• UWA’s Will Bagley to appear on History’s “Forged in Fire” Sept. 13

    Posted: September 12, 2016

    Author: Public Relations

     A University of West Alabama student will be in a national spotlight for his craft this week, as the History channel’s “Forged in Fire” features Will Bagley, a nursing student at UWA from Sandflat, Ala. Bagley makes custom knives and will compete on the Sept. 13 episode of the popular show, which airs at 8 p.m.

    The competition series is hosted by weapons expert and U.S. Army and Air Force Veteran Wil Willis. It features world-class bladesmiths competing to create history’s most iconic edged weapons.

    Bagley made it to the show on a bet—one that he lost, actually. The bet was simple.

    “I bet you I won’t make it on the show,” Bagley told his girlfriend. “I bet you will,” she countered. She won the bet after Bagley applied online and was chosen to appear.

    In each episode of the show, four bladesmiths compete for a $10,000 prize. They can use traditional and state-of-the-art tools to turn raw metal into authentic, fully functional implements of war. The pieces are then judged by an expert panel through a series of challenges.

    Bagley, a Clarke Prep graduate, began making knives when he was a young boy, first taking interest in the craft when he was on a trip to Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

    “I really liked collecting knives, so when I got my first forge from Smoky Mountain Knife Works, I could make some of my own instead of having to buy them,” Bagley explained.

    His skills quickly outgrew the small forge, so with the help of his grandfather, he built a butane forge. Over the years, he’s moved through the levels and sizes of forges, all powered a little differently from butane and propane to coal. Now he has just finished building a bigger propane forge that he currently uses.

    “We’ve built the forges together, and that has been fun,” Bagley said of the time spent with his father and grandfather.

    “I get materials from all over the place,” Bagley said. “I have people who will bring me scrap pieces of metal, old truck parts, chainsaw parts, you name it.” He turns these scraps into works of art.

    He says he sells the most of the working knives he’s built.

    “I guess it’s because around here people need to be able to spend their money on something they can work with instead of collect,” he said. But he makes collector pieces, too, like the bright-bladed knife he finished recently using a deer antler for the handle. It’s heavy, sturdy, and of course, very sharp.

    “It just cut me,” he said, checking the end of his finger. “You know what they say about knives—it’s not yours until it’s cut you.”

    His favorite part of the process is the actual forging—turning a piece of metal into a knife blade. He likes creating the functionality of a tool. But the polishing is secondary for him.

    “The forging is fun, and it’s easy, but making it pretty is not,” Bagley said. “But I can. I can make it look like a mirror!”

    He has traveled to a host of festivals and shows featuring artisans like himself. Bagley says he hopes to be able to travel more and take his work to more places. He’s becoming popular on the local trail, with plans for Depot Days in Pine Hill, Black Belt Treasures in Camden, and any other place that he can showcase the work that he holds so close to his heart.

    His trade is a bit of a lost art—there aren’t bladesmiths around every corner. Unfortunately, most of the people who did make knives are long gone, and young people like Bagley can’t turn to them for expert advice.

    “A lot of people’s great granddaddies made knives, and their great-great granddaddies, but those guys aren’t around anymore, so I’m just learning as I go,” he said. But that hasn’t stopped him, and he thinks that anybody else can pick up a craft the way he has.

    “Just start,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good you think you are or how much you already know about something. If there’s something you want to try or something you want to learn, you just have to start.”

    The episode of “Forged in Fire” that features Will Bagley airs Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 8 p.m. on the History channel.

    Anyone interested in Bagley’s craft can follow “Sandflat Knife Works” on Facebook for appearances and information on available pieces.

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    PHOTO: UWA student Will Bagley has been making knives since he was a young boy. Now, his skilled craft has earned an appearance on the hit television series “Forged in Fire” on the History channel Tuesday night.
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