Dora bladesmith wins $10,000 ‘Forged in Fire’ championship
Dora resident Bobby Walker is the first champion of 2020 on the History Channel’s popular show “Forged in Fire.”
Walker started making knives about five years ago, and then, last January, Devil’s Backbone Knives and Designs became his full-time business. Now, less than a year later, his skills as a bladesmith have earned him the “Forged in Fire” championship title.
The show, now in its seventh season, promises “three rounds of timed edged weapon making competition like none other ever conceived.” Walker was featured on the episode that aired Jan. 1. It can be streamed online at www.history.com/shows/forged-in-fire/season-7/episode-15.
“The history of the blade is what got me interested in blade making,” Walker said on the show. “I am very competitive – if you ask my wife, probably to a fault.”
In fact, it was Walker’s wife, Donna, who convinced him to submit an application to “Forged in Fire.” The Walkers enjoy watching the show together, and one day she suggested Bobby give it a try.
“It took 28 days from sending in the application to hearing I would be a contestant,” said Walker, who later learned that his fellow contestants had waited years to be selected. “It was a blessing” he said.
The episode was filmed in early August, and Walker said he had to keep quiet about his big win until the episode aired.
On each episode, four bladesmiths from around the country compete against themselves and each other to build a blade from the materials provided by the show. At the end of the first round, one contestant is eliminated. Next, the remaining three contestants put finishing touches on their blades, adding handles, sharpening and repairing flaws. After the judges examine and test each blade, another bladesmith is eliminated.
The two remaining competitors then return to their home forges and spend four days building the “finale weapon,” in Walker’s case an “authentic and working deadly Chinese war sword,” before returning for the judges’ final evaluation.
The show described the war sword, the traditional weapon of the Chinese peasantry, as a long blade that tapers toward the handle and features a flat, rather than pointed tip, with a small hole in it.
“I had never even seen a Chinese war sword before. It was an extremely large and intimidating weapon,” said Walker. Despite the challenge, he created an impressive sword that easily passed the “kill test” – slicing a ram carcass in half with one swing – and the strength test, where one of the judges repeatedly slammed the blade into a large block of ice. His competitor’s blade broke when it hit the ice, making Walker the champion.
“I feel on top of the world right now,” Walker said at the end of the show.“It’s not just a win for me; this is a win for my family, my friends, the other smiths that I teach in the forge. This goes a long way for our whole community.” Walker said his check for $10,000 is “supposed to be in the mail.”
Meanwhile, back at his Dora-area forge, Walker continues to make one-of-a-kind knives. Online sales make up most of his business, but he also attends craft shows and sells to local customers. While he prefers to dream up blade designs on his own, he says he does take custom orders, including everything from kitchen knives to “heirloom pieces” that will likely never actually be used.
Unfortunately, Walker did not get to keep the sword he created on “Forged in Fire,” but the memories and relationships he forged on the show will last him a lifetime.
Visit https://devilsbackboneknives.com/ or find “Devil’s Backbone Knives and Designs” on Facebook to see Walker’s custom-made knives and learn more about his business.