Brian Rognholt was a man with a plan. Then, a small sound announced that his plan had gone horribly wrong. "I hear the ping, I hear the tinkling of my blade on the floor and appreciated the magnitude of the disaster which has just befallen me," Brian, a clinical lab technician in the Division of Transfusion Medicine at Mayo Clinic, explained on an episode of "Forged in Fire." The History Channel series features "world-class bladesmiths competing to create history's most iconic edged weapons."
Brian was well into the competition's second round when he cracked the blade of the dagger he was creating. And while the show's judges shared a collective gasp when they heard it — and seemed to think the accident might push Brian out of the competition — he had other ideas. There was no "woe is me," Brian tells the Rochester Post-Bulletin. "I had to deploy Plan D because Plans A, B, and C didn't work."
Brian's trip down the alphabet of options worked, saving his dagger and earning him a spot in the show's final round. He tells us it was his ability to adjust quickly that enabled him to excel where professional bladesmiths before him had failed. "Skills are not what carried me on the show," Brian, an amateur "smith," tells us. "What carried me was being able to shift gears while the gates of Hades burst forth." That ability, he says, was honed at Mayo Clinic, where he works to ensure patients receive lifesaving blood when they need it. "The ability to respond to unexpected circumstances was trained and conditioned into me at Mayo," Brian says.
His ability to create edged weapons was honed not far away, in his home forge in southeast Rochester. Brian fell in love with bladesmithing decades ago, back when there was no YouTube to consult. Instead, he taught himself to make blades through a combination of "books and mistakes." The education was equal parts art, science and history. "Blades were crafted for what they were designed to do, and with the materials available to a smith at a particular place and time," Brian says. Discovering those details is one of the aspects of bladesmithing he most enjoys. "When you make a blade, it's really a consummation of all that humanity is at any point in time," Brian tells us. "You're able to hold a bit of history in your hand."
Brian went all the way back to the 12th century for his final "Forged in Fire" challenge, when he was tasked with creating a Knights Templar crusader sword. While his blade passed the show's "kill test," it "just wasn't as sharp" as fellow finalist (and professional bladesmith) David Mirabile's. "Brian, unfortunately your crusader sword did not make the cut," host Wil Willis told him.
Though Brian left the competition in second place, he came back a winner to his fans at Mayo Clinic. "You made a true work of art," Camille van Buskirk, M.D., director of the Transfusion Laboratory, wrote to Brian after watching his appearance on the show. "I still think you should have won it!" (We don't disagree.)
You can watch Brian compete here. Then we'll take your comments any way you slice them below before you use the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.