INSIDE: Are you a beginner blacksmith, just getting started setting up your forge or blacksmith shop? Here are 4 Essential safety tips you should consider as you begin on this new adventure. Forge Safety, Hot Metal Safety, Debris and Dust Safety, and Hearing Safety.
As you are getting started with blacksmithing there are a few dangers that you should be aware of so that everyone can function safely around the forge. There are inherent dangers from the flames of the forge itself, then there is hot metal that you shouldn’t come in contact with, look out for flying debris and dust, and don’t forget that it is loud in here.
Let me preface this article by saying, that I do most of my forging in a group or class setting. Safety is always a concern as there are different levels of experience. I will suggest some tips that I use in these group settings, and if you are a single smith most will apply to you as well.
No matter what type of forge you have, you need to make sure that you understand what needs to be done to control the flame.
When using a solid fuel forge, you are usually more aware of the fire itself because you are constantly tending it and maintaining it. Make sure that the smoke if any is being drafted away from you. Keep the fire maintained to a manageable size for what you need. Do not let the flames get out of hand. Mainly as you are using the forge, you should be aware of your surroundings. Be sure to watch for things that are dry in close proximity. Try to keep the flames contained to the forge itself.
Many of these same rules apply when using a Propane or other gas fired forge. Keep in a well ventilated area. Make sure all connections and fittings are tight. To test for leaks, once everything is connected and pressurized, squirt some soapy water on your connections, if you see any bubbles forming then there is a leak, and it should be corrected. Also make sure hoses can withstand sufficient pressure, and keep them away from a heated area. This can sometimes be difficult with top burner forges, and the hose naturally hangs down beside the forge. If hose has become damaged due to heat it should be replaced.
Hot Metal Safety
One rule that I try to remember especially in a work space that has multiple people working, ALL METAL IS HOT! That being said there are a few tips to help things go smoother.
- Have a common location that everyone is aware of to put hot items as they cool.
- Never leave hot metal in a work area where someone accidentally contact it.
- Always test the metal first to see if it is hot.
- Never rely on gloves to protect you from hot metal.
In regards to gloves it has been my policy that I will use gloves to protect myself from radiating heat, not a conducting heat. Such as when you may need to hold a hand tool over hot piece of metal who’s heat is radiating upward. Do not use gloves to hold on to warm or hot metal. Use a pair of tongs for this situation.
How to test to see if a piece of metal is hot before you grab it.
- Hold your hand over the metal to see if you can detect any radiating heat.
- If no radiating heat was detected, tap the metal piece with the back of your hand to see if it is still conducting heat.
- If it is not conducting heat, you may then try to pick it up.
Debris and Dust Safety
Another danger in the blacksmith shop or forge is the dust in the air being breathed in. This one is sometimes not thought of much because the effects are often only found over time after prolonged use. Whether its coal dust in the fire and smoke, or metal dust from grinding operations, recognize the hazards on your lungs and take appropriate precautions.
Most beginning students will complain about the flying hot scale that will land on them at the most un-opportune time, while they are in the middle of a forging task. I am not sure if there is a way to prevent this from ever happening. Realizing that it may happen and knowing how to treat for minor burns will be a tremendous help to you as you move forward with your new hobby. Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the treatment of minor burns.
Whether you are using heavy machinery, or hand held power tools, or just the ring of the anvil; hearing damage or loss is something to definitely consider and to take steps to prevent. It is just as easy to plan ahead and be prepared with some hearing protection. Be it foam inserts of earmuffs, don’t just leave them on the shelf. Use them as directed. To read more about the dangers of hearing loss check this out from the Better Hearing Institute.
Feel free to read my other article Essential Blacksmith Tools for Beginners here.