Seneca grad to appear on ‘Forged in Fire’

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Pat Biggin (right), a Seneca High School alumnus, works with his friend’s dad, Mike, on making a few knives for his 60th birthday. They used a lemon tree branch for the handles, since it was a tree his deceased son had planted in their back yard in elementary school. The tree had died but they saved the branch to be used in something special. Biggin was chosen to appear on the History Channel show, “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death,” airing on Tuesdays, beginning April 17, at 9 p.m.

This piece shows a test blade that Biggin just finished in an effort to replicate an original.

This is Pat Biggins’ take on a bird and trout knife. The handle was dyed and soaked in linseed oils. (Submitted photos)

By Correne Martin

A Seneca High School graduate will appear in the History Channel TV series, “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death,” on Tuesdays, beginning April 17, at 9 p.m. The series focuses on extreme cutting performance of hand-created knife blades. Contestants will face challenges with their blades and attempt to “pass” them. 

Pat Biggin, a 2006 Seneca graduate and knifemaker since 2005, was selected for the show by application. He saw an advertisement on a Facebook knifemaker group page and sent out a letter of interest in September 2017. He was  phone interviewed, Skype interviewed and then cast on the show. 

Though he couldn’t divulge too many details about the length of his stint on the “Knife or Death” series, due to a non-disclosure agreement, Biggin said he had an absolute “blast” in the experience. 

“There were some extreme down times while we were waiting for rain to clear, but being put in a tent with my other competitors gave us lots of time to learn about each other,” he shared. “I feel like I made eight new friends as a result of the experience, even a new project build is coming from it with one of the other smiths on the show with me. We thought it would be fun to each forge a blade, finish it and then exchange it for the other to do the handle and guard details. I will be handling his knife and he will be completing mine. We do plan to sell them once we are finished.”

Biggin officially launched his company, Howling Wolf Knifeworks, this past winter. He’s currently a tech ed teacher at Bigfoot High School in Walworth, where he resides with his wife and new baby born less than a week ago. 

He got into knifemaking because he wanted to play with the construction of the tools and create shapes he couldn’t find anywhere. 

“I also found early on that most of the blades I could buy as a teen were in the $20-$90 price range, and they weren’t terrible, but they almost always had loose parts, handles coming off, blades not sharp enough, etc.,” Biggin recalled. “So I chose to make ones that would solve those issues for myself to use. I only later started making them for others.”

The young talent has done several trade shows in Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin, but lately he’s stuck more locally for a couple shows per year. 

He noted, “One is the Great Lakes Knife Show in Beloit in September. The other is in July, the Midwest Fire Fest, which is put on by the Cambridge Art Council and showcases everything made with fire—not just knives but pottery, glasswares, steel smelting and the like.”

Biggin finds time to produce his unique products on nights and weekends. “Business is as fast or as slow as I need it to be,” he said. 

He was featured in “Blade Magazine” twice last year and sent a blade to a YouTube gear reviewer that received several thousand views. So those opportunities have also garnered him some recognition. Most of his business comes thanks to word of mouth and repeat customers. He’s honest with his clients about what he wishes to deal with though. 

“I’ll forge knives for them as long as it’s something I want to do, he stated. “I don’t presently take on blades I’m not interested in making or otherwise would need to buy expensive tooling to make a single blade as it wouldn’t be cost effective.”

Biggin feels lucky that he had the chance to participate in the “awesome” production of  “Knife or Death.”

“I get to wear an 'As seen on TV’ shirt now and have it be literal,” he joked. “More seriously though, other than meeting so many awesome people on cast with me as well as the production crew, it would have to be coming out at the end of the experience knowing what my caliber as a smith is. I always thought my work was solid and could perform, but after doing the show, I know for a certainty that I can make a blade that can take a world-class beating and still hold its own against what most in the industry would see as extreme cuts and superior blade steels.”

He’s also ecstatic knowing that something he started 13 years ago has come to the point where he could step on stage of a new TV series, represent himself and his work and deliver what he feels was a strong representation of “keeping the hand-forged blade alive into the future.”

“It means a lot to be showcasing quality performance where most other commercially-available blades would have fallen short, blown apart or flat out failed to do any damage, Biggin continued. “With any blade, it is a cutting tool first and foremost. Any blade taken out of its designed context will perform differently, so it was very challenging to bring a blade to stand against a course of unknown items to be cut down. We forged our own blades assuming the worst abuse possible.”

Reflecting on his time filming for the show, Biggin hopes local viewers will  be entertained, seeing some very skilled makers and users of blades all competing on what is “probably the most out-of-the-box testing course ever challenged.” He believes the series will also depict what a quality blade can do and what the contestants’ abilities are. 

He described the piece he used in the TV contest: 

“I personally forged my own contest blade. It was originally designed as my yard tool to chop down grasses, thorn bushes and standing dead wood. Once I was told I was going to be on the show, I reground the blade a little to make it sharper. That being said, I used a steel called 80CrV2; it’s a very tough steel to make a blade from, it cuts well, holds an edge well and, when properly treated, does not damage easily. I am competing against some more advanced steels in the show such as M4 or 3V, which are arguably more abrasion resistant than my chosen steel. But, as a smith, I use steels that are forgiving to forge. I feel the show was a great test of my skills as a smith and of the heat treatment in my blade.”

As the first episode approaches, Biggin is most excited to hear viewer feedback about the series. He also noted, “People will always have someone to cheer for and someone to swear at on the show.”

For more about Biggin’s craft, find Howling Wolf Knifeworks on Facebook and Instagram. 

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