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I Forge Iron

Safety attire in the smithy!

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Alan: I used to use steel-toed boots but haven't for several years. I think they give a false sense of security. Though I'm sure they are safer, they are also less comfortable. I try to keep my feet out of the way of falling anvils and vises.

I was determined to buy American made boots most recently, which meant Red Wings. You can find which stores in your area sell them online (search Red Wing). When I finally found some that fit in a hardware store, I was rather disappointed in the feel. I'm sure they will break in eventually, but my feet got tired and sore enough that I went shopping again. Figuring that I'd done my duty to the USA, I didn't shop specifically for US made boots.

However, the boots I settled on as the most comfortable BY FAR, were Wolverines. They fit immediately like fine gloves. The particular ones I got were Durashocks style # 03126. To top it off as a success... they say: "Assembled in the US" (whatever that means).

Having paid so much for boots, I intend to get my money's worth out of them. So I alternate between the Wolverines and the Red Wings. That way the Red Wings don't get a chance to turn me into a cripple as fast. :) Besides, shoes last a lot longer if you don't wear the same ones every day for some reason. When I buy again, I'll be looking for boots similar to these Wolverines.

As you mentioned, I was also looking for the hooks on the top, but nothing I liked had that. However, they all mostly have hooks clear to the top and end in single eyelets. I simply lace up with hooks only and skip using that top eyelet. Works fine. I think both my pair are considered 8" boots, which I prefer.

When you stand in a shop all day long, shoes get very important. It isn't just the safety from slipping or dropping things. If the shoes make you tired and crabby, you will yell at customers and throw things through your windows. So now you lost valuable business AND have cold air blowing through your shop while your feet hurt. Then you'll stomp up to the house and yell at the wife and kick the dog. They will both leave. Now your feet still hurt AND you're lonely. All because you were too cheap to buy a good pair of boots. Don't let this happen to you.

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Hi Alan,
I have a pair of wolverine 10" steel toes that I have had for going on 6 years. Granted, I have never worn them much on concrete, because the majority of my shop floor is still dirt. When I bought them I was still doing summer landscaping, and while they weren't the most flexible for climbing up and down on dirt and mulch piles, they work great on a flat floor/surface. I always look for boots with the speed hooks on top.

I have always wanted a pair of slip on, "trucker style" steel toes, but unfortunately my left foot is size 10 1/2 and my right foot is size 11, and custom fitted boots are expensive as all get out.

I would definitely recommend the steel toes. The first time you drop a 50 pound or greater weight on your foot, you will appreciate the steel toes.

I would also recommend that if you do work on a concrete floor a set of the newer gel insoles. I have a pair in my boots and they help on the dirt floor, so I am assuming they would really help on a concrete floor.

As far as the denim goes, just make sure that whatever you're wearing isn't ripped and or frayed anywhere. Those fuzzy frayed ends have a habit of catching on fire when you're welding (*sniff* *sniff* hm....something smells like it's burning....AHHHH * sound of whole leg going in the slack tub*) :)

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I quit wearing Steel toes after almost loosing a few toes to frostbite. Having weird shaped feet ( a Narrow heel and Extra wide across the toes) I've always had trouble finding good boots that fit well, in the shop I wear either my Doc Martins or my Rocky jump boots, either way they are all leather on the outside with tough comfortable soles.
The Doc Martins are really nice and comfortable in the summer, they have the most comfortable boot sole of any boot I've tried and are really nice if you are standing on concrete all day long. the Rockys have a little insulation 200g or so, they help keep me warm in the winter an don't weigh much more than a pair of sneakers. Heavy boots = more leg/ lower back fatigue/ Pain in my experience.
I don't allow open toes or shoes made from nylon or plastic in my shop, Flamable foot wear is a BIG No-No. Heck Synthetic clothing of any sort ( Nylon , Polarflece, polyester, spandex ...) is a No no in my shop, NOT EVEN A HAT MADE FROM SYNTHETIC MATERIALS, Thats just asking to spend the next 9 months of your life in a burn unit getting skin grafts. Cotton, wool, linen and leather are pretty safe for smithing clothing, they will burn and smolder a bit with extended contact with hot objects or open flames. But they don't flash ignite and melt onto your skin like synthetic clothing will when it catches fire.
Something else to keep in mind with steel toe boots, Ed Thomas said it well, "they do give a false sense of security", they protect you from a dropped 6 lb sledge hammer, but a 300 lb anvil falling on a steel toe boot just means the EMT's /Doctors have more work to do, they have to cut your toes out of the boot so they can re-attach them... NOT Pretty

Dont Get me wrong, I'm not saying steel toes are bad or Un-safe but just pay attention to your feet and what is going on around you. For gawd sakes man attach the anvil to the stump !!!

Just my $0.02


PS . Both Rocky Boots and Doc Martins are available with Steel toes ... If ya have to have 'em

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I used to wear redwings when working in a situation that required full days of standing on concrete. They had a crepe (sp?) sole that was the best thing I've ever found for comfort in that situation. OSHA and the union required steel toes and they were the only ones that I could stand for more than a few days. Ed, unless Red Wing has made a 180 degree change in philosophy I think you should've taken your boots back and asked for a different pair? If I recall correctly that was one of the reasons I tried them, they had a comfort guarantee, and I made them honor it on the first pair. They also take more (or at least use to) measurements of your foot than I ever thought possible to get you into a pair of boots that fit correctly. Having said all that, one bother in law swears by the Wolverines durashox, and another swears by the pull-on cowboy boot looking redwings.

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Re Levi 501's: not recommended as the buttons will transmit heat, (cue funny story about a fellow coming in from the cold and standing too close to the wood stove until he started the ZOUCH! dance) Also the gaps will allow for stray weld spatter, wirebrush wires, etc into the "tender zone".

Thomas (no it wasn't me)

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Here is another source for work shoes for wide feet:
Wide Width Steel Toe Boots, Steel Toe Work Boots In Wide Sizes, Extra Wide Steel Toe Boot, Wide Safety Boots, Extra Wide Steel Toe Work Boots And Shoes
I was reluctant to try to buy without trying, but I did buy a pair of shoes from them that do fit my wide foot, walking/work shoes, no steel toe. They request a tracing of your foot with measurements to help in the process. If you don't scuff the shoes up, you can return them. They fit me very nicely. The shoes I bought are actually made in Pennsylvania, a pleasant surprise to me as I too prefer to buy Made in the USA.
I prefer to wear wooden shoes when standing on concrete, as my shop has a concrete floor. Wooden shoes are my everyday work shoe.

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Steel toe boots and amputations. This may be an urban myth. Mythbusters did an episode on this,
Unofficial Mythbusters: Episode 42: Steel Toe Amputation, Bottle Rocket Blast Off
And found that even a 400-lb weight from 6 ft did not cause amputation. Lots of broken bones, but considering the alternative, still better than a regular boot.

I know that Mythbusters doesn't always follow strict scientific principles, but this one seemed accurate enough.

Others have mentioned, prevention is still the better way, and I agree. But accidents do happen. Does eye protection provide a false sense of security? Face shields? My feeling is that if the protection itself doesn't actually present a different safety risk, then it's probably worthwhile.

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Having worked in the oilpatch I can say that steel toed boots are definitely much colder in the winter than non steel toed ones. They don't breath as well so your feet start off damper and then the steel is a much better conductor of heat than leather is.

Also 400#???? We often ran 100,000 pound on the hook and the weight of a triple stand of drill pipe makes 400# look like "office worker" type of problems.

I had a friend who worked as an oilpatch EMT for a while, told me about a lot of "hose jobs" where basically all you could do is to hose the goo of the machinery...(Back when I was working in the patch they stated that 1 in 5 of career oilfield workers would suffer a catastrophic injury during the course of their career...luckily I was a logging geologist and got to spend most of my time in a nice warm clean trailer wondering when the well was going to blow up...)


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I haven't looked for these in years, and don't know if they still exist. Weren't there some steel deflectors that went over shoes a while back? and even if not. Why couldn't you make a pair of covers for your boots, and wear what's most comfortable under them. It seems to make sense to me. I'm sure they're not using anything special for the steel. Wouldn't have to be anything fancy. No reason to make some mirror polished plate armour boots(though that does sound like fun). Just a simple form, shaped on the horn. attached under the shoe through the grooves? I really don't see why this couldn't work. Perhaps one plate for the toe, another for the meta, boht riveted onto a piece of leather that gets laced up?

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Wearing steel toed boots is not even close to the same safety category as safety glasses. I can function with bruised, broken or mashed toes. I can't work without eyes. The odds of getting hit in the eye with debris without safetly glasses is pretty high in a blacksmithing shop. The odds of dropping something crippling on my toes in my shop seems pretty low to me. I actually value my crotch much higher than my toes, and I don't wear a cod-piece.

I do work full-time in my shop and the vises on some of my machines weigh more than some people's anvils. So, yes, the hazard is there. I just try to think before I act and study all the possible ramifications of what I am about to do.

In my opinion, being uncomfortable in boots is a bigger safety hazard than falling weights on my feet.

(Now watch... I'll get back to work now and drop a 400# weight on my foot from 6 feet. Dang! Oh, well. Then lots of people get to say: "I told you so!")

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Addendum to my last post: I do want to concede that when you work with others, you generally need some protection from them even more than from yourself. So a smith would certainly be justified in demanding steel-toed boots on students or employees. They are a good thing; I personally have compromised in favor of comfort. That's all.

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I bet the most overlooked protection would be coal smoke. We all know how dangerous it was for the workers in coal mines.

Coal smoke in a mine usually means there was an explosion somewhere. I am sure you mean coal dust. Black lung is an industry and occupational hazzard from inhalation of coal dust.

Many times we stand too close to the dragon breath of a gasser, or the warm exhause (for lack of a better term) from a coke fire. Both contain nasty things. You can reduce the smoke from a coal fire by simply poking a hole in the top of the dome of coal and letting the smoke burn. Nothing beats a good chimney to get any smoke or fumes 20 feet into the air and out of your face.

The lungs were designed to operate with clean air. Anything other than clean air is dangerous to your health.
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While much of the talk started out with foot wear, to that I will add I wear cotton and rag wool socks in my wooden shoes all year round. It really is cooler in summer and warmer in the winter. When others complain about cold concrete floors, my feet many times appear to be steaming when I kick of the wooden shoes. I do put irons on the bottoms to keep from wearing out the soles, otherwise they would only last about 8 months.
Next up the body is cotton work pants for warm weather and jeans in cooler, bibs in the winter over the work pants.
Next is my knee length leather apron with strap that connects the neck strap to the waist strap. It puts the weight of the apron on the shoulders and not the neck. The apron is split in the legs with straps and buckles to keep the legs where they belong. Makes it a lot easier for holding tools between my legs.
I wear long sleeve cotton shirts all year round. I started doing this when I switched to gas, helps to keep some hair on your arms and deflect sparks from burning your arms.
I always wear safety glasses with side shields, I need corrective lenses anyways, but won't let anyone work in my shop without safety glasses. Sometimes I wear goggles, and frequently a shield when grinding.
I really like 18th. century style work hats, 100% natural fibers again, frequently wool and linen. Helps keep hat sparks out of the hair, etc. and easy to throw the face shield or welding helmet over with not fuss, or turning a hat around. Plus they really do a much better job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes than any other hat or bandanna.
I frequently wear a left glove, occasionally one on the right (hammer) hand. Normally cheap welding gloves. I have tried Kevlar, etc, and find the cheap welding gloves work as well and cost a lot less.

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