas Knife: Chris said that he had an immediate inspiration and knew exactly what he wanted to do. He used a Nicholson rasp (a farrier’s rasp). The handle was inspired by our great Texas flag and a culmination of meticulously selected material ensued to do it justice – red, white, and blue pearl kirinite which is a high-grade acrylic, as well as a Texas star mosaic pin, and a mild steel guard.
It was sincerely my pleasure to meet with Chris and to see where the magic happens that makes FEARGHAL BLADES what they are!!!
This post was written by guest writer, Kelli Rhodes
Photo of Chris Farrell by Vadym Guliuk