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Real Blacksmiths Don't Wear Gloves?

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Hi folks!
I read somewhere that real blacksmiths don't wear gloves. Is that the general practice? I'm not afraid of hot stuff flying around, the occasional spark or slag burn... it happens, but I value my hands and I can't imagine not wearing gloves. Am I missing something? Is there some advantage to additional/direct tactile contact?

I'd really like to know if you wear gloves... All the time? Just during certain activities?

Thanks in advance for your advice and comments.

-DM

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I don't wear gloves for general forgework. They'll get hot and burn you worse before you can get them off than touching something hot the split second before you quickly retract your hand.

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gloves get you in the habit of grabbing things that are too hot and someday your glove will have a hole or you won't have one on and instead of an automatic check or gingerly touch; you will grab something hot and get a much worse burn for it.

 

Even when I do wear gloves I don't wear one on my hammer hand.

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 This has been discussed in several threads.  Like many things, some like to wear gloves, some do not, it is a personal preference. 

 

Let us break this down to the specific activity. 

 

At the forge

NO gloves. It provides direct contact to the metal, the tongs, etc and if it gets hot, turn it loose.  No burns that way. No place for any loose slag to get inside a glove and burn a hole in your hide while you can get the glove off.

 

Punching, slitting etc.

Gloves protect the hands from the heat as the punches etc are usually short or your working close to the hot metal.

 

Rough surfaces and abrasion

Gloves as their purpose is to protect the hands during this activity.

 

Power equipment

NO gloves. Nothing to get caught or tangles in the moving parts.

 

Welding

Gloves to protect the hands from abrasion and the welding arc.

 

Cuffs on gloves, general usage

NO cuffs. For welding or specific protection the cuff would provide, then wear the cuff. Otherwise no cuff means no way for the glove to get caught or tangled up with the work. The cuff is not needed to hold the glove onto the hand, and with no cuff the glove can leave the hand without any action on the part of the wearer.

 

Some will disagree so I suggest you try it both ways for a month and make your own choice.

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Idk, I wear gloves for everything.  Got to keep the digits intact.  Kinda hard to play the guitar without them. :rolleyes:   I've got cut resistant gloves that fit real tight for grinding, drivers style gloves for forge work and of course welding gloves for, well, welding. B)

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The only thing I'd disagree with from what Glenn said was the first, at the forge.  I don't wear gloves if I don't have to, but larger stock can soak up a lot of heat and sometimes gloves are needed because the stock is to big/long for tongs. 

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I don't know exactly why, but I like to wear a glove on my left hand and none on my right, not always but certainly when working with punches and the like.  I wear gloves on both hands when de-scaling with a knotted wheel on a side grinder.  

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Billy we actually agree on that one as it is a special case. Big stock is relative to the smith and may require a hoist of some nature to lift the stock.  3-4 inch diameter or larger takes a LOT of heat to bring it up to forging temperatures and radiates that heat as it is being positioned, or worked under a power hammer etc.

 

For stock that can be forged with a hand hammer you can use a watering device to localize the heat from extending up the parent stock. For short pieces of stock you can weld a handle onto the short stock so you have control and room to handle it without burning your hands.

 

Always be sure to retire any gloves that have holes in them. Gloves are a consumable item.

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The biggest reason I don t wear gloves is because of steam burns. Steam burns faster and deeper than "dry" burns. Or if you need another picture, think of your hands in a glove in mid august, you southern boys should know this, are they wet or dry, if you are sweating and your gloves are wet and that piece of slag ends up in your glove it will produce steam and burn you faster than if you did not have gloves on.

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Matto brings up a good point. NEVER let your gloves get wet! A scald happens really fast and can be hard to get away from before it does serious damage.

 

I run a gas forge almost exclusively and a prominent characteristic of gassers is it gets anything even near the door HOT. Just reaching for your tongs can get you close enough to send you home with 1st. degree red hand, let alone what happens if you touch the piece 12" from the door.

 

The downside I find most significant wearing gloves is the loss of feel, the less between me and the work the better input I get, be it tongs or gloves I prefer to have the work in a bare hand. Not so possible as one might like though.

 

I wear light leather on my left hand but occasionally forget and wear one on both hands. I pick them a little large to give me an extra second or two to get one off if I get it shrink to your hand and burn the stuffins out of you hot. Leather WILL trap your hand and burn you far worse than just a touch on hot iron. If you're glove hand starts burning or shrinks to your hand stick it in the water bucket, immediately. The main reason I keep a slack bucket close to the forge at all, is for safety sake. Whether it's my hand trapped and burning, a cutoff in my boot or a pants leg on fire, a dip in the shop pool will fix it fastest.

 

If you do have to soak a glove, boot, etc. to prevent a serious burn replace it with dry before you touch anything hot or you'll wish you'd just left your hand, foot, leg, etc. burn for the scald grabbing hot work with a wet glove will do you.

 

Gloves when I need them, bare when I don't. I'm getting old and don't shake off or heal up from injuries like I used to, I also don't feel hot steel from a distance like I used to so I just gotta wear another layer more often.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I don't wear gloves for most things, but I do use a loose fitting leather pair when doing something big like welding an axe or as_mentioned chisel use.

Yes you will have a piece of scale or flux occasionally get in and burn you a little, but hey that's what you get for playing with yellow hot steel.

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I ALWAYS wear gloves for welding because I don't like sunburnt hands or scale burns.
For forging I wear a left hand glove only, as I like to feel what the hammer's doing. The left glove is good for holding long stock from the forge that may be just a little too hot for the bare hand.
I used to have a whole bunch of right hand gloves in pristine condition until I discovered that you can buy 'pairs' of gloves, both left handed.

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Left only for the same reason Frosty cited, the gas forge is hot enough that even with tongs it can burn you even moving items in and out.   I only wear a right when I'm doing very heavy hammering, only because I've found when I don't I raise a brand new set of blisters.  But I'm a girl - all the guys will tell you it's IMPORTANT to raise blisters and callouses!   

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Welding gloves when I'm running the stick welder, but only because I've got one hand within inches of a sunburst's worth energy.  Other than that, I never wear gloves and recommend that they don't even be in the shop.  Even when punching, you can fab a handled punch, or grab the short punch with a pair of vise grips.

 

It only takes one slip to get yanked into a machine.  Getting into the habit of wearing gloves in the shop is a very bad idea.  No rings, watches bracelets, long-sleeved shirts or ponytails when there is machinery in play.

 

Getting degloved is a good way to have a very bad day.

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The tale of the glove pile, your dominant hammer hand is always the larger pile of spares. I use a glove on my tong and tooling hand and not on my hammer hand. I use relatively thin drivers style gloves as they offer some heat protection and they remiain pliable. It's not like your old welding gloves, atrophied into an armored stinger claw where you can just shake your hand out of the glove while in place. The off hand needs more protection than the hammer hand because we manage the process with the tong hand whereas , the hammer hand supplies the directed labor and it's a handles length away from the heat.

Peter

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I don't use gloves for all the above reasons.

Glen, the solution to your punching point is to make your hand held punches at least 12" long to keep you away from the heat. For those times,, heavy iron, I will hold my punch with tongs.

Lol you can tell a new smith from a Grognard when you forge weld and the slag gets on your hand.

The new guy stops, brushes it off, says "ouch" and misses the weld.

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*after* the weld...I once caught my tunic on fire at a demo doing a weld, some members of the crowd were trying to bring it to my attention so I had to say "I know I'm on fire, just let me finish this d**n weld!" (The tunic was well saturated in sweat and was only smoldering a little, didn't even cause a 1st degree on my hide---also very sweaty...)

gotta have your priorities straight! (and when at a demo you see the smith put their piece back in the fire and pick up their ice water cup and start talking while holding it---check to see if one or more of their fingers are *in* the cup.)

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Heehee, Thomas that is when I quench the tong reins I'm holding. I put them in the appropriate hand for to cool them off. No one realizes I'm cooling my hand off more then the tongs (radiant heat ya know). I usually also get a drink of water while I'm at it, (gotta stay hydrated of course). That has taught me that if I'm using flux at all when welding to use as little as needed no more as it will head straight for my hand if given a chance. Usually the hammer hand in between the thumb and fore-finger against the hammer.

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one favorite trick of mine is to "accidently" drop someting (NO, not knife steel) into the slack tub so I, of course, have to stick my hand in to find get it   ;)

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When I started, many years ago, at the sheet metal shop, I put on a pair of gloves and began to work. Foreman immediately gave me a lecture on how unsafe it was. Maybe a year later one of the older service men was in the shop using the drill press, with gloves on. Not long after he started the foreman was taking him to the er. He got his glove caught in in the bit and wrapped his index finger, backwards, around the bit. I have since not worn any gloves while working around machinery. I do wear them while punching drifting etc.  I also don't hide it when I get burnt. Its a good time for a lesson for any watching.  I had a gentleman ask me recently the same question, why I did not wear gloves. I also use a gas forge and have little hair on my left hand.

 

Fred

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I'd say wearing gloves while rummaging through the (cold) stock pile is a good idea.  Otherwise I don't.  Rahselle, the comment about flux between the index and thumb of the hammer hand resonates with me.  I don't know which member of the borax mule team kicks it that way but their accuracy is amazing! 

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