Jared Williams is a master bladesmith. In 2016, he was a contestant on the History Channel program Forged in Fire, where he emerged as the winner of the $10,000 grand prize. His creation? A traditional African throwing knife known as a Hunga Munga—a primitive-looking curved-blade dagger with multiple points and edges used by tribal warriors.
Bladesmithing is a time-honored skill that is centuries old, and knives are Jared’s passion. “My whole life was centered around building things, and I’ve always had a natural tendency toward knives,” he says. Speak with him about knives and that passion becomes infectious.
“Knives are man’s oldest tool,” Jared tells me. “When ancient people killed an animal with a rock, they had to figure out how to gut it and skin it, so they bashed another rock to get a sharp edge and the knife was invented. Knives are as old as man and they’re never going away. You’ve always got to cut your carrots and your potatoes.” Jared speaks with the veracity of a true pragmatist.
Jared made his first knife at the age of nine out of a piece of sheet metal and a willow branch. When he was 15, he bought a $35 grinder at Fred Meyer. When his shop teacher told him he could grind a knife out of an old file, it was the beginning of a life-long quest for tools and the motivation for a career in bladesmithing.
He spent every dime he made on tools. As his obsession with making knives grew, so did his tool collection, until his parents gave him half the garage. “I’d sit in that garage until three o’clock in the morning making knives. I’d hand-sand for hours at a time. I spent a lot of time in my head as a kid,” he recalls.
Jared’s early efforts at making knives gave him invaluable experience and the quality of his knifes improved, but it took several years and some mentoring from a fellow bladesmith named Ed Fowler, before he sold his first knife. “I just kept screwing up metal until I got something right.”
Jared was already a craftsman, but he credits Ed with filling in the missing gaps until the quality of his knives jumped exponentially. With Ed’s guidance, Jared’s skills rose to a whole new level, especially the forging process, and he started making money selling knives.
“I’ve got a pretty good clientele base that’s built up over the years, and I’m blessed for it. But I don’t make knives for other people,” he explains. “I’ll take orders, but when I’m making that knife, I’m making it as if it’s for me. I love my knives, and I’ll keep every knife I make, but other people like ‘em too, and want to pay me money for them. And that allows me to make better knives, to get better material, to bring this whole craft up.”
Jared’s knives are 100 percent guaranteed for life. As with anything of quality, they’re not cheap, but you’re getting a hand-crafted heirloom knife and sheath you’ll never have to buy again. Each one is hand-signed and no two are alike. His creations run the gamut from small blades to swords to exotic blades and ancient weaponry.
Jared’s 14-year-old son, Elijah, is continuing the tradition with his own line of zombie apocalypse blades. You never know when a good zombie knife might come in handy.
You can watch Jared’s skills in action on Season 3, episode 6 of Forged in Fire on YouTube, or you can stream it on the History Channel.