Marshfield native, Cole Hartman, sold his first knife while he was still a student in high school. A part-time hobby soon turned into a business, which afforded the now 18-year-old the opportunity to chase his dream of being a blacksmith. Flash forward 3 years and he's making knives worthy of shoutouts from one of the world’s top bladesmiths.
"I've always really loved knives and I figured I could try to make them myself – so I started when I was 15 and I made my first one with my grandpa," Hartman said. "Then I expanded, bought a forge and a grinder and started making them… people asked me to sell them and everything grew from there."
Hartman graduated from MHS in May 2020, when he decided to continue chasing his dream. The business owner began studying and further perfecting his craft. He credits his success thus far to his relentless process of trial and error.
"I've watched a lot of youtube videos and the tv show 'Forged in Fire,' with J. Neilson. That's where I've learned technique," he said. "But you never know what works best for you until you just try it out.”
Forged in Fire is a popular History Channel reality show, streaming on Netflix, which brings forth worlds-class bladesmiths to re-create historical edged weapons that are then tested through competitions to determine a winner of the $10,000 grand prize. The contestants are judged by some of the worlds top bladesmiths, including J. Neilson.
"Being a full-time blacksmith, I needed to get opinions from people I looked up to in the craft, to see if they could help me better my product," Hartman explained. "J. Neilson was probably the person I cared about most about giving me feedback. He was really willing to test out my products and he made a post about them."
Neilson has been making knives for over 20 years and was recognized by the American Bladesmith Society with the rank of Mastersmith – a title held by just over 100 people worldwide. His assessment of Hartman is based off of knowledge and credentials of one of the world’s top bladesmiths.
"I wanted to thank Cole Hartman for sending me a few items to try out," Neilson said in the Instagram post, "Cole's been making metal toys for adults & has added forged blades to his portfolio… Check him out."
The post featured a photo of Hartman’s handmade cleaver in action, chopping through a hearty piece of meat as well as a selfie of J. Neilson with the two-knuckle paperweight. Also pictured was a carrying case for the cleaver, a two-knuckle paperweight, a Sand Springs Forge hat and a bottle of knife oil to keep the blade clean, protected and to assist with sharpening.
"It means the world to me that he would post my knives and shout me out to his fans," said Hartman. "Hopefully someday he can judge my work in person on the show."
According to Hartman, he makes most of his knives out of recycled materials, including the cleaver he sent to J. Neilson.
"The blade was made out of a car leaf spring – which I heated up and banged out into shape before grinding it down and attaching it’s handle," he said. "I like the rustic look that it brings and I like knowing that it’s coming from another tool that I'm able to repurpose," he said.
A variety of Hartman's bladesmith work can be found on Etsy and Instagram by searching Sand Springs Forge. For questions about his work, Hartman can be reached at (417) 812-3107.
"Blacksmithing and bladesmithing, it's really a lost art," he said. "But I think it’s something that's coming back and people are starting to enjoy and appreciate the handmade aspect of blades a lot more."