Classes have already begun at Lynn Camp Middle/High School, but new art teacher Jesse Hemphill will be giving his students, and more than one million people who tune in to History’s “Forged in Fire,” the chance to watch him show off his skills as a knife maker on Aug. 14.
The hit show challenges four individuals to use the materials and tools available to forge a blade set out in the parameters they are given minutes after they are introduced.
“We didn’t know until we went out what our challenge was,” Hemphill said explaining that he and the three other contestants were given three hours to pick a piece of steel displaying a different pattern of Damascus steel and replicate it, and use it to make a chopper-style knife.
“The whole experience was nerve-racking because you are under the gun and have to constantly think about how you are going to do it and make certain you can get it done within the time limit,” Hemphill said.
Each blade smith has their tools and shop set up to best suit them at home.
“You have a hammer that fits your hand, and the machines are adjusted to your height at home,” Hemphill said. “You don’t have any of that on the show which puts you a bit behind the 8-ball.”
Hemphill said he found out he knew one of the other competitors, and met the other two while staying at the hotel. However, working in such close proximity to each other, it is only natural that you are glancing at them to gauge where you stand.
“You can’t help but look,” Hemphill said.
As to the cast, Hemphill said host Wil Willis and judges J. Neilson, David Baker, and Doug Marcaida are the same in person as they come across in the show.
“J. is very matter of fact. His deal is to kind of be the bad guy, and he is a little stand-offish,” Hemphill said of Neilson.
“Dave is a really friendly, happy guy,” Hemphill said of Baker adding that he has known him for a long time, though they are not close.
“Doug is very nice, but you just get the feeling from him that he is a real tough guy,” Hemphill said of Marcaida.
“Wil, behind the scenes is absolutely hilarious,” Hemphill said of Willis.
Hemphill’s episode was filmed in December.
As an avid fan of the show, he said he learned from past contestants failures.
“I call it, ‘Scream at the TV night,’” he said explaining that he watches it with his daughter and will constantly wonder why a contestant is or isn’t doing something a certain way.
“You will see guys pull a blade out of the oil while it is still glowing and know it is going to flame and burn their hands,” Hemphill explained.
At the beginning of each episode Willis sets out the parameters each blade must meet including minimum and maximum length and width.
“The first thing I did was use chalk to mark lines on my anvil to make sure I was within those parameters,” Hemphill said.
“I also made sure to listen to what the judges said they wanted,” he said.
While Hemphill couldn’t say whether he won or lost, he said he really enjoyed it and would be happy to do it again if asked.
“It was a really great time. We got treated very well,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill will be focusing on traditional art methods such as drawing, painting and sculpting, and teaching about different eras and styles including Celtic, Native American, South American and European.
However, with “Forged in Fire” under his belt, he is ready and willing to show students, and possibly the general public some of the basics of metal work.
“I may integrate some types of forge work,” he said.
More of Hemphill’s work may be found online at www.jhemphillblades.com.