J. Neilson is a renowned bladesmith best known for his appearances on the History Channel show Forged in Fire and his expertise in crafting high-quality, custom knives.
He comes from Pennsylvania, USA, where he developed a deep interest in the art of bladesmithing and has been a professional bladesmith for more than 20 years, and earned his Mastersmith rating in 2008 from the American Bladesmith Society (ABS), which is one of the highest ratings in the world, if not the highest.
He has a signature “barefoot style” of bladesmithing, meaning that he usually works barefooted in his workshop.
Forged in Fire is a competition series that airs (or aired) on the History Channel, premiering in 2015 and quickly garnering popularity for its focus on the art of bladesmithing.
In each episode, four bladesmiths compete in a three-round elimination contest to forge bladed weapons, with the overall winner receiving $10,000.
- The first round involves forging a blade in a style and size defined by the judges. At the end of this round, the judges eliminate one contestant based on the quality and craftsmanship of their blade.
- In the second round, the remaining three contestants refine and improve their blades, adding handles and any other necessary details. At the end of this round, another contestant is eliminated.
- The final round sees the remaining two smiths return to their home workshops to recreate an iconic weapon from history. After five days, they return and present their weapons to the judges for testing. The contestant with the weapon that best meets the challenge parameters and holds up to the judges’ tests is declared the winner.
It might be pumped up for television entertainment, but the bladesmithing is real and inspirational.