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I Forge Iron

Sit down forging

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It seems like a good idea when shaping a long bar of steel ...or something with a handle. . .but looks risky when welding or when holding the work with tongs.

I like to be able to jump back in case a hot piece of metal jumps from my tongs.

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Nick, can you provide some cites for "Sitting is commonly shown in medieval and early renaissance illustrations of smiths" as except for cold work by armourers and a hausbuch nailer IIRC in the several hundred pictures I have seen of medieval and renaissance smiths I have never seen on working at the forge sitting down, (not even the roman ones; though ISTR several in a book on Egyptian metalworking centuries before the medieval period).

I have most of the common books on arms and armour (and a number of the uncommon ones as well) so just a cite would be sufficient and I can dig the pictures out myself.

I have forged sitting down. It works best for me for small stuff with the anvil repositioned lower; I wear a heavy leather apron which deals with the hot bar in the lap very well.

I will also mention that sitting down when using a powerhammer is not uncommon in european practice. (As can be seen in Manfred Sachse's "Damascus Steel".)

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'Fraid I don't have any of my books here with me, but when I get a chance I'll take another look.

I was largely thinking of several of the armourers, nailers, farriers, and some plain ol' smiths I've seen. I suppose most of them stand, like my favorite (attached).



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I seriously messed up my back in an accident about 17 years ago, broke a few ribs right next to the spine on the right side. One thing I have heard others say is once you hurt your back it is never the same again, I agree.
There have been times when I quit forging for the day because of fatigue, not really pain just a general stiffness and general muscle shut down.
One idea I've been kicking around is to try a pedestal seat such as is seen in the front of a bassboat, sort of a half sitting-half standing position.
Just some thoughts.:)Dan

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I have done some sitting down forging- actually, rather - squatting down forging!! (No chair) and it wasn't easy at first, especially when you are accustomed to standing.

see pics on my website, www.colleendupon.com and go to the Research- Gaduliya Lohar page

Its the traditional way of working for the Gaduliay Lohar- nomadic blacksmiths of india. I worked with them in 2003 as part of a scholarship I was awarded. I did find that after I got used to it, it was a more natural way of working- they showed me how to use my bare feet as well. It sounds a lot more dangerous than it actually is- they don't have power tools! no electricity, ( you can do a lot less damage with a file than a grinder)

They sit squat down in the sand on a burlap bag, or other piece of natural cloth, and fold the ends of it to cover the feet when forging. The fire (a forge in the earth) is at arms length on either right or left so there is no heat loss from taking a couple of steps. If they do striking with a sledge, the striker will stand, but generally the one holding the metal still sits. I wouldn't say that there was much more danger to it squatting down, it makes you pretty agile to be in that position, and you can jump up pretty quickly if needs be, but all my time there, I never needed to. You can see from the photos that the major danger point is no eye protection, for them, or myself. It was circumstantial and poor planning on my part that I didn't have any. (I had travelled over numerous countries for six months before I reached India, and I naively assumed I would be able to get some out in the cities there- of course it just slipped my mind whilst viewing temples, interesting locals and trying to dodge rickshaws, camel carts, vintage 1950s cars, montrous decorated trucks and holy cows, so I ended up in the middle of the Great Thar Desert forging with no eyewear...(or shoes.. etc) when in rome they say.

Sitting down forging was great in that environment, it wouldn't work in my workshop here.

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  • 2 years later...

I just rearranged my forging area so I could sit down for it. It really seems a lot nicer than standing up -- though it could just be the novelty of trying something new.

One thing I like about it is that it really makes you think about where to put things so that you don't have to get up. Good for me, since when I was stepping around in the shop, I was having this bad habit of setting hammers and tongs down somewhere, then not finding them again when the metal got to temperature. Now I can't lose them! Much easier on the back, too. Also keeps you in the relatively cooler part of the shop.

Still need to figure out what to do with the vise.. since it's a post vise, it kind of has a minimum height built into it, and I don't want to chop it up. I used to have a few smaller post vises that might've worked, but someone apparently threw them in the trash a few years ago without asking me..

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When I first injured my back I tried lots of different positions to ease the pain but just never found a position that just didn't cause extreme pain. When I looked a the video Glenn posted and watched the fellow forging I saw right off why I was in such pain. Where my back is most damaged is the bottom four vertebrae, then up the just below the scapula and it is the flexing of them that keeps grinding and pinching the nerves. I have one totally dislocated vertebrae and it grinds on the one above and below it. There is a lot more action just above the pelvis than I though there would be just sitting on your butt and swinging a hammer. Even now forging small copper and silver stock can about kill me with pain. :blink:
I have seen the Native American silversmith sitting under the portico of the Palace of the Governor's in Santa Fe, NM as a kid sitting cross legged forging and chasing silver jewelry and a kid I went to school with his dad was an old time tinker who sat on the floor of his little shop in the back of the house and fixed pots and pans, also made new ones out of copper and tinned the inside, nice fellow, always busy sitting there with one knee up and the other crossed. Had soldering irons in a small charcoal fire. I wonder what happened to all of his tools :huh:

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Haven't tried it for forging yet. Have done a lot of welding mostly tig. Have a low to the ground roller
and a higher drafting chair(roller) Have had a few tungstun balls roll off the table. Also did a 40' trailer
deck overhead 36" off the ground. Sit on a moving dolly. I'll let ya guess where all the blobs and berries go.
Bet I could lower the drafting chair to a good height. Put a hammer loop on one arm and a drink holder on the other.

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If I'm not mistaken sit down forging is pretty common in Japan and Africa. The thing that really caught my attention watching the video is how loud his anvil is, the steel was hot enough it should've been pretty quiet, I'm thinking it was just sitting on the gound so there was nothing to damp it.

Frosty the Lucky.

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