ANGLETON — Bladesmithing is not a hobby most people would consider. For Robert Soria, it’s more than a hobby — it’s business.
For about three years, Soria has forged knives in a workshop in his backyard, selling them to customers through his online business, Rhino Ironworx. Tonight, he will be featured on an episode of “Forged in Fire,” a television series where four bladesmiths compete to forge bladed weapons for a prize of $10,000.
The episode airs at 8 p.m. on the History Channel. Soria will hold a watch party at Hooks on the Brazos Icehouse and Marina at 719 South Ave. A in Freeport for anyone who would like to join. The party will be a family-friendly event from 6:45 to 10 p.m., and food will be available for purchase.
Soria credits “Forged in Fire” for inspiring him to become a bladesmith. The first time he watched an episode, he thought he could do that, too, he said.
He has been welding for 13 years, which gives him an advantage when it comes to being around a 2,300-degree forge and knowing how to work with different metals. As a bladesmith, Soria said he is entirely self-taught.
“It’s mostly just trial and error,” he said.
Soria also watches YouTube videos and is inspired by Alec Steele, a blacksmith from the U.K.
“He’s like 21 years old, and a master smith,” Soria said. “That kind of stuff gets me fired up.”
To make a knife, Soria starts with two different types of steels, one with a higher carbon content and one with a higher nickel content, and layers them. These metals, when layered together, are called “Damascus,” he said.
Once Soria has as many layers as he wants, he sticks them into the forge, and when the metal is red hot, smashes them until the layers become one solid piece.
“Once you have that base, you can manipulate that pattern in a lot of different ways to make beautiful knives,” he said.
Soria’s favorite pattern is called raindrop Damascus, which resembles pools of raindrops swirling across the blade.
His biggest sellers are brisket slicers, which sell for about $180. Soria has sold knives for as much as $800, and he said it just depends on factors like what type of knife it is and what the pattern is.
He taught his daughter, Raegan, to forge as well, and she created a machete they sold at the Brazoria County Fair for the most Soria has ever sold a blade, he said.
Raegan’s favorite part of the process is the end result: “Showing it off and making people proud of me,” she said.
Soria often uses a forge press to combine layered metals into one solid piece, and while it speeds up the process, there’s a limited amount that can be done with it, he said. Every knife is still hammered out by hand, which is necessary to straighten it or to get the profile just right on the blade. Some patterns and texturing can also be done by hammer.
Soria doesn’t charge differently for knives that are made with the forge press or ones that are made entirely by hand, because in his eyes, it’s all handmade, he said.
“You still have to have that touch,” he said.
Everything for the show was done by hand, he said — and that’s all you need.
“You see some guys on the show with these huge multimillion-dollar shops,” he said. “You don’t need that. Just get back to basics: just a fire and an anvil and a hammer, and you can make something cool.”
Soria doesn’t sell his knives at craft or trade shows but has teamed up with one of the friends he made on “Forged in Fire” to purchase a table at the Blade Show in Atlanta next year. With the airing of the episode, he hopes business will take off even more and eventually will become more than a side project.
No matter the outcome, appearing on “Forged in Fire” was a blast, Soria said.
“I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat,” he said.