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Help needed to design a shop


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My parents are thinking of letting me build a shop and i am looking for advice, how big should i go? i was thinking 16'x 16' with 8"x8" corner posts and 8"x8" posts in between each corner post, and it will be 10ft tall. 2ft and 8ft off the ground will be 2"x4" across each open section and leave an 8' section open for a door. I will put 1"x6" board and batton walls and a tin roff slanted to 25degrees, any suggstions?

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No matter what size you make it, it will be too small. Once one starts collecting tools and equipment there is an unwritten law that says you will always collect at least 25-50% more than you have room for! Kidding aside, 16 x 16 will make a nice sized shop unless you intend to run a business full time doing large work. In another lifetime I was a builder before being a blacksmith and have a couple suggestions you might find helpful. First, get some graph paper and lay out the intended size to scale. Next, cut out scale floor prints of any equipment you intend to use now or in the foreseeable future. That will let you play with various layouts and visualize the space you will be working in. Will you have a bench, a slack tub, a leg vise mounted on a post set in the ground, a cone mandrel, tong rack, swedge block, layout table, etc.?

Consider other sizes. A 16' span will mean some pretty heavy duty rafters if you use a sloped roof. It would be OK with trusses but I think a rectangular building, say 12 x 20 might be easier and cheaper to build and you might find you like the layout better. Since you are in Ontario, you should think about a wood stove so you can forge in the winter. If you are using gas it will be plenty warm while you are forging but when you are doing bench work, layout, finishing, etc. You will freeze to death. A coal forge throws very little heat so with that you'll be cold all the time. A big opening is really nice and sliding doors might be an easy way to close it up in cold weather and to lock up your equipment.

You haven't mentioned a floor but you might consider excavating the topsoil and replacing it with fine gravel that will pack. Later if you want to make it better, rake it level and dry lay used brick, filling the gaps with sand. It makes a very nice floor and will let you find things that you drop or even to sweep up all the scale that accumulates. My first shop had just a dirt floor and every night my legs were black up to the knee from the mixture of dust and forging scale that arose with each step. I changed it to brick and it made life much more pleasant. If you are having windows, think about where to put them so that you never have direct sunlight shining on your anvil. It makes it very difficult to see the color of the iron. Glass will be quickly etched if you put the windows in the spark stream where you will be grinding.

I have been in three different shops over the past 30 years and my first was only about the size you are planning. It even included an air hammer and I did some pretty large work. My second shop was in a 40 x 40 building on a farm we bought but that was hard to keep warm up in northern Maine and I never mastered good hammer control with mittens. I designed and built my current shop here in northern NH. It is 28 x 40' 2-1/2 stories high and with a 28 x 14 lean to on the back for storage. Most of the floor is concrete but the forge area is brick set in sand. The anvil sits atop a 12" x 16" piece of Rock Maple set 6' in the ground and the vise is on a 6" pipe also 6' in the ground. If I ever decide to move my anvil or vise, all it takes is a shovel and not a jackhammer.

Good luck on your project and have fun planning.

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I'm still in "build mode" with my smithy. I'm mounting my bench grinder, post vise, and buffer on 6"x6" timbers sunk into the floor. I had to fill the floor area with red clay sand due to the shop being added on to an existing structure as a lean-to. Later I will add a few inches of pea gravel after I set all the post and wall it up. End result will be a 15'x20 lean-to with forge, anvil, buffer, bench grinder, belt grinder, post vise, drill press, table saw, band saw, woodworking bench and sink with hot and cold water. Best of luck building!!

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Build the building with full electric, water, heating, sewer, and etc.so that down the road it can be converted to some other use, garage, workshop, apartment etc.

There are discussions on 20 foot long stock, the result being a 30 -32 foot long building or a windows in the wall at the end of the cutting table. Raise the window to let stock enter the building, or raise the window again in other to move the stock on the cutting table to make the cut. There was a post recently on how a wood floor was easier on the body than concrete. Bricks on sand work or crusher run limestone packed down can be used for a floor. Make provisions so it will be easy to add a power hammer foundation later. Check the wind currents before you build so you can catch any breeze that passes by the shop.Think about double doors so they can be opened in the summer, and a man door in the back so you can get air movement through the shop. While you are in the design stage, plan for an jib crane. Consider a trolley system for inside the shop. There will always be something heavy that you will need to lift.

Consider weather conditions, flood, snow loading to the roof, hurricane forge winds, etc with any design you look to build. You nay want to seriously consider a under the floor heating system as working on a cold floor is not fun at all. It could easily be adapted to the wood stove or other heat source.

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Hi Josh.
Glad to hear your parents are so supportive.

The smiths on this site are going to have lots of good advice and great ideas - most from their own experiences.

BUT ... before you build anything make sure you check your local building codes and get ALL your permits. The last thing you want to happen is to finish building your dream smithy only to have a neighbour call the city/region inspector in because your shop is too close to their property line or you haven't followed some building codes. You could be forced to take it all down. I'm sure your parents know all this - I figured I'd mention it because no one else had.

Where in Ontario are you from? Have you checked out the OABA forum in the Blacksmithing Groups section of IFI? I just posted the meetings and demos for the next few months (until May) a few days ago. I'm pretty excited, April's meeting is here in my hometown of Hamilton - practically in my backyard. If you can make it, come out to the meetings and meet some other local smiths. If you're interested OABA memberships are only $40.00 per year.
Good luck with your shop. I'm still in the planning / building stage of my own shop - I figure I've got another 5 year to go. ;)

Cheers. If you ever need anyone localish to talk smithing with, just drop me an email.
Sam.

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Some general thoughts I would consider.

Firstly what will you be looking to make, and what forging tools you will be using, or need room for in the forseeable future.

A forging area does not need to be large to make or produce even large projects, generally you are making individual bits that are then assembled.

It makes sense to have a shop consisting of two or more dedicated areas/rooms if you have the space available to you

Metals in a forging area are prone to rust, dust grit etc. not ideal if you also have engineering type machinery around.

Stock/parts/consumables storage areas, steel racks, office functions and assembly/fitting facilities etc all are better away from the vicinity of the forging area

It is easier(and less costly in time and effort) to alter the dimensions and layout in the pre construction stage than it is once it is built, Have a god long think about it and look at others layouts to get ideas of how it would work for you,

My own working area is probably in the region of a 10foot by 8foot, it includes powerhammer, treadle hammer, hearth and gas forge, anvils, swage block, leg vice, tongs and tool racks, regularly used tools to hand, less used tools at outer periphery of work area, along with a steel topped table for initial drawing/layout/assemblies.

I don't have to transport hot metal very far before I am working it. The less I have to move, the more energy I save, I like that, particularly when it is my energy I am saving.

Whatever you decide, good luck with it, and I hope this may help a little in your decision.

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  • 5 months later...

I too am in the process of building my smithy. It is a long and arduous process, but I look forward to my finished building. My floor is going to be dirt, and be a semi open building, because I like being outside, not kept in a concrete cell. I wish you luck Joshua, my smithy at 14 was a tarp covered area, and at 12 I had...well nothing. I stood by a fire lol. Good luck to you, merry smithing.

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I get to forge out in my garden shed. Ok, so the shed is the size of a 1+ car garage, but i have to share it with the lawn tractor, various lawn carts, the leaf sweeper and other yard paraphernalia! Still I have more than enough room. I do have to remove a window to run the smoke stack out, but that is not a big problem, and keeps the shed "stealth" while I am not forging!

I would suggest that you run power to it, and more than you think you'll need. Now I'm not saying tuck 440 3 phase out there, but I would do at least 220. I don't have any power and thought " Meh what do need power for? I have a hand crank blower..." Well that lasted about 2 sessions before a electric blower and forge found its way to my place. Now I have to haul out 200+ foot of extension cord to plug into the house when I want to forge. Or drill, or be out there after dark, or use the non-cordless grinder....

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