NELSON — In a quiet foundry nestled in the small town of Nelson, Colton Kiso practices his craft. More than a craft, the work Kiso does is a centuries-old art form forged in fire.
For almost a decade, Kiso has gone about his work. Tonight, as viewers watch the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” they will be able to watch Kiso as he practices his craft.
Although prohibited by clauses in his contract to discuss many aspects of the program before it airs, Kiso described his appearance as the “most stressful thing I have endured in my short lifespan.”
One of four individuals to appear on the program, Kiso said he was “really blessed to have such good competitors appearing. One named Sam really helped me out.”
“This has been such a hard thing to keep a secret because of the excitement I had built up,” he continued. “You can watch the TV and say, ‘well why in the heck did that guy do that,’ but when you are in their shoes it is very stressful and decisions have to be made very quickly.”
Spend any amount of time watching Kiso work and it is obvious he knows exactly what he is doing as he creates one of his custom knives.
Using a file given to him from his great-grandfather's estate, Kiso heats the steel in his forge, turning the metal in the hot coals before precisely striking the piece on one of three antique anvils in the shop.
“I don’t judge my work by the number of hours it takes to make a piece,” Kiso explained. “I judge it by accomplishments. I like to think I am paid by the accomplishments I make not by the hours it takes to do something.”
A man of few words, Kiso instead lets his artistry and craftsmanship speak for itself.
Two years ago, while appearing at the 27th annual Ozark Conference Blacksmith Association of Missouri Trade Show and Banquet on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, Kiso told the Democrat he first became interested in blacksmithing when he was 10 years old.
“I saw a blacksmith put on a show at Silver Dollar City and I knew ever since then what I wanted to do,” Kiso said at the time. “It’s kind of hard to explain it was so long ago but I’ve always been kind of a big deer hunter and I wanted to make a knife.”
Now at 19, Kiso still has the first knife he ever crafted. Since speaking to the Democrat in 2018, Kiso said in the last two years knives have remained the focus of his work.
“I still do small trinkets and other general blacksmithing projects but the knives keep me busy the most,” Kiso noted. “The exposure I will gain by being on this show will mean that my business will grow and keep me busy.
“That means I can do what I love for a job,” he continued. “Bladesmithing, blacksmithing and welding all come together to make my job.”
Kiso truly doesn’t consider his trade a job, noting the best part of what he does is that he can “make something with my hands that will be an heirloom in someone’s family for much longer than my life span and that is what drives me.”
Kiso learned “Forged in Fire” was looking for applicants while scrolling through Facebook. Once he submitted his application his phone “was ringing off the hook.”
“The filming of the show was so interesting to me,” he explained. “The cameras they used had more gadgets hanging off them than you could imagine.
“They follow you everywhere you go and sometimes put themselves into dangerous situations to get a good angle,” he continued. “My parents were glad to see me go (on the show) because it made me grow as a person and my blacksmith friends were happy that I went as well.”