Glenn

Building the Ultimate Personal Blacksmith Shop

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If you were building a new personal blacksmith shop, what design features would you include to make things easier?

Building, what size ?
Roof, how high ?
Concrete floor, brick, gravel ?
Floor anchors ?
Overhead crane, but what size ?


Give us your best ideas.

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I've only been blacksmithing for a year, so take this with a grain of salt, but going off my experience so far:

As big a building as you can afford. As Stewart said, we do tend to be accumulators, and the more space for storage, temporary equipment repair/holding areas, the better. I've got a 20 x 40 shop, and about half of it right now is filled with odd bits of building supplies (that are supposed to be used for repairs on my shop), scrap, and random storage for equipment from my too many other hobbies. Also, 20 ft seems a bit narrow after working in some other shops. My equipment gets too spread out in the long direction in my shop, and the mess/clutter quickly creeps in from either side.

My roof is single sided, 9 feet at my forge, and running down to 6 feet or so at the back. It feels a little claustrophobic, but it used to be a chicken coop, and they are much smaller than even me, so I'm sure they were fine with it. If I were to build a dedicated shop, I would do full eight foot walls, a roof pitch somewhere around 4/12 with some loft space and some open ceiling, and DEFINITELY a clear span. I have posts running down the middle of my shop, and they are a pain in the butt.

I have a concrete floor in my shop, and aside from the 50+ years of heaving making it a little lopsided, I like it for ease of cleaning (HA! Like I do that...) and not having to worry about losing a hot chunk of metal under my forge. I would stick with that.

I'm not sure what you mean by floor anchors, and I don't have any experience with cranes or hoists. One other thing that immediately comes to mind is lighting. I'm a big fan and promoter of natural light. To be honest, I've mostly been able to be in my shop at night, but the few times that I've been in there all day, I've enjoyed the brightness from my large windows with the exception of the one that's unfortunately positioned right next to my forge.

Lastly, one modification that I've been wanting to make to my shop for a while now and haven't gotten around to is a dedicated grinding/filing station, with curtains around it to contain the mess. I don't mind the dust and debris that comes with most operations, but that grinding dust is miserable and I would love to contain it to the best of my abilities.

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12 ft ceiling so your young zealous striker can't hit it.

I am thinking to build a detached 2-car garage, room in attic for office and/or wood working, high ceiling with a one-car door in the back. Might just be a pipe dream though.

Phil

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30'x40' with a 10'x12' garage door. Water and sewer, electricity, 6" concrete floors. Natgas heat with optional waste oil system. Center drain with a sump. Preferably a steelfab with plenty of insulation. A smattering of windows, high speed exhaust fan. Can't forget the loft with a cot, that way getting in trouble won't be so bad.

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For a personal shop I would have a space about 20 x 20' with a single door on one side and a 10' roll up door on the opposing side. Windows round about with external shade and overhead light for the night time. In one corner would be a couple stools and a fridge filled with potables for friends who may stop by. A brick forge, a gas forge and a 12' work bench holding both a post vise and a machinists vise. My old stick welder somewhere close to the acorn table(just a small one, maybe 4 x 4') , two london pattern anvils (125#, 250#) and several smaller anvils for little work. Storage for short metal and short pipe. Tool racks and two slack tubs, a 5 gallon metal one and a 25 gallon tank for big stuff. Wooden block floor in the area surrounding the forge and anvils - poured concrete for at least half of the space for mounting a Sarver style hammer and grinding station. Poured drive leading to the roll up door and a side walk leading away from the single door with a gravel bed surrounding the rest of the building - just cause.

Mine would be shop for work that most would consider "hobby" or "art" work. No intention of building anything for others professionally. Too late and too much insurance needed and the money is too small - who said it? Wanna make a million with a blacksmith shop - start with a million. :P

Tim

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This professional shop would be minimum 30x40 10' plate. Gable construction. 6" slab with footings around. Porch/overhang over the entrance and one sliding door on side. Entry on one end, double door. Rollers inside to unload bar/round tubing etc. Also rollers to unload sheet/plate. Stock stowage on wall behind rollers. Burn table on other end of bldg (downstream from double door). Plasma/gas torch/chopsaw/bandsaw on that burn table. SERIOUS exhaust with overhead and under table collection vents. Drywalled/insulated. Floor heat, wood boiler. 200 amp service single phase.

Central location, 12" stainless flu. Side sucker hood for standard coal forge ( one I built is fine). 2 gassers. BOSS power hammer for now. For now, same MIG, stick and gas welding equipment (along with plasma). NEW drill press. Hydraulic unit to run press and a couple of motors.

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As Ten Hammers said, design it for material handling & work flow with high ceilings and a roll-up door, and rollers or at least a long table going to the cutoff saw. A 20' long wall with clear access for stock storage (preferably inside, but could be outside if covered). If you have flexibility in siting the shop, have a straight driveway with access for 40' flatbed steel delivery trucks to bring material to the shop door.

A few other things I'll try to incorporate into my next shop are:
- An outside, sound-insulated, attached shed for an air compressor, O2 bottles and hydraulic pump.
- A fixed, outside propane tank (the big kind the propane company comes to fill up)
- Plumbed copper air lines throughout the shop; plumbed steel hydraulic line to the forging press; plumbed copper propane lines with drops at the forge, burning area and work table(s)
- An overhead I-beam running the length of the shop with a trolley-mounted hoist.
- A jib crane outside next to the roll-up door... or possibly build an I-beam into the wall so it sticks out 6' or so to hang a hoist from
- Lots of fluorescent lighting
- A compacted dirt floor for comfort (brings challenges with moving heavy equipment)
- A separate storage area for "stuff", like Stewart said. in my case, that will be a place to set my 20' CONEX box close by
- A separate, clean office/design area for the computer, drafting table, books, etc.

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A "professional" shop could be one that made nothing larger than a coffee table or one that works with 5 ton pieces on a regular basis.

Without specifying there is no "One true shop"

I would like a shop with 25-30' side walls so a 20' stick could be held vertical on top of a large platen for certain tasks. Also then it would need to be 50' across so that you could have a 20' stick going in each direction from the same platen. On the other hand perhaps having an outside area to work overly large items in would be better!

Overhead cranes would probably be spec'd by your equipment needs as large powerhammers generally outweigh large work pieces by a good factor and so a crane set up for a large powerhammer could probably handle your work with ease.

I'm planning to put jib cranes on the uprights for my pole barn workshop. (Large utility poles buried 5' deep and then cemented in) even a home built that will handle a couple of hundred pounds would be handy.

A stout floor with gazintas with the slab extending out the door to allow unloading and forklift use.

AIR CONDITIONING and HEATING.

A clean room for finishing

A machining room

Stock Storage

Security

3 phase power

Break room

Bathroom

Office.

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I had the importunity to re roof a shop for a friend it was a wood working shop it was 30'x60' it was a great size he had a concrete floor for the for the forklift. that would be my dream size metal building with I beams length and with wise could come in very handy. in the forge area I would like crushed stone. I have also seen a shop with different rooms with a cutting area an Assembly area a forge area and a paint area it had a nice flow

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There are so many "convienience" items, that the list could be nearly endless.

So instead, I'll just mention one or two that I feel are the most useful.

An Overhead Crane, ... preferably a "Bridge Crane", is something that makes every job easier.

Ana a large "Acorn" table under the crane, ... with a minimum of 14' of ceiling height.



I currently use a 5 ton rolling Gantry, ... and it's a tremendous help, ... but is a bit cumbersome at times, while a Bridge Crane is never in the way .....



.
Until you've worked in a Shop with a Bridge Crane that could reach anywhere on the Shop Floor, you just can't imagine how useful they are, ... and how versatile they make the rest of your equipment.

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. Until you've worked in a Shop with a Bridge Crane that could reach anywhere on the Shop Floor, you just can't imagine how useful they are, ... and how versatile they make the rest of your equipment.


I have worked in a shop with a bridge crane, (several cranes in that shop actually). I was only allowed to use the small ones after a checkout lesson from the shop rigger. I was taught how to basket and choke with straps, as well as how to flip massive parts safely. I was doing inspection and assembly, but there is no doubt in my mind about how handy a bridge crane can be.

Phil

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I would like a shop that generate enough money so that I could have a decorative girl in the front office who make my tea.

Except for the overhead crane I already got everything that Thomas wants. And it is too big! The forge are 50 meters from the welders, according to my pedometer I walk 4 kilometers a day.

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When I built my dream shop of 1,250 sqft. 2 years ago I thought this would do it. Fact is I already have out grown it and have spilled out the end.

For me now, I would need 2,400 sqft 40 x 60. It would be a steel fab or pole barn with 4' high 8x16 concrete blocks all the way around, then metal siding up from there. 14' high side walls 18' peak with 2 - 12' x 12' doors on each end. A 25' x 40' concrete slab on outside of one end with awning over it. 3 ton gantry crane that runs full lenght of building. 400amp electrical service. Runing water and bathroom.

Floor would be concrete, although I now have my floor which is half concrete and half 1/4" minus crushed granite which I do like. Draw backs are you ware paths where you walk, you machinery settles after time and around your power hammer you dig holes with your heals while you work the treadle. The big plus is very comfortable to work on and no clean up. Mill scale just disappears in to the stone. Just rake and water every now and then.

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One other nice thing the only wood construction in my entire building is the 4 utility poles + a couple of sheets of plywood across the front.

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Just finished mine, 24 X 24, 10' ceiling, Chip board over insulation, concrete floor. anvil set on a new azobe tie 5' under the concrete, Post vice and old pipe vice on another tie. large bench out of 1/4 plate, blown natural gas forge and coal forge. 25" exhaust fan, 25 lb little giant on isolated slab. grinding and polishing bench set in concrete to absorb vibration. overhead I beam and a 1 tone chain hoist. keg-orator and beer fridge.

the little giant was the last straw for my wife and the shop was a done deal.

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.
As for over head cranes/trollies......minumum height? - well let me tell you I would say minumum is 25ft inside the building were the overhead crane runs. Here's why - say you have a delivery truck that delivers a piece of equipement, or you need to deliver a completed project.
............................................................................................25ft
Lets say said truck has a bed that is 4ft off the ground.....- 4ft
............................................................................................21ft
top beam and a little clearance - 2ft...................................- 2ft
............................................................................................19ft
trolley and hoist, (Millwakee 1-ton electric) - 3ft..................- 3ft
.............................................................................................16ft
object to be lifted - say 8ft along with the 4ft bed hieght,
is at the 13 ft legal limit.........................................................-8ft
amount left of clear space =..................................................8ft

now with the 8 ft left of clear space you have to do all your rigging within that 8ft, anyone with any experience with rigging and straps and chains on a large object will tell you that - this is not any to much of space left to work with when you need to adhear to angles of chains under loads. For instance - take a dumpster with 2 flip over lids - hook chains to each corner at the correct angles for picking and that 8ft is getting to be a short space to work with. This I know from using my over head gantry that has an 18" H beam 30ft long, and I have that beam 18ft from the ground to the bottom of the beam - - it is not enough in some cases, and Ive had to do some pretty creative rigging to make it lift the loads high enough. Just saying....in my opinion - ideal shop with overhead crane......25ft minimum.

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Alternatively, ... by extending the Bridge Crane through the Shop wall, into a sunken Loading Dock area, the building can remain at a more modest height, and you NEVER need to risk lifting heavy items more than 1" off the floor.


.

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I would like a shop that generate enough money so that I could have a decorative girl in the front office who make my tea. Except for the overhead crane I already got everything that Thomas wants. And it is too big! The forge are 50 meters from the welders, according to my pedometer I walk 4 kilometers a day.


I want what Jaques wants, a decorative girl. I guess a crane as well.

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been thinking about this for a bit. my shop is 30' x 48". its small when its full. its to the point now I have to build a building just to make room in the shop. I was just going to build a 24'x 40' garage to get everything out that is safe to put by itself. the shop should be just that , work space. I bought all the lumber last spring to either ad 16' x 48' to the side of the shop, or start on another out building. still deciding.

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While I think that Jaques's wish may have merit I can tell you from personal experience that my dearest beloved wife(who indulges me in most things) tends to differ when it comes to the merits of "decorative" elements on the payroll.
Ian

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Ah yes, but I'm not married.

Therefore I'm allowed to indulge in my fantasies.Just a pity I can't afford them.

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well im married but theres no harm in anything Purely Decorative ;)
also, i think your all forgetting,
big sound system, with lighting rig which responds to impact
large sofa lounging/thinking/preparing area
food and drink preparation area, well stocked
WELL lit drawing area
large area to dance/tai chi/run through kung fu forms in when fire is cooking itself to full heat
major locking system to keep pests out, with quick release handle for personal exiting emergencies
spacious dog kennel and run out area, with weld safe screens
Windows with Views!!!
inspirational library of images and writings ( in the lounge area)
inspirational scrap pile
i can picture how it would be easy enough :)

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Beth, now thats a great description of a workable shop - with the addition of all the cool tools one can possibly aquire.

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well... ive had several shops over the years ... started with a 6x10 shed and have had as large as a 30x40 pole building with 12 ft to the trusses !it kinda is a evolveing thing... but it dont matter how big it gets your always looking for a bigger one! i currently am injoying my shop at the museum... partly because people come by and talk and partly the view... biggest thing ive found for your feet is staying away from a concrete floor where your forging ... pavers arnt bad cause they change the angles (and there fore pressure points) your feet rest against.if you make bigger stuff a good tall ceiling is nice .. other than that its what ya can afford and the bigger the better!

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