This past August, New West KnifeWorks hosted a knifemaking competition to celebrate National Knife Day. A seasoned pro, Brandon Williams from Blackfoot Idaho, went up against 17 year old local prodigy, Jack Rellstab.
Brandon Williams is a well known knifemaker who happens to also be a champion on History Channel's hit show, Forged in Fire. On Williams' Halloween themed episode, he defeated three other hand-selected competitors and made a badass Grim Reaper-style scythe that stood up to rigorous, and slightly gory, tests. Williams went home to Idaho with $10,000 in prize money.
Williams' interest in knifemaking began when he couldn't find the perfect hunting knife and began tinkering. He soon convinced Idaho Falls based knife maker Frank Isman to become his mentor, and eventually took over his shop when he passed away after a battle with cancer. These days, Williams carries on his friend's legacy in his own shop based out of Blackfoot, where he specializes in big blades. He sells some of his custom damascus knives at MTN Man Toy Shop and on his website and Instagram page.
Local knifemaking prodigy Jack Rellstab went up against the Forged in Fire champ as the underdog, but despite being so young, he has a pretty impressive body of work and skill set. Rellstab got his start knifemaking by tinkering around in his garage at the age of 12. He refined his curiosity by "watching pretty much every knifemaking YouTube video out there." The Pinedale high school senior now has a real life mentor, Kevin Pacey, who has been teaching him how to forge Damascus Steel. Rellstab says, "With knifemaking, you have to stay within certain parameters, it needs to be usuable. But with Damacus, the possibilities are endless and it just allows for so much creativity. I have a journal filled with ideas." Rellstab also sells his custom knives at MTN Man Toy Shop, through his Instagram, and on his website.
For the Forging Glory knife competition, both knifemakers arrived early in the morning to set up the small forge in front of the New West KnifeWorks & MTN Man Toy Shop location in Jackson, WY. The crowds strolling about the town square farmer's market just a half-block away took notice of the heat and noise when the competitors began forging their knives at 10 am. Each knifemaker started with a farrier's rasp, a long narrow metal tool with unique texturing that is a common implement to turn into a simple knife, and some blocks of G10 - the same super-strong handle material used for New West knives.
The entire competition spanned several hours. Each competitor and spent about an hour forging the blade, took a break for lunch, and completed the handle-shaping and blade grinding and sharpening in another hour. Judges Troop Brenegar, New West KnifeWorks buyer, and Jonathan Wessel, a fellow knife maker, presided over the competition with a series of off-the-wall tests which involved slicing through pineapples, watermelons, and even a suspended whole grocery-store chicken - in a single swipe. The final test was the infamous "paper test" - a common way to test a knife's sharpness without having to shave one's arm or slice open a finger.
While Forged in Fire champion Brandon Williams was crowned the winner by the New West KnifeWorks judges, Jack Rellstab took the audience vote on Instagram with 61% of voters choosing his knife as the top performer in the "knife obstacle course".
However, the real winners were the Instagram competition voters who entered to win the competition knives by following @mtn_man_toy_shop, @4b_outdoors (Brandon's handle), and @rellstabknives (Jack's handle) and voting for their favorite knife. Kit O'Connell got to take home Jack Rellstab's Recurve Bowie and Marissa Wessell is now the proud owner of Brandon William's Pirate Scimitar.
We can't wait to see what's next for both of these talented knife makers.