Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peters Native Tests His Mettle

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peters Native Tests His Mettle

Article excerpt

Robert Burns works well under - and with - fire.

Mr. Burns, who grew up in Peters, has made bladesmithing more than an artistic endeavor.

The Pittsburgh Central Catholic alum and his wife, Chelsi, moved to the Minnesota area for her job as a national parks ranger. There he established Wilderness Ironworks. He makes high-end woodworking and culinary tools and also holds classes in wilderness survival and primitive skills instruction.

He is just the kind of artisan History cable network had in mind when it conceived "Forged in Fire" last year. Mr. Burns will be one of four bladesmiths competing for $10,000 on Tuesday's season finale.

"I watched the first season and knew a lot of the guys that were involved in it. It looked like just a fun time to test my skills and get a little competition. In knife-making, there are not too many things where you can really have competitions," he said.

"Forged in Fire" isn't "Project Runway," where a ripped hemline or a mismeasured seam spells disaster. Errors in the forge can be catastrophic. In fact, the History show website has a video clip of contestants talking about their most painful mistakes.

"I know several people who have died, lost hands and fingers and eyes. It's working with heavy machinery. As long as you're careful, you should be fine, but you definitely have to take those times where you kind of breathe and tell yourself to slow down. When you're not paying attention, something can happen," Mr. Burns said.

Working under pressure during the shoot - the first challenge gave the bladesmiths just over three hours to turn out a weapon using unconventional materials - not only was time a factor, but also there were camera crews hovering to capture the action as sparks flew, literally.

"You have 10 times the X factors just going into it, on top of what they give you," he said. "I think that played to my strength. I've taught at a lot of different schools around the country. I've done work in many other people's shops and have a wide variety of skills. …

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