J. Neilson is so good at what he does that he has a title that is held by less than 115 people around the world. An expert bladesmith, J. Neilson is one of the best all-around bladesmiths in the world. In 2008, Neilson was awarded the title of ‘Mastersmith’ by the American Bladesmith Society. The lucrative title is only given to those who have achieved total mastery over the smithing process. One of the judges of the reality TV series Forged in Fire, J. Neilson has been forging blades for more than 25 years. In this article, we take a closer look at the wiki-bio of J. Neilson.
Date of birth
November 8, 1969
Place of birth
New Jersey, USA
53 years old (as of August 2023)
5 feet 9 inches (175 cm)
Two (daughter and son)
Bladesmith and reality TV star
$0.5 to $1 million
The Woods Workshop
Year of becoming a professional bladesmith
Year of becoming a Master Smith in the American Bladesmith Society (ABS)
Number of people who hold the Master Smith title globally (as of 2023)
Less than 120
Reality TV show he is a judge on
Forged in Fire
Year he joined Forged in Fire as a judge
Number of seasons he has appeared on Forged in Fire (as of 2021)
8 out of 9 seasons (he missed season 3 due to an injury)
Type of injury he suffered in 2016 that required surgery and recovery time
Hand injury caused by an accident at his workshop
Year he returned to Forged in Fire after his injury recovery
2017 (season 4)
The Mean Judge
Almost all reality TV contests follow the same tried and tested formula when it comes to judges. Alongside their knowledge on the field, Judges are picked to satisfy a particular trait the producers want. While Doug Marcaida is the one who smiles and dishes out frequent compliments, J. Neilson is the mean one. On the set, Neilson rarely smiles and is often handing out snarky remarks. When asked about his comments on set, Neilson commented, “They didn’t hire me for my comic timing.” Neilson is often complaining about the contestant’s methods and criticizes their process rather than the final product.
Like Father Like Children
For the Neilson household, smithing runs in the family. Back in 2015, during the show’s early years, a reporter visited J. Neilson’s house to record some exclusive footage of his life. In the video, Neilson’s kids were seen busy making knives. When the video was shot, Neilson’s kids were 9 and 14 years of age. The whole situation was criticized by fans and followers. After all, blade-smithing is a risky process and can go wrong at any given moment. While they were accompanied by Neilson through the whole process, he still received a lot of criticism for it.
J. Neilson has been smithing from his early years. During his early years, Neilson experimented with different techniques and started honing his skills as a bladesmith. In over nine years, Neilson gathered all the skills required to kickstart his career and started making knives in 2004. Neilson specializes in fixed-blade knives like daggers, Bowies, and historical replicas but doesn’t shy away from tomahawks and swords. Neilson’s career took another step in 2008 when he was awarded the rank of Master Smith in the American Bladesmith Society.
Things were on the up for Nelson who was invited to be the judge for the reality TV series, Forged in Fire. Equipped with 25 years of experience, Neilson made sure nothing escaped him. He judges the blade based on their durability and technical aspects. During the show’s third season, Neilson took a break from the series to get hand surgery. He was back for the fourth season but made numbered appearances during the fourth and fifth seasons. J. Neilson also stars in the spin-off “Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges” which premiered on June 3, 2020, joined by David Baker, Doug Marcaida, Ben Abbott on the Judge panel, and Wil Willis as a host.
Personal Life: J. Neilson wife & Kids
J. Neilson is married to Beckie Allen-Neilson. The master bladesmith has not shared much about Beckie besides they celebrate their anniversary on February 3. The couple has been together for over a decade and resides in Towanda, Pennsylvania. J Neilson has a son and a daughter.
More on J. Neilson
J. Neilson is a master bladesmith and a reality tv star. Neilson grew up in New Jersey along the shores and in those early years, he developed a passion for blades. Since he could not afford one, he would play around with regrinding saw blades and files, and fixing up old bayonets from yard sales and flea markets. The interest progressed over time. With no proper master to teach Neilson is a self-taught bladesmith. He learned the tricks of trades from reading how-to articles and many years of trial and errors hands-on experience.
Here are some interesting and less known facts about him:
He was born and raised New Jersey but later moved to Pennsylvania.
He started making knives as a hobby when he was a teenager, using scrap metal and a coal forge.
He learned most of his skills from books, videos, and trial and error.
He became interested in bladesmithing after watching movies like Conan the Barbarian and Highlander.
He is a fan of fantasy and science fiction genres, and likes to make swords and daggers inspired by them.
He is also proficient in making historical weapons, such as tomahawks, axes, spears, and bows.
He has a signature style of making knives with a hollow grind and a clip point, which he calls the “Neilson grind”.
He prefers to use high carbon steel for his blades, such as 1080, 1084, 1095, or W1-2.
He likes to experiment with different types of Damascus steel, such as mosaic, raindrop, ladder, twist, and explosion patterns.
He uses natural materials for his handles, such as wood, bone, horn, antler, ivory, and leather.
He makes his own sheaths and scabbards for his knives and swords, using leather or wood.
He runs his own business called [Neilson’s Mountain Hollow], where he sells his custom-made knives and swords online and at knife shows.
He works in a small shop in the woods near his home in Towanda, Pennsylvania.
He lives with his wife Karen and their two children, a son and a daughter.
He is an avid hunter and fisherman, and likes to use his own knives for skinning and cleaning game.
He has a collection of knives and swords from different makers.
He has been a judge on Forged in Fire since its inception in 2015.
He is known for being the strictest judge on the show, often criticizing the contestants’ blades for their flaws and failures.
He is also known for being fair and honest, giving constructive feedback and praise when deserved.
He is respected by the contestants for his expertise and experience in bladesmithing.
He tests the blades on the show for their sharpness, durability, strength, balance, and overall performance.
He has suffered several injuries while testing the blades on the show, such as cuts, burns, bruises, and sprains.
He had to take a break from the show in season 3 due to a hand injury that required surgery.
He was replaced by Jason Knight during his absence, but returned to the show in season 4.
He also appears in the spin-off series Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges, where he competes against former champions of the show in making blades under time pressure.