My name is Jason Crum. I am a blacksmith artist and I started HOJ Forge in 2015. My start in blacksmithing came from working on older Jeeps. I was watching YouTube, one day, and saw a video from a gentleman who had made a forge from an old brake rotor. He was forging hooks and bottle openers from his old scrap metal and I was fascinated.
From working on my 1996 Cherokee, a 1991 Cherokee, and a1995 Wrangler, I had a whole pile of old Jeep parts that were just collecting rust behind my garage. After watching the forging video, I decided to grab one of the old Jeep brake rotors, and I built my first coal forge. I used some of the scrap steering links to make my first items, and from there I was hooked.
When I was a child, I remember my father taking me to an event outside of Detroit. I like to think that it was a gun and knife show, but my father wasn’t into guns and knives. So, it was probably some other type of event. Whatever the event actually was, I remember us watching an old Japanese blacksmith doing a demonstration of how he folded steel over and over to make katanas and other types of blades. There were some completed blades on display and that was first time I saw pattern welded steel. 45+ years later, I can still remember the beautiful patterns in that steel, and now that I had a forge, I decided to teach myself how to make it.
With only a small coal forge, no powered forging equipment, and nobody to teach me, it was a very long and difficult process to teach myself how to forge weld steel, heat treat and temper blades, and make a quality knife. Unlike the Japanese blacksmiths who fold their raw steel over and over to drive out impurities, today’s process of making, so called, Damascus steel, is done purely for the beauty. The pattern on Japanese blades is brought out by hand polishing the blades in an amazingly long and complex process. Today’s Damascus patterns are brought out by etching the blades in acid. The processes are different, but they are similar enough that I was able to find a way to make artistic blades in a very similar, albeit much shorter, process.
In 2019, I competed on and won the History channel television show, Forged in Fire. Season 6, episode 28, titled, Blackbeard’s Cutlass. I have now sold blades across the United States, Europe, and Australia. I have a decent sized YouTube following of close to 20,000 people. I began a movement, called Forging it Forward, where a group of blacksmiths would make tools and donate equipment to new blacksmiths who didn’t have the means to buy their own tools and equipment to get started in the great hobby of blacksmithing. I may not have a lifetime of forging experience behind me yet, but I feel like I have accomplished a lot in that time. To this day, though, I am still trying to find the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality. Not only in my blades, but in all of the other things that I forge.
Shortly after my appearance on Forged in Fire, a nagging elbow injury kept me from spending much time at my forge. My wife and I decided to move from Northern Michigan to Middle Tennessee, and I had way to much equipment to fit on the moving truck. Since I couldn’t forge at the time, because of the injury, I ended up giving away the vast majority of my forging tools and equipment to make it easier to relocate to Tennessee. The only equipment I kept was my original brake rotor coal forge, the 115 year old anvil that I stumbled across at a garage sale, and the knife grinder that I had built from some scrap steel.
I also kept one hammer that I had made for myself. I have some emotional attachment to that particular hammer because I made it, and it was one of the three hammers that I took with me to compete on Forged in Fire. With this little bit of equipment, I started all over at my new shop outside of Gainesboro, Tennessee.
After struggling with the elbow injury for a couple of years, it had finally healed enough where I could forge for while without the pain flaring up. As long as I didn’t push myself to hard, I could start making things out of hot steel again. In June of 2022, I decided to officially re-open HOJ Forge for business.
These days, because I am still not able to hammer away for hours, I have drifted away from the forge welded Damascus blades, and I am now focused on finding the perfect balance of rustic and modern, with the same underlying goal of having great functionality.
I take pride knowing that every blade I forge will outperform most mass produced knives on the market, even though the vast majority of my work will only ever be used for display pieces in people’s collections. A knife’s strength and functionality starts with the right choice of steel for the intended purpose of the blade. Proper forging is a must, in order to get the steel to the correct shape without damaging or compromising the steel. After forging, the grain of the steel must be refined in the proper way to insure maximum strength of the blade. Different types of steel will vary in how to get the maximum hardness during the heat treat and quench, and they will have different techniques for tempering to remove the brittleness while retaining strength and hardness. You may purchase a blade from me, and tell me right up front that it will only ever sit on a shelf, looking pretty in your collection, but I will still treat every aspect of the forging process with the utmost respect. You can be confident that you are getting a beautiful blade, as well as a blade that will do it’s job, no questions asked.
Before I finish my story, I’d like to answer the question that always comes up. Why is it called HOJ Forge. That name came from love of older Jeeps. I would buy old, rusty, beat-up Jeeps, and spend my free time working on them. I never made them anywhere close to looking like new, but would keep them running and driving down the road, proudly displaying every ding, dent, and rust hole. My ’96 Cherokee was affectionately referred to as my Heap. Long before I started my blacksmithing YouTube channel, I began a YouTube channel and called it Heap of Jeep. I’d make videos of the repairs I was doing on whatever Jeep I was fixing at the time. Some Jeeping friends shortened Heap of Jeep to HOJ, so when I built my coal forge from old jeep parts, it seemed only fitting to pay homage to my love of Jeeps and go with the name, HOJ Forge.