Shared from the 8/12/2017 Mon Valley Independent eEdition

Valley man wins ‘Forged in Fire’ TV contest

Smithy Andrew Takach sliced through his opponents in the History Channel competition, forging a Bowie knife and a Persian shamshir sword.

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Submitted “Forged in Fire” champion Andrew Takach is pictured in his West Newton shop.

A self-taught West Newton blade-smith made the cut against four competitors in a heated History Channel competition July 25.

Andrew Takach, 38, formerly of Glassport, was one of four contestants who appeared on “Forged in Fire,” but the only one to bring home the title of champion and a $10,000 prize.

Andrew and more than 50 of his friends and relatives watched the episode July 25 at his new home.

“I had everyone fooled,” he said. “I had everyone convinced I had lost. They would try to ask me about it, and I would tell them not to get their hopes up.”

His wife, Jo, said his family has known for a long time he was capable of great things.

“He does not believe in himself as much as we all believe in him,” she said. “He is a very genuine and humble individual. We are so grateful and blessed that he came this far.”

People who have influenced Andrew’s blacksmithing career cheered when his name was called on the program and he raised his first handmade sword into the air.

Among them were his grandfather, John Vota, who fostered Andrew’s love of steel; Greg Gottschalk, who submitted the champion smithy’s name to “Forged in Fire” producers; and Paul Earl, who taught him how to use a forge.

“It felt really good to watch it,” Vota said. “I was so glad for him.”

Although the show’s producers offered Gottschalk a spot on the show, the veteran blacksmith decided he would not be able to compete, so he recommended his former student for the competition.

After watching Andrew get “better and better” over the years, he seemed like the perfect fit for “Forged in Fire,” Gottschalk said.

“It was very exciting to watch him bring home that win,” Gottschalk said. “I am 69 now, and I don’t know if I could hold a hammer for even three hours.”

Andrew’s road to the title involved forging a blade from provided materials and transforming it into a finished Bowie knife that was subjected to sharpness and edge-retention tests.

He made the cut and moved on with competitor Tim Scholl to create a shamshir – a thin, curved sword that originated in Persia.

Andrew said he had five days and 45 hours to complete the sword.

Though it was his first time crafting a large, war-type weapon, Andrew was confident.

“I did not go to lose,” Andrew said. “I went in knowing I was going to win. I just had that mindset going even at times when things were sketchy or I got frustrated. I kept telling myself I came to win.”

Despite difficulty experienced while creating the weapon, he still came out on top.

“I wanted to put more effort into forging,” Andrew said. “That way, even if the swords performed identically, at least mine looked better, and I think those embellishments are what put my weapon over the top.”

With features in Knife World and Blade magazines, a two-story shop next to his home and the title of “Forged in Fire Champion,” blacksmithing is more than a hobby.

After decades hammering away at his own creations, “Forged in Fire” offered Andrew the opportunity to expand his craft.

“It forced me to branch off and try some different styles of blades,” he said. “It really just opened my eyes.”

With his winnings, Andrew purchased a Bradley power hammer. The old-school hammer from the 1900s was picked up from Smithton last weekend.

The machine will aid Andrew as he begins to tackle larger swords.

“I have seen a lot of cool weapons and have been doing research on blades from different periods of time,” he said. “It might have been something I got into down the road, but not anytime soon. “Just being on the show and getting one under my belt and going at something that large, I will definitely be getting into it a lot quicker.”

Jo sees the victory as a motivator.

“I really hope that this is a way of getting his name out there so he can pursue his dream,” she said. “That is all we want for him.”

For information on Andrew’s work, go to takachforge.net or Takach Forge Custom Knives on Facebook.

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