Student casting competition puts magnificent swords to the test

Ancient Celtic history was brought into the present at AFS’s 2022 CastExpo in Columbus, Ohio, during the Steel Founders Society of America (SFSA) annual Cast in Steel competition––this year’s challenge: to use modern casting tools and technologies to creatively design and produce a functioning version of a Celtic Leaf Sword. Following a day of rigorous testing by judges on April 22––performed in front of a large audience––University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Pioneers team emerged as the Grand Prize Winner and was honored at a ceremony on April 24.

Thirty-five student metalcasting teams from 25 North American colleges and universities battled for the first three months of this year to develop a sword that would be judged based on (1) Design and Process––25% of score, (2) Celtic Sword Authenticity––15% of score, (3) Casting––25% of score, (4) Project Video––10% of score, and (5) Performance––25% of score. 
Celebrity Ben Abbott, a judge on the History Channel’s Forged in Fire program and a two-time champion on the show, was on hand during the contest and gave his own critique of the Pioneers’ winning sword while filming a series of videos about each entry.

“This is an amazing blade. It’s super thin and super sharp,” Abbott said. “I don’t see any indication of testing on the edge at all. It’s still razor sharp all the way down. The pummel and handle are really comfortable, really well proportioned. Everything about this guard and pommel ... is comfortable and just a joy to hold. 

A Cast in Steel judge noted the blade’s shiny, mirror polish. He added, “In regards to [their] video, they show so many different dimensions from the design phase through the solidification, fluid dynamics ... every single part of that video showed intense depth of understanding of metallurgical processes. [It’s] an incredible blade––love it, love it, love it.” 

Additional honors went to the following teams, which excelled in specific categories: 

  • Best Casting award went to Cal Poly-Pomona–Pummelers.
  • Best Video was a tie, and awards went to Texas A&M–Aggies and Instituto Tecnologico de Saltillo–Dun Donkeys.
  • Best Authenticity, Best Performance, and Best Report awards all went to UW-Platteville.