Forged in Fire

People often ask me how we find our experiences and the amazing people who lead them. The answer is perhaps not as sophisticated or high tech as you might expect. And that I believe is what makes them special.

See though we started out with a bucket list of ideas we thought might make good experiences, the reality is that the majority of our very best experiences are those that came to us through sheer happenstance: a casual mention of someone I ‘must meet’ or something I randomly stumble upon in the course of my own life.

And I’m not gonna lie, most are things either I and/or my boyfriend wanted to try ourselves — but couldn’t quite figure out where or how. So I took matters into my own hands (that thing I like to call working). And once I figure out how to experience something myself I am always excited to share the experience with you.

All of our experiences are personally vetted by me and my team which makes for some pretty interesting days outside the office ‘product testing’. I promised I would share exactly how I found some of our most popular experiences and thought I’d start with one of my personal favourites in Ottawa: knife forging.

Who’s seen the show Forged in Fire? Apparently a whole lot of people based on the amount of times I tell people about my knife making experience just to have them answer “Oh like in that tv show? So cool!

I personally had never seen the show nor thought twice about forging anything. This one is entirely my boyfriend’s fault (or should I say he deserves the credit?) Anyway, as the story goes, Daniel went on a trip to Japan with his longtime friend and co-founder Tobi… and came back absolutely obsessed with Samurai swords. Ok. Awesome?

Couples who forge together… burn together? are hot?

He was so into it he bought all sorts of books and learned everything he could about these historical weapons. Next thing you know he wants to try forging one for himself — and there just happens to be a Japanese master blade smith coming to Montreal in a few months to give a special 10-day course on forging samurai swords. Of course Daniel had to do it. Only one small problem: he’d never forged anything and the course was for experienced blacksmiths.

That’s my cue. I started looking up blacksmithing courses so he could quickly get some training before the intense course. At first all I could find was a 2-day introductory class at Les Forges de Montreal. He looked into it and decided to sign up… and somehow sweet talked me into signing up as well.

It was hell. And at the same time one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences I’ve had in years. We forged nails, we made tools, we even crafted our very own iron hooks. I thought mine was rather ugly but I was proud of what I’d made so I gave it to my mom for mother’s day. I said I know it’s not the prettiest but I made it myself! She was super impressed and absolutely adored it. Or so she says. In any case, it’s now hung up at the cottage.

Nailed it! Lame pun intended.

It was an incredible experience and something I thought would be great for XPR. Everyone who saw our pictures or who we mentioned this to loved it and now wished they could try it too. The only issue was that this was a little too far from Ottawa and a little too long for our average users.

Daniel still needed a lot more practice before his samurai sword course — not to mention experience forging actual blades. One night I spontaneously decided to do more research to try and find a blacksmith closer to home. Somehow my internet man hunt eventually led me to Josh, a traditional blacksmith just a half hour outside Ottawa. I reached out to him explaining Daniel’s situation and asking if he could help train him on blade smithing before his 10-day course. He said it would be his pleasure and booked a time.

Daniel returned from his day with Josh raving about how awesome he was: “You have to meet this guy”. Besides he wanted to go back for more — and somehow convinced me I should once again subject myself to the burning hot coals and inevitable blisters. “It’ll be fun” he says.

This time he was right. Firstly, Josh is awesome. Picture the most charming burly blacksmith ever and you’ve got Josh. He is kind, patient, and forever helpful. And with his guidance I managed to turn a simple bar of iron into a really cool knife blade. The pace was perfect: pushing you without destroying you (unlike my first experience).

Josh coaching Daniel at his quaint and cozy home forge

At one point Josh asked me what I do and I told him about XPR. He thought it was awesome. I said ‘Good, cause I want you onboard’. He agreed and this has been one of our most beloved and talked about experiences to date. All those who’ve tried it can’t stop talking about it — some have even admitted that they like to bring their knife to dinner parties to show it off.

Our ambassador Tania recently tried it with her husband and they both had the best time: “There is something incredibly humbling and rewarding (and therapeutic, too!) about heating, hammering, grinding and sharpening the crap out of a piece of steel to make a beautiful knife. Hands down one of the coolest experiences ever! Just do it. You won’t regret it!”

So, who wants to forge a knife with Josh?