MIDDLEFIELD — Matthew Berry, a town resident who has been forging in his backyard for about a decade, recently competed on The History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” show.
After losing in the finals of The Lion Spear competition in Season 5, Berry came back for a redemption round at the start of Season 6.
“And I actually made it to the finals and won, because you never know what they’re going to ask you to make.... but for the final we got to choose what we made from European swords and I was like, ‘yeah,’ this is exactly what I would have wished for in the final,” Berry said.
“Forged in Fire” is a competition that “tests some of the best (bladesmiths) in the field as they attempt to re-create some of history’s most iconic edged weapons.”
The longtime Middlefield resident, who is retired, was invited to compete after show producers found his Etsy page online.
“Afterward, it was fun, (but) at the time it altered between fun, boredom and terror and stress,” Berry said about the filming process. “You get caught up on it and there’s $20,000 on the line and you just didn’t know what was gonna happen.”
Berry said getting to meet other bladesmiths was a highlight of the experience, including one who lived about a mile from him in Middlefield – Jamie Lundell of Dragon’s Breath Forge in Wolcott.
“The New England community of bladesmiths is very strong… There’s a huge community that people don’t know about,” Berry said. “We drink beer together. We pound steel together… it’s a whole social community.”
Berry started teaching himself how to forge in his late 20s, while working weekends at a tool collection business where he would get paid in tools. After making knives for about five years, his daughter was born and he put forging aside for about 16 years.
In 2012 he took some classes at the New England School of Metalwork in Maine and over the years has created swords, jewelry and more. Berry retired from his career as a software developer almost two years ago and now spends 20 to 30 hours a week on his hobby.
In the last two years he’s focused on swords. He has made about seven of the 14 types of European swords from the Middle Ages.
“They have a lot in common, but each type has subtleties to it because they occurred at different times in history and the armor was different, and so they kind of had a different job,” Berry said.
One sword can take anywhere from 60 to 120 hours. A lot of that time is devoted to polishing and carving intricate fittings or handles.
“It's a nice mixture of machine work – hand work, art, science, symbolism – so it just makes it more interesting than just sort of banging things to shape,” Berry said.
Berry’s work can be found on Etsy under Hopkins Forge.
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