Mines News

Release Date Thursday, September 24, 2020

Junior Bladesmithing Championship Seeks High School Sword and Knifemakers from Across the United Sates

A student in South Dakota Mines’ 2020 knifemaking and metallurgy workshop, “The Science of Swords,” puts the finishing touches on a handmade knife.

South Dakota Mines is home to a new Junior Bladesmithing Championship. The competition is open to high school students across the nation who can produce a blade by hand-hammering or trip-hammer forging.

The competition is sponsored by the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at South Dakota Mines, which is led by Michael West, Ph.D. The department is home to the 2017 grand prize winning sword at The Mineral, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) Bladesmithing Competition.

“In this competition we are hoping to emphasize the science that underlies the art and craft of bladesmithing.” says West.

An application form, competition rules and the scoring rubric for the Junior Bladesmithing Championship can be found here. The 2020 application deadline is Nov. 15. 

Each summer, South Dakota Mines hosts a free workshop, “The Science of Swords,” for high school students interested in learning more about the craft of bladesmithing and blacksmithing The weeklong workshop, sponsored by Nucor Steel, is held in the university’s foundry and instills concepts in materials science and metallurgical engineering alongside hands-on bladesmithing and blacksmithing experiences overseen by experienced faculty and mentors. 

During the Summer 2020 workshop, each student forged their own knives with the help of Mines professors, master blacksmith and Mines alumnus Kjetil “KJ” Groven and Mines alumnus Kevin Gray, who is a metallurgical engineer for Nucor. Gray was instrumental during the start of the university blacksmithing and bladesmithing program and forged the first sword for the university in 2011. Gray, now an accomplished blacksmith, came full circle from his time as a student to return to offer his service as a mentor to the next generation of STEM students. 

All hands-on activities for students in the weeklong 2020 workshop were conducted outdoors in accordance with CDC guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19. In the two weeks following the workshop, all students, mentors and faculty remained free of any COVID-19 symptoms.

One of the students, Max Zickrick from Long Valley, SD said, “This was my first time around a forge, and I really enjoyed the experience. I learned a lot and discovered an amazing craft.”

Jon Kellar, Ph.D., a professor of materials and metallurgical engineering at Mines taught students how raw materials can be used to make steel and Michael West, Ph.D., and head of the materials and metallurgical engineering department lectured on metal structure and processing basics including forging, heat treating and hardness testing of blades.

“The students really impressed me with their hard work and excellent questions. It was great to see them connect what we talked about in the theory sessions with the forging and bladesmithing activities,” says West.

The Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering plans to expand the bladesmithing workshop in Summer 2021 to include select students from across the nation who are interested in careers in materials science and metallurgy.


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu