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I Forge Iron

Working in the shop in the winter.

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What do you do when working in cold weather?


Prepareing for work during the cold.

* When you do get to work in the shop, do you give any special attention to the start up of power tools, power hammers etc? Let them run at an idle before use?

* Do you preheat the anvil before use? If so how much preheating is needed? To what temperature?

* Do you preheat your hammers, punches, chisels, etc before use?

* Do you use a radiant heater to keep your body warm? Propane heater or stove to keep the room air warm (ish).

*  Can you use your gas forge when the temperatures are below freezing? Does the propane freeze in the bottle?

* What do you do to keep your feet warm while you work?


We like to forge in all sorts of weather, but cold is still cold. How do you deal with the cold?


Edited by Glenn
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I've no power tools to worry about in my forge and I use solid fuel, I always have enough layers on to keep warm without moving or shelter and peel them back as I get warmer, if it ever gets cold enough here to worry about the temp of a hammer or chisel.....I'll be indoors in the machine shop!

However, from many years of working out doors in the winter, those steel toe cap boots can get real uncomfortable at lower temps......standing on a bit of boarding can be a great help at halting the drain of heat from your feet into the frozen ground.....just as putting your coffee mug on a piece of wood rather than a steel surface.

I have previously "warmed" the anvil by sitting any old lump of metal, pre warmed in the forge, on it (placing it back on the forge to reheat during striking), not to negate the effects of the weather but to reduce drain from the work piece.....is it effective? it is on my small anvil.

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I like Smoggy  worked outdoors regardless of the weather for 50 yrs or more. Hands and feet were always cold long before the insulated cloths & Boots of today. 

Way back in my youth and the shop was used in winter I never saw anyone warm the anvil but not much was done other than small carriage parts on a restoration.  I've used mine at 0F to pound on for repairing truck and tractor chains but not all that hard. 

When it's below +10F I go to my smaller shop in the  basement with radiant floor heat where there is always something to build or fix. 

Propane I've not seen freeze at -30F as it is used as primary heat source by many here in VT with tanks setting in the cold where Fuel Oil will congeal to a point it will not flow through the lines unless cut with kerosene at 0F.

I may move a pellet stove into my new shop when finished for some use but not sure of the available room until everything is moved in.

 But in the end I plan on being in Florida for the 4 coldest months of the winter starting next year!   


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I Have a rather large woodstove in the forge and a very small fan to circulate the heat around .

I use coal fired forges which pretty much take care of keeping me warm from the knees up.

I also have two gassers which I mainly use in the winter to help heat the shop as I feel that's about all they are good for.

I heat a piece of 2 X 4 X 12 inch piece of steel in the forge to put in the slack tub to thaw it out in the mornings.

Have rock dust floors so sometimes it gets pretty cold on my feet but insulated boots help a lot there.

My anvil is way to large for any preheating to be effective.

I have a power hammer but don't use it very often as I really enjoy the use of hand hammers .

Also the air compressor is outside so sometimes the air lines freeze up as I really don't drain them as often as I should.

All in All I prefer to forge in the winter over forging in the summer.

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I forge in all weather, wool long handles, wool socks, wool insoles and wool glove liners. I use mechanix gloves wile shoeing but they can be sensitive to hot sparks. 

Usualy preheating the anvil isn't on the agenda, just do the big uggly stuff first. lets not forget a hat, wool skimpy brim or a watch cap

many a time I have been striped down fo my long john top and the clients are huddled up around the forge. 

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I shut the door, put a pot of coffee on the stove and maybe add a nip of whiskey if it's really cold. Lol but seriously, my shop is insulated by being under a hill, 10ft below ground - i dump most of my heat through the ventilation. I have a small "blue flame" kerosene heater that'll burn for 2 days on a tank that I put in the upper room (the least insulated area where my large drive in bay door is) and that seems to keep it toasty even with our 25F nights this past weekend. Now I haven't been in here in the dead of winter yet, but I've been told by a previous occupant (the guy with the shop above me now) that once these foot and a half thick stone walls get heated its really low maintenance to keep it in the mid 60's even in the worst of weather. I'll keep my fingers crossed. :)


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I don't heat anything. I do wear bicycle gloves. I use the small rivet forge/portable as I can stand directly next to the heat. I position a twin burner propane behind me when at the forge and I turn 1/4 turn right to face the anvil. Works quite well, but I don't do much of that. 35 foot ceiling and vented copula. (old barn/blacksmith shop)  I generally take the bulk of winter off. I use the shop at work to make some tools in winter but use the Oxy-acetylene torch. 

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well this one is gunna be fun :D 

my "shop" is outside our barn so my forge anvil and vise are all outside, so the first thing i do is remove the 3ft of snow off of everything and shovel or pack down a trail to my coal (in a small shed next to the barn) after i get all the snow moved and my trails packed i start my forge (i cover it with an old piece of tin) so i can warm up and start bringing my hammers and stuff out. the hardest part for me is thawing out the water bucket.

usually i wear a coat, hat, gloves, and insulated boots when i get out there but after i start forging the layers start to come off and i am usually in either just a T shirt or sweatshirt depending on how cold it is.  a couple times i managed to keep my coat on but it was about -10F if i remember correctly. 

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Well, I didn't get my shop finished before the tree got me so it's a red iron steel building without insulation or proper wiring. If I do any cold weather forging I start a fire in the barrel stove, lay a piece of 2" thick plate on it, plug in the magnetic engine heaters stuck to the propane tank and go back in the house for another cup of coffee. I come out in half an hour or more, stoke the stove again and maybe put the preheater plate on the anvil if it's hot enough.

If it's only cool, say 20f or warmer I'll just light the fire ad go to work while the plate warms up on the stove. I'll put the tea pot in the stack robber (heat exchanger) to heat up and maybe plug in the old coffee pot.

So long as it isn't really cold, say 0f or colder I don't have to go through a lot. Warm feet is a must and I have old fashioned surplus VB boots. They are big bulbous white rubber boots that would look right at home on bozo the clown but are rated to -60f and I've worn them in worse. Warm feet and head are good so I'll wear a welding cap or sock hat. I may wear my hoody lined flannel shirt but that's about it. My propane forge radiates enough heat out the front to keep you toasty above the breast pockets.

The worst thing about the shop not being finished is condensation in winter, the propane forge really puts out water and it condenses on the uninsulated roof panels right over where I work and I get dripped on after a while. <sigh>

Given a choice though I stick to warm places in winter.

Frosty The Lucky.

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You forget that when I come over you get to swing a 14 lb aledge for me while I use a cool 3lber lol. I'm so nice :)


yeah, that'll warm ya up in a hurry. Lol  I make for a slow power hammer tho so remember when you signal to stop that 14 ponder is coming down one more time. :D

Edited by Daswulf
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when it gets cold, starting about nowadays, I have the wood stove in the shop to take the chill off.  If really cold, I'll light a gas forge to get heat faster while the stove is warming up.  Best thing with the wood stove is I use a shovel full of coals to start the coke in the solid fuel forge real easy.  I don't wear gloves or a hat in the shop and I end up working in t-shirt and jeans when the shop gets really warm.  Then I open the door to cool it down some, even in the dead of winter.  It's nice to work inside.......:)

Edited by rthibeau
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Hummmm.  Chicken Waterier Heaters, great idea have a number of them and now no chickens to water.  Have some nice Galv. ones not all that old.  I knew I moved them north for a reason to the new farm.  I don't know what a bird bath heater is like around here the birds are on their own.   Bad day when you don't learn something new, here it is 8:51am and I've learned something, now the question is do I quit now or try for 2? 

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Years ago when I was a young boiler makers apprentice, you would never use a chain when there was a frost in the shop .it was always rapped around the coal fire bucket to warm the frost out before use

With a frost in the chain it could snap with the advent of the kuplex? chains, we didn't warm them .

I was  told wrought iron don't like the cold. ?

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Working in the shop in winter?   Well I guess I put on a long sleeve shirt and wear shoes and not sandals.  I don't hold with water in the shop so no need to worry about it freezing.  The dryness is not a factor after 9 months of single digit humidities on a regular basis and my hammer handles are soaked in linseed oil so humidity changes usually don't affect them anyway.

Back when I lived in central Ohio I used to keep a scrap of plywood around to stand on when forging around 0C or lower,  helps to keep your feet warm.  Cold temps will really show you that a heavy weight oil may not have been the best choice in your hand crank blower.  Capt Atli uses an old cloth iron to warm his anvil up.  I usually heated a steel plate and put it on.  Warming up power tools before use is a *good* *idea* including powerhammers!  Note that a propane forge is essently a "salamander" gas heater BUT BEWARE OF CO!!!!!  I consider excessive ventilation to be barely sufficient!

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My entire setup is in my apartment until I want to take it outside (too close to Camden and a bunch of scrap yards; NOTHING of value stays outside). So, when it snows, I'm out shoveling the walkway, a path to where I set up (a now defunct driveway), and then shoveling my workspace before I haul everything outside. If it's not snowing, then I just haul everything out.

My setup consists of moving a stump and an old grill, then carrying out and setting up the anvil (134# budden) and forge (Diamondback 2 burner blacksmith) onto each of these, respectively. Then it's hauling out my toolbox, stock, my work table, and any power tools I may need or smaller tools I can't fit into my toolbox at this time. By that point, I'm already pretty warm.

I tend to be geared up with a short sleeve shirt with a flannel shirt over it, a wool driver's cap, normal pants, wool socks, and my boots (not steel toe). If it's bitterly cold, I might wear a glove on my hammer hand, but I try to avoid that by relying on the forge for warmth or keeping a hand in my pocket when not hammering.

I've considered using spare stock for warming the forge, but until recently I didn't have stock that would handle that. I did, however, have two projects in the forge at the same time, so there was always something warm on the forge. It didn't work out too well for me (haven't even gotten a year under my belt yet), so I might not try that again this year.


Honestly, no real tricks, just lots of moving, layers, and being willing to fight the cold to work.


I am hoping to move out of the area before this winter really settles in (fingers crossed on my job hunt). Depending on the location, I might have an indoor option I can take over (like a garage or large shed), but otherwise I'll be doing what I do now.

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There is nothing for mice to eat in my shop so they will not try to be there.

I do not heat my anvil. The steel I hit is about 1000° C I do not think it matters if the anvil is +20° or -10°. The temperature drop is approximately the same. Only 3% more in the winter.

Like Frosty I carry water to and from the slack tub. Usually via garden hose from the hot water tap.

It is difficult to heat the shop since the exhaust quickly removes all warm air with the smoke. Gloves, boots and a warm jacket helps before I start to heat up from within. I try to make sure I do not carry snow into the shop on (under) my boots.

My shop is built for Swedish winters so it is snow-proof. The problem is quick temperature changes. If it has been cold and then suddenly gets warmer, there tends to be condensation on heavy items. I usually spray a thin layer of rust oil on the anvils. There is no need to remove it before using the anvil. The layer is so thin. Other tools are not a problem and I do nothing to them. The lathe is, however. I keep an old bed sheet over it and a 200W heater with thermostat  below. The sheet stays at all times to avoid getting extra dust in the machinery.

I have a sack of very dry charcoal and one of fairly dry coal in the shop and the coal does not freeze solid. I get some condensation on the underside of my tin roof but it seems to stay there.

The only fluids I have in the shop are oils so I do nothing to them.

I have an old champagne bottle standing in a window as a flower vase. I of course keep it empty of water if there is a risk of frost.

My "chimney" is horizontal so no snow enters that way.

Thank you for reminding me about freezing sharpening stones I will keep them in a heated place.

Merry Christmas everyone



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