CIRCLEVILLE — A Logan Elm graduate and former Pickaway Ross student was on the national stage this week, appearing on the History show, Forged in Fire.
Justin Chenault, who now lives in Richwood, appeared in season seven, episode six, an episode called The Boa-Zande Sword in which all four smiths were given the task to forge a canister Damascus blade using different sized drill bits. Out of four smiths that competed Chenanult’s blade won the episode.
Chenault said it was an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“All four guys on the show were great guys that put in the effort,” Chenault told The Circleville Herald. “I don’t want to win by default. I like the challenge and it was great. I did the show more for me than anything. I like setting personal goals and challenges to make myself better.”
Chenault said hearing from the judges on the show was a great way to get feedback on his skills.
“It helps you to look at your work objectively,” he added. “If you’re doing something for a competition it helps you to have other people critique your work. They might see things that you might not see.”
Chenault said filming took place over the summer and that he was excited to win, even if it didn’t come through on the episode.
“I didn’t look like it on the show because I was exhausted,” Chenault continued. “It was really hot because we did the recording in June and it was 95 degrees plus the heat in the forge. It was a really rough summer not being able to say anything to anybody about it.”
Chenault said he got his start in Gary Mitchel’s metal class at Logan Elm and has been smithing for the last 14 years. He’s always been someone wanting to do something with his hands.
“The process of smithing is really therapeutic,” he remarked. “It helps you stay focused and you can get caught up in your work. It helps to keep your mind off things. I really enjoy it and I’ve always liked working with my hands.”
After high school, Chenault got married and bought a house which allowed him the space to work on his craft. During the daytime, he works at Easyfit Countertops as a service manager.
“I started playing around and going to clubs like Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil that hosts classes and demos,” he stated. “I went there and watched and learned and kept pushing learning the craft.”
Chnault said his attention deficit disorder (ADD) played a role in his path to blacksmithing.
“My parents never wanted to medicate me so I had to learn to find things to help me stay focused,” he said. “I’ve pursued that in personal and professional endeavors. In school they tell you to find a career you like and you’ll never work a day in your life. For me, it’s enjoyment in the finished product and the craftsmanship to be able to build or making something and have other people find joy in it.”
Chenault primarily makes cutlery, ranging everywhere from kitchen knives to box openers to hunting knives including custom work. The blade he made for Forged in Fire is both his longest and widest blade he’s made.
“It was quite the challenge to get the material to all the parameters and specifications,” he explained. “I dabble in mokume-gane an older traditional Japanese material where you laminate non ferris type metals and fuse them together to make one solid piece of metal. It has different lines and colors of the parent metals in the finished product and you can pattern it to get beautiful patterns.”
Chenault recently earned his Journeyman ranking through the American Bladesmith Society, the next step is master smith, which he’s begun working towards.
“The American Bladesmith Society has judging standards and requirements,” he said. “To qualify for a journeyman or a master you have to be a certain level of skill and quality.”
Chenault said he likes that with smithing there’s always something new to learn.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to grow in a craft and as a craftsman. You should never feel like you’re at the point where you’ve learned it all. If you are, you’ve not tried hard enough. You can always get better,” Chenault concluded.