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I Forge Iron

your shop rules for safety and success


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I was responding to another thread, and thought gee, this is a good subject to bring to this forum. We all develop our habits and rules, based on what works in our shops. I know as a hobbyist, my rules are far different in all likelyhood, than a pro, yet I have established a couple of rules that keep me from bein a hazard to myself, and also which makes me a much better smith.
I will post them below, and would ask that you all post yours, or agree, or disagree with mine!
Nelson Forge Rules
1. Never be in a hurry!
2. Quit when you get tired.

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divermike, I just got done teaching 11 boy scouts the metalworking merit badge with the blacksmithing option. Alot of fun I may add. besides the normal safety rules:
safety glasses,hearing protection, protective clothes etc the one that helped the most for the boys was I told them to treat everything in the shop as hot to burn until proven different and be awhere of those around you when moving from forge to anvil. We spent 12hrs working on the merit badge four 3 hrs sessions. They all left with no burns or injurys.

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Have two work tables, one by the forge where everything is considered hot, and one table away from the forge where everything is not hot. You MUST pick up anything from the forge Hot table and put it in water then into your BARE hand. The BARE hand is the only way to move it to the non-hot table.

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Hot steel no longer in use goes to a special location to cool.

*STOP* before you make that uncorrectable mistake; better to have to come back and finish a project than to ruin it in the "last heat".

If you are cutting on a hardy make sure it's oriented so that any offcut won't fly off and disappear somewhere it will be a fire hazard.

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For me,
Aside from the usual safety procedures I have two areas of concern.
I know, that in my shop, I am most likely to get burned by handling a hot drift or when adjusting tongs.

Whenever I am drifting material, I always get out a pair of rivet tongs prior to starting. This prevents the momentary lapse of reasoning when I think that I can pick a drift up quickly from the floor and avoid getting burned.

There are two areas that concern me when adjusting tongs.
1.) handling a small amount of stock to size the jaw and
2.) adjusting the reins to fit.

Typically I size the jaw with a small piece of stock and then, to adjust the reins, replace the small piece of stock into the jaws and clamp the jaws in the vice.

Handling the small stock (previously heated by adjusting the jaws) and handling the tongs with a heat in the reins both cause problems.
I don a pair of loose fitting welding gloves whenever I adjust a pair of tongs.
Loose so that I can shake the glove quickly from my hand if I need to.

As they say "stupid hurts"

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If you drop something, lift your toes.

Flat toes get crushed, lifted toes get smacked.

I knew I had internalized this when I was showering off, dropped the can of shaving cream and my toes were up in the air before the can had hit the tub.

I have CRS [can't remember xxxx] I would have no toes left with this safety rule.
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for me, eye and hearing protection are number one. I can honestly say I have no idea what my anvil really sounds like. I have never even one time made a forging hit on it without ear plugs. I keep a pair of #5 welding glasses beside the forge to protect against the infrared radiation if I need to stare into the fire for more than a few moments. I have felt the damage in my eyes twice before... never again. I know two metalworkers with cataracts.

In my shop, the forge doesn't get lit until the water hose gets charged. I keep a charged hose line, standard garden hose with good pressure and 100 foot length, and a pick-head fireaxe readily accessible at all times while forging. If something does get away I am fully prepared to begin earnest firefighting measures, up to and including breaking into the walls to get at the seat of the spark. it wouldn't look good if a firefighter's workshop burned down.

If I am using a cutoff disk, I am wearing a respirator. I lift it every so often to smell for wood smoke from any wayward sparks. I have a concrete floor, but wooden barn walls. I try to remain vigilant at all times.

"It won't happen to me" does not apply at my shop. I have been to too many fires in regular homes, nevermind in a shop with a 2000 degree fire going all day.

I personally believe that safety is the mark of a true professional. I have seen many "backyard mechanics" use an oxy-gas torch without goggles, but I work many fire details in oil yards and I have never one time seen a pipeline welder not wear goggles. Machoism and ignoring safety is an antiquated mindset that belongs in the 1970s, and is the mark of an amateur. IMHO

Edited by MarkC
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Don't hold metal when you are having a discussion with those watching your work. Either put it down, in the slack tub, or back in the fire. Too many opportunities to nonchalantly grab it as you are busy yacking.

Edited by Cool Hand
mis-spelled nonchalantly...lol
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rules of D.Claville forge:
when taking to someone remove all metal form the centre of the fire.
never gloves on the hammer hand but always on the other hand.
don't catch what you drop
when something hot is dropped always kick you feet so you don't burn you shoes and toes.
never hit any thing cold on the anvil unless I told you to do it
never leave a blade in the vice and walk away from it.
always full face protection when forge welding.

well what most of em gotta get around to have a wall poster made with em for when others are in the shop.


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I'll also add, think your proceedure through first, what will happen if things don't go as planned..
I use a 7inch hand held grinder alot, it's very fast, with alot of torque. If it hangs up in the work, I want to know which way it'll try to go, and I want to to pull it's self out of trouble. One I learned from my dad, with a large drill motor, the trigger hand holds it so if the bit binds, the finger is pulled from the trigger, not into it, especially if it's in low gear. Develop good work habits, so it's natural to do the safe thing. I spent 20 years in construction, whenever I laid the skilsaw down, the saw blade pointed away from the body. I automaticly do it now.

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From the time Uncle Sam taught me to work on jet engines, through being a policeman and doing all my own auto work and doing leaded/stained glass work I learned the following:

When in doubt, don't.
Trust your instincts.
All tools can hurt you, maybe even kill you - treat them with respect.
Suit up: eye protection - masks/breathers - gloves and hard steel toe'd boots.
Tired? STOP!
Take breaks and think about what is next.
Learn from masters before doing anything.
If it ain't fun - quit!
Wash your hands before dinner.

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