Bobby Walker was born and raised in the West Plains area and, like most locals, his priorities are faith and family. Unlike most locals, Walker is a Forged in Fire champion.
Forged in Fire is an American competition series that airs on the History Channel. In each episode, four bladesmiths compete in a three-round elimination contest to forge bladed weapons, with the overall winner receiving $10,000 and the a championship title.
Walker competed on the 15th episode of the show's seventh season, which aired Jan. 1. He won the championship by creating a Chinese war sword.
FORGED IN FIRE
"I've watched the show since the beginning," said Walker. "It's really amazing how many people watch and follow the show. More than anything, I like that the show has put a spotlight on bladesmithing."
Walker's wife, Debbie, reached out to Forged in Fire and obtained an application for Bobby to be on the show.
"I've always liked the show but never really gave being on the show much thought so when my wife gave me the application it just sat on my desk in the forge for about two weeks," said Walker. "One day she came to me and said if I didn't fill it out, she would."
Walker opted to fill out the application himself and he believes God took over from there.
"The way things worked out and timed out is unbelievable," said Walker. "It was God's work from there on."
Two weeks after applying, Walker received a call from the show's producers, a Skype interview followed and just a few weeks later, Walker was cast to be on the show.
Walker flew to New York in late July and spent a total of about 14 days filming the episode. When he arrived on set and met his fellow competitors he learned they had been waiting years to be on the show, whereas Walker had waited merely a couple of months.
Walker built a brotherhood and lifelong friendships with his competitors.
"Rarely a day goes by where I don't talk to those guys," said Walker. "Even the show's judges commented on how we helped each other during the competition. Two of the competitors, Will Pearman and Justin Burton, are members of the U.S. Armed Forces and I have the utmost respect for the two young men."
When filming began all the nervousness associated with being on television left Walker and he focused on the task at hand: building quality blades despite time perimeters and unique specifications.
Walker made it through each round of the competition and ended in the show's finals where he returned to his home forge with a camera crew to build a Chinese war sword.
"I had never made a blade that big but it was nice being home and I was much more comfortable in my forge," he said.
Walker had 40 hours to build the sword before returning to the Forged in Fire set for the final round.
In the finals, Walker and Pearman's blades were put through rigorous tests. First, each blade was swung at a suspended ram's carcass. Both blades sliced through the animal’s hide with little resistance earning "It will Keal," from judge Doug Marcaida.
The second test saw judges swinging the blades at large block of ice. Walker's blade performed well, taking little to no damage from the ice block; however, Pearman's blade broke in half during that test. The broken blade resulted in a championship for Walker.
"It was bittersweet," said Walker. "I felt so bad for Will, who is an amazing young man and a great bladesmith, but I also knew that I had just won Forged in Fire."
Walker was quick to credit where credit was due.
"I could not have done this without my family’s and friends’ support and I give God all of the credit for the talents he has given me," said Walker. "I could not have done this without him."
WHAT'S NEXT FOR WALKER
Walker is a member of the American Bladesmith Society and holds the rank of apprentice in the organization. He has only been bladesmithing for five years, and has only been a full-time bladesmith for one year. Walker plans on becoming a journeyman and eventually a master bladesmith within the organization.
Walker owns and operates Devil's Backbone Knives.
"I want to continue growing the business and maybe expand to making some other items in addition to knives," said Walker.
Walker takes great pride in his business and bladesmithing.
"I do 100% of the work on a truly handmade product," said Walker. "I build the blade, the hilt and even do the leatherwork and stitching on sheath."
You can find “Devil's Backbone Knives & Designs, LLC” on Facebook.