Where are you located?
What is your day job?
I’m the Content Producer and In-House Blacksmith for FirstBuild, which is the innovation lab for GE Appliances. During my day-to-day, I support the creation of YouTube videos, content for social media posts, and any custom videos – typically featuring new products we plan to make or features on our community members, who are also largely makers and hobbyists themselves.
Whatever pieces have been on my mind: swords, cutlery, horseshoes, rings, armor or whatever crazy new ideas the FirstBuild team has for me – at 8 am, I’m walking through the doors to fire up the forge or the camera and jump straight into work.
Do you attend a makerspace/fablab/hackerspace?
Everyday when I clock in! FirstBuild has its own open makerspace with 3D printing and a Universal Laser cutter, shop equipment like welding, metalworking, water jet, and woodworking—even a small-batch production facility onsite. When I’m not working on our video and content projects, I get to throw on my apron, head to the back of the shop, and start hammering out my own projects from Damascus pizza cutters to blades and whatever else I get inspired to make.
What kinds of stuff do you make?
Everything I make is one of a kind, but I’m typically drawn to creating knives, bottle openers, J-hooks, battle axes, pattern welded rings, swords, decorative boxes to hold said swords, and basically anything and everything medieval and metal. I’ve also been known to make a Damascus steel shift knob or two when the mood strikes.
How did you get started making stuff?
I was a Technical Theater major in college. We needed some prop swords for a project so I crudely welded, ground, and whipped up a couple rapiers. They were ugly as sin, but I had so much fun I decided I had to learn how to make them “for real” and totally caught the blacksmithing bug.
I spent just about every dollar I had on starter equipment, and after graduating from college, I started my own side business. It was stressful and I was terrible for a long time, but after many years (and lots of tears), things started to come together for me.
What is something that you’ve made that you’re really proud of?
I’m a two-time winner of the History Channel’s ‘Forged in Fire’. I had actually never even met another smith until I joined the cast. One of my proudest moments from the show was beating one of the judges – historical weapon recreation specialist David Baker – in a sword making competition. Beyond the show, the pieces I’m most proud of are just the little hunks of metal from each time I’ve made a new forge weld. The first time I fused a steel cable into a solid bar. My first pattern welded steel piece. My first Mokume Gane nugget (copper nickel fusion). Each of these little hunks mean more to me than any ornate sword I’ve made, because they represent a clear and painful growth point and are a tangible representation of each major “Level Up.” I’ve saved them all as small medallions, almost like my own personal Olympic medals.
What is next on your project list?
I have several swords I’ve been wanting to build, including one inspired by The Witcher, (which has been sitting half completed for 6 months). Swords can be hard to sell, but I feel inspired by them. I’ve been taking fewer custom projects recently to free myself up for more personal projects, so this is definitely one that I’m hoping to get done soon.
what is something you’d like to work with but you haven’t yet?
Meteorite! It’s so cost-prohibitive, but is so cool and unique to work with and something that would really stand-out in my collection.
Any advice for people reading this?
Don’t quit your day job. I know it’s the thing nobody wants to hear, but as somebody who did that, the financial burden can kill all of the creativity and fun. I’ve seen people rush into creating full time because they hate their 9-5, and they end up ultimately burnt out. It’s a tough road, so don’t take it lightly and try to plan income to the best of your ability while sharpening your skills and investing in yourself.
Are you going to show off at a maker faire in the near future? If so, which one?
FirstBuild regularly participates in Maker Faires and otherwise, people can find me here at FirstBuild in our makerspace (which is open to the public) or on our YouTube channel.
Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.
I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at firstname.lastname@example.orgView more articles by Caleb Kraft