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I Forge Iron

When the snow flies

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Hello folks,

This post is more towards the folks up in Alaska, like Frosty, but also for any who get a cold winter yet still want to smith.

I have a shop (soon to be finished) and it will be unheated. The snow will be flying and the temperature dropping in the next few weeks.

Do you keep your anvil warm somehow, or use it cold when you start.

Do you use a small space heater while you work or a fan to circulate the air around the shop. I mean to keep the feet and lower half warm.

Is there anything special you do to winterize your shop.

More or less this is directed to uninsulated, unheated shops, but I am sure others have ideas too.

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I know there are a few threads on this subject in the archives....u oughta search the files and read those threads.... I live in PA and it gets cold but i dont think it gets cold enuff to damage anything under normal use....I have heard it recomended that you heat up a plate to warm up the anvil and some propylene glycol for anti freezing the slack tub.... i do have a heater in the clean room but if i am running the propane forge after about 10 mins the area is warm....ventilation is one important consideration when looking for some level of comfort during cold weather......

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Anvils do seem to get more brittle when cold, had a friend break the heel off a family anvil once in very cold weather.

Warming an anvil before use in cold weather really helps your forging too, especially things like knives with alloys that have limited forging ranges---getting only *1* hammer blow between re-heats is a pain especially when you factor in decarb during heats!

I know a fellow who simply puts a thrift store clothes iron set on high on his anvil face when he goes into work and by the time he's set up and has the forge hot the anvil is warm to the touch.

Many folks have a "heating slab" of junk steel that they pop in the forge first thing and lay on the anvil when it's red.

The swordmaker I studied under used to take gallon cans with bails on them punch a few holes around the bottom edge and build a kindling fire in them to hang on horn and heel---400# anvil it was a nice warm seat between heats.

As for self I always liked long-johns *NOT* SYNTHETIC FIBER ONES! wool socks and most of all---put down a sheet of scrap plywood to stand on, breaking the cold floor conduction to your feet makes a BIG difference!

A gas forge makes a great shop heater BUT VENTILATE your shop! CO is just as deadly in winter than in summer!

Edited by ThomasPowers
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although it don't get that cold here,i have a space heater,but i use "found" mud flaps by the forge and anvil. it helps insulate me from the concrete floor,and helps me with my back as it has some cushion. and i do have a old piece of leaf spring i heat up for the anvil,and it also doubles as a cutting block,hope this helps,jimmy

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I'm now heated, but wasn't before last winter. Started out using a scrap piece of steel warmed in the forge. Or if I knew I would be forging several days in a row I'd leave an old garage sale clothes iron on low on the face of the anvil. Probably not the best thing for my elec. bill, but kept the anvil nice. It's worth heating the anvil even if you're not worried about breaking it just for the simple fact that Thomas stated. If your anvil is cold, your piece of steel isn't going to be forgeable for more than a couple of seconds of contact.

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I built a barrel stove with heat exchanger to take the chill off on cold days. The exchanger pivots and I now have a garage sale squirrel cage blower to blow warm air where ever I want it in the shop. I'm thinking I may make a different heat exchanger so I can use the infloor hydronics instead.

If it's cold I warm the anvil sometimes with a propane Turbo Torch sometimes with hot steel blocks, depends on how soon I want to get to forging.

My slack tub is a 15gl grease barrel. It sits on a piece of plywood and in winter gets wrapped with insulation and covered. I have a magnetic engine heater to keep it from freezing.

I have another magnetic engine heater I use to keep the propane from freezing up on cold days too.

I wear my bunny boots in winter, they're rated to -60f and I can personally attest to that being a conservative rating. They are not only protection from cold, they're very durable and good protection from dropped objects and provide a cushioned standing surface.

Other than that I wear warm clothing in layers so I can adjust as the temp in the shop changes.

I haven't finalized my venting for the gasser so I'm still leaving the door open till I get it vented. CO monitor works and I pay attention.




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When it is -20 degrees outside (Farenheit, not that euro-trash celsius), I wear insulated coveralls and pack boots. I pour out my quench pot and refill each time. And I place a heated bar on top of the anvil face before I start. My "shop" is a couple tin roofing sheets and plastic tarps hanging down the sides to within 3 feet of the ground. And just a ground floor. Yeah, it is also ... breezy.

Simple shop. Simple steps. And life goes on.

Mikey - that grumpy ol' German blacksmith out in the Hinterlands

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I've also seen the slack tub covered with plywood with a 40 watt bulb attached. Reportedly this is enough to keep it from freezing when not in use.

I know from experience that 100W light bulb is enough to keep a marine engine toasty enough to stretch the season till long after the snow flies. I've winterized an engine on a 0F night that was kept on a trailer and covered a few weeks. No ice in the hoses when we started either.

I suspect it would work better with the light under the tub though.

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i'll fire up the woodstove and then the forge... heat up some 1/4 plates and lie it on the face... till the face is above 0
- mostly i'll work the heavy irons first...and that'll heat the anvil up nicely....so later on its not so bad with the small stuff..
- use mostly the smaller anvils in the winter... the 125lbers...

generailly i bring a 5 gallon bucket into the shop for a quench.... then dump it out after the day

its also important to heat up the tools... i've had 3 hammer handles shatter to splinters in -40 cel .. .. i'll bring in my good ones to warm up ahead of forging..

i wear some insulated canvas bib pants... .. try to stay away from any nylon skidoo suites...

my shop is well insulated... that really helps cut down on the wood used and keeps it cool in the summer...


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Thanks guys, so many great ideas. I have also heard about a battery blanket for the anvil and a car block heater for the slack tub. For those who live way down south MROBB, both are used by us ppl in the north to keep our cars running. I am not much into wearing snow suits or long john's, and wear my work boots all the time just use wool socks in winter.

I like the fan/wood stove Frosty, what a great idea. Mike, invest in some plywood, lol. I have no room for a stove of any kind being the shop is less then 80'sq, my bathroom is bigger.

As sick as it sounds, I am kinda looking forward to a real cold day.

Thanks again folks.

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Interesting, I've been thinking about this too. I made a stock tank heater last year out of a mason jar and a 100w light bulb. Had to weight the jar down with lead to get it to sink, but it worked good untill it hit 0*. Still, there was a hole in the ice big enough for the animals to drink out of. I been kind of curiouse to find out how much ice a good big chunk of hot metal will melt though. :rolleyes:

I been toying with the idea of makeing a propane burner that would wrap around my homemade anvil, but I'll probly just set it on the coal for a while, that way my welding gloves will get warm too, when I move it back to the stand... :D

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A few people use those floating water tank heaters for their quench tanks. They are designed to keep a water tank open for animals to drink. My folks use one to keep a bird-bath open over the winter. If my shop was in a slightly different place, I would have the spring piped in and through the quench tub to keep it all open.

I will keep my oak barrel quench tub full with an old 2x4 stuck in it until the ice gets to be more than a thin 1 inch layer. The 2x4 helps keep the ice from punching out the sides/bottom - at least for a while. Over the years, I've had ice punch out the bottom of two tubs.

Plywood to wall in my shop? My tools wouldn't know how to react! They are just happy not to have snow PILED on top of them!


Edited by Mike Ameling
bad spellin
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