In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam's Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.
It. Was. Awesome.
If you've never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It'll make you feel alive.
Rambo: Last Blood Trailer
Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.
"A hammer can be used to build or destroy," observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam's Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.
He started out with safety information ("Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn't have to be glowing to burn you...") and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.
"I don't want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end." Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.
When the steel is at critical temperature, it's ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it's actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.
Then there's the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.
Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.
Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.
I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.
Once we'd begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.
Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.
First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.
Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly "quenching" it.
According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.
From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.
At the end of four hours, we'd each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.
Here's my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it's got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It's just cool.
I'm excited to share this with other veterans because it's been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn't exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although...maybe?) but I'd recommend this in a heartbeat.
It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.
And then I walked away with a bitchin' new blade to call my own.
HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don't forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.