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Colton Arias crafts various knives and blades in a barn that he built up at his parents’ house in Ceresco, about a 15-minute drive from Lincoln. 

Arias, a junior business management major, competed for the chance to hold the title of the youngest two-time champion on the HISTORY channel’s “Forged in Fire” in an episode that will air Wednesday night. Two years ago in 2019, Arias won the popular bladesmithing competition as an 18-year-old. When the show first approached him two years ago, he jumped at the chance to apply for the opportunity to compete.

“I was super excited because I hadn’t started bladesmithing [or] blacksmithing because of the show,” Arias said. “I started about two years before the show first aired so I had been watching that show for a little bit, I was like, ‘This is really cool.’”

On the show, the contestants bladesmith various weapons. Before bladesmithing, Arias was woodworking with his grandfather. He started making more medieval items out of wood and eventually decided he wanted to make an actual sword, which started his bladesmithing journey.

“Woodworking and metalworking are very different,” Arias said. “If you have a good artistic eye and you're able to have good spatial judgement and work with tools, then you’re pretty much good to go.”

When bladesmithing, Arias said he takes a piece of high-carbon steel and heats it in a forge, which he called an “oven on steroids.” Then, he hits the steel with a hammer on an anvil to form it into a knife. The steel is then further grinded into shape, treated and polished. The finishing touch is adding a handle.

Arias has an online bladesmithing business, and he works four days a week for up to 10 hours each day. Along with his business and being a student, he is also a competitive bodybuilder and fitness coach.

Carver Gage, Arias’ bladesmithing apprentice, met Arias at a bodybuilding competition in Omaha in 2019. The night before the competition, Gage was stalking his competitors on Instagram, which is how he found out Arias was a bladesmith. 

“I couldn’t find any pictures of him except for one, and then I just saw a bunch of handmade knives,” Gage said. “I was just like, ‘Well this dude makes a bunch of knives, like that’s cool, that’s interesting as hell,’ and that’s how I found out he did it.” 

Gage started talking to Arias backstage at the competition about his bladesmithing and found out he was going on “Forged in Fire.” Just a few weeks before, Gage had decided to start learning bladesmithing. With their shared interests in bodybuilding and bladesmithing, the two quickly became close.

“It’s kinda like I found my brother, my lost-long brother, because we’re both like the same dude,” Gage said. “We both grew up the same way, just everything. It’s crazy.” 

Gage said he thought it was awesome to see his friend get the opportunity to compete on “Forged in Fire” again.

“It’s always cool to see your friends achieve stuff,” Gage said. “Honestly, for his age, he’s the best at what he does, one of the best in the world in my opinion.”

Although the world won’t know if Arias is the youngest two-time champion or not until the episode tonight, Arias said he felt “pretty good” about the results. While competing in the show, he said he learned how to be a faster bladesmith, as well as meeting a community of bladesmiths. 

“Pretty much the show isn’t so much the challenge of who’s the best bladesmith; it’s more of a challenge of who’s best at working fast,” Arias said. “Overall, I’ve learned that I’m pretty good at working fast, and I’ve learned that there’s a lot more bladesmiths out there than I thought. Just meeting a bunch more of them was really cool.”

culture@dailynebraskan.com