Beginner: Little if any experience hammering hot metal. Inconsistent hammer control, limited stamina and uneven results.
Seasoned Beginner: Having taken a few basic classes, followed by frequent practice in open forge sessions, proficient with all basic blade forging processes and the use and operation of the standard tools and equipment of the trade. Having made a few full tang or stick tang knives and knowing basic handle construction. Starting to feel confident in heat treating and metallurgy.
Intermediate: The above plus 2-3 years of part-time to full-time in the forge and a good working knowledge of guards, confident in forging full tang and stick tang knives and producing clean handle fit ups as well as confidence in layout and design. Able to make laminated construction blades cleanly and predictably. Competent in heat treating and metallurgy with consistent results. Familiarity with Damascus processes and patterns. Have a shop to work in or attend open forge sessions on a regular basis.
Advanced: The above plus 4 years of more serious detailed work, making small production runs, working with Damascus, having made a folder of some sort, perhaps experimenting with inlay, engraving or file work.