An Interview with “Forged in Fire” Winner Jesse Hu
Part Two of Forging a Future Interview
Catch up on the first part of this interview with “Forged in Fire” winner Jesse Hu, Forging a Future Part One.
You mentioned BASIS, and a little about time management. Overall, how would you say that BASIS Charter Schools prepared you for this?
One of the things that I learned at BASIS was how to do things efficiently. I am not going to say that I had really good time management, or that I have really good time management now (laughs). But when I was at BASIS, I would find a way to finish those [projects and assignments] as fast as I could. That is directly applicable to the show. In terms of making the blades, I had to do all of that learning outside of class, because obviously BASIS doesn’t have a blacksmithing class (laughs). The academic pressure helped me adapt to the competition. A lot of people do worse under pressure, and if you do that at BASIS you flunk out.
What was your favorite weapon to make?
I have to say the last one, the Dolabra, a pick axe combo that the Romans used as a weapon and a tool. It was like a homecoming for me. All the stuff you saw me do on the show was the first time I ever did it. I was learning while making those weapons. Having done seven different weapons in seven different styles, I melded all that learning for the last one. It was like proving to myself that I was coming out of there a better smith. Second place would be the pair of daggers, because I think they just look cool. They had 17-part handles and I had to make two of them! (laughs).
Did you have to do any research about the weapons since they are historical? Did you know what they were?
I could make the weapon without knowing the historical significance. It’s not really 100% necessary to build the blade itself. There are small nuances in weapons that definitely do matter. When I was making the Xiphos, which is a Greek shortsword, my opponent put the hump too close to his tip and I put mine where it was supposed to be. In doing so, my blade had better balance than his. Knowing what the blade looked like would have helped.
I want to ask a couple of general questions about your BASIS experience and get a little insight. Do you have a favorite memory of BASIS Chandler?
One of the things I really enjoyed was rising to the top in the grades. Going in there as a fifth grader, nobody respects you in the grades above. But as you go through school you become the top dog. I enjoyed growing up with people in my grade. I was big into sports at BASIS, and I really liked the mentoring aspect. Also, a math teacher at BASIS ran an obstacle course racing club. We did Spartan races and being part of that club was one of the things that gave me the most joy. It was super tough, and you would want to throw up at the end of them but doing that with friends outside of school was cool.
Did you have any favorite classes that you took?
I really loved fifth grade classics, and I liked my senior Art of Approximation class. You learn to approximate big things with as little information as possible using a combination of your intuition and how things work in general.
Was that a capstone?
It was a Senior Capstone. That was super dope. I was also in strings my entire time there. I also played cello as early as I could, and I was always the leader of the cello section, so I really liked that class. I loved all…well, most of the conductors (laughs).
I am going to give you a little fill-in-the-blank. BASIS is…
You are putting me on the spot here (laughs).
Looking back from where you are now, knowing you got through it, what do you think now?
BASIS is foundational. Everybody who comes out of BASIS is better than the average student elsewhere. They have seen tougher stuff and been through tougher stuff.
Do you have any advice for a younger BASIS Charter School student who might read this? Think of that version of you. What would you say to that kid?
Most kids at BASIS take themselves too seriously. They need to balance the importance of getting good grades and living life. I always tell myself this, if you can’t do anything about it now why stress about it? Stuff happens. Don’t forget to do what you love outside of school. If I didn’t turn my entire backyard black with charcoal, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to the opportunity of being on the show.
Stoic philosophy…good! That’s a great thing to tell a BASIS student.
So, you are at the University of Michigan studying engineering?
Yes, I was originally a tool and electrical/mechanical major, but I swapped out of mechanical, and am just taking upper-level mechanical classes with an electrical major.
Do you have any plans for what you want to do with that? I know that’s a tough question!
If there was a percentile of people that knew what they were going to do with their lives after college, I am probably in the 2 percentile or even 1.5 percentile. I am just going with the flow. If I plan out the next five or ten years and something happens where I can’t do any of that stuff, I wasted all that time planning for nothing. I have a general direction, but not anything exact. Something to do with my hands. Something to do with engineering or robotics. Nothing set in stone yet.
That makes sense, going with the flow!
In regards to the ‘Forged in Fire’ show, is there any chance that you will be on it again?
So, I got a phone call in April, and they asked me if I was willing to eventually come back on. I said yes, if the timing was right, because I was away from school for an entire month taking 16, 17 credits of engineering at University of Michigan. That doesn’t mix well. It was a massive risk and it paid off, but if I go again it’s going to be during the summer…on my terms (laughs).
Do you have a plan for your business? Are you planning to scale up?
In the short term, I have taken a lot of cool commissions. I will enjoy making those next summer. I have a website and I am going to establish myself as a business this December with my dad. In terms of scaling up, I am assuming you mean recruiting people?
Things like growing your business beyond selling your weapons on your website.
I don’t see myself scaling it up like that anytime in the future. One of the things that gives me the most joy with this craft is that everything is done by me. If I have someone else doing it for me…I can’t put my name on that. Maybe sometime in the future if my name gets slightly bigger. I am working on building a YouTube channel, and I released two videos this summer. Next summer I am going to be blowing up the production budget and creating cool stuff. I am happy with this for now. I sort of made the mistake of trying to turn my hobby into a job too soon. I started getting stressed because of commissions I was taking. No, no, no. That’s not going to happen again. I am doing what I want.
To learn more about Jesse Hu, or to commission work visit his website: www.jhublades.com.
Editor’s Note: “Forged in Fire” depicts weapons in action and may be too violent for some viewers.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity