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West Newton blacksmith to compete on 'Forged in Fire'

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Andrew Takach works on a knife at his West Newton workshop on Friday July 14, 2017. Takach will appear on an upcoming episode of “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Andrew Takach works on a knife at his West Newton workshop on Friday July 14, 2017. Takach will appear on an upcoming episode of “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Andrew Takach works on a knife at his West Newton workshop on Friday July 14, 2017. Takach will appear on an upcoming episode of “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Andrew Takach, left, and his son, John, work on a knife in West Newton on Friday, July 14, 2017. Takach will appear on an upcoming episode of “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Andrew Takach works on a knife at his West Newton workshop on Friday July 14, 2017. Takach will appear on an upcoming episode of “Forged in Fire” on the History Channel.

Picture a television show like “Iron Chef” with steel instead of steak, and you've got a good idea of what “Forged in Fire” is about.

The History Channel's reality competition show pits four American blacksmiths against one another in each episode. On July 25, it will feature a local face.

“The kids had been on me and telling me, ‘Dad, you need to get on that show! Dad, you need to get on that show!'” said Andrew Takach, 38, of West Newton. They were fans of the show before producers invited Takach, who has forged knives for more than a decade, to compete in February. He was recommended by the man producers first reached out to — friend and fellow knife maker Greg Gottschalk.

“They're looking for smiths that know what they're doing and can compete against each other under pressure,” said Gottschalk, 69, of Carnegie.

The American Bladesmith Society -certified master said Takach does “fantastic work.” Although he lacks formal training, Takach has seen his work featured in publications such as Knife World and Blade Magazine.

“I like to do things with my hands. I'm a bricklayer. I'm a craftsman for a living,” Takach said. “I was laid off one year, and I needed something to do. I was stir-crazy, it was December, and I just started tinkering around. I grabbed a hunk of metal and an angle grinder and started shaping it.”

He inherited his zeal for steel from his grandfather, who Takach said “always carried a knife,” and bought him knives when he was a kid.

When he returned to work, Takach said he met a window maker who dabbled in smithing and showed him how to shape metal the right way: with a forge.

“I started hanging out with him maybe once a week, maybe three times a month,” he said. “He wasn't really a knife maker though, so I kind of outgrew what he had to show me pretty quick.”

Takach learned what he could from other smiths over the years and filled in the gaps himself. The more he learned about the trade, the more populous he learned the community around it was.

“I came to find out the guy that delivered pizza every week when we ordered was a blacksmith, too, I just never knew it,” he said. The community has a strong online presence, which is where Takach sells most of his products. He rarely travels to trade shows, where he would have to bring more knives than he usually makes at a time.

Although he said he's not planning to ramp up his output, he is planning to put together a more permanent workshop.

Beside the house he recently bought is a two-story, concrete block building that is home to a forge he made himself.

“I'd like to get a bigger milling machine,” he said, “and I'd like to get another power hammer.”

At some point in the next few years, Takach said he hopes to test for journeyman certification from the American Bladesmith Society, which would allow him to stamp his own seal on his products. All the extra room in the new shop means he can start to experiment with bigger weapons, namely swords, and that there's plenty of room for his son, John, to help him with his work.

“I've been waiting for him to go on the show for like, two years,” John Takach, 15, said of his father.

Takach said he's looking forward to seeing the show air and hearing the judges' commentary on his work.

“Win, lose, or draw, it's pretty cool,” he said.

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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