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Workshop Flooring!

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Hello Everyone,  

I would like to start a post dedicated to the options a blacksmith can have for a floor in his or her workshop. I've looked around as much as I could within these busy days to find some posts and noticed that there is not a dedicated post which highlights the options/pros/cons of each type of floor.

I have read that one of the best floors is the Adobe/earthen floor in terms of physique but I have yet to find a really good guide for how to go about making such a floor and how to harden or soften it if necessary. Any info on this matter is welcomed since I am thinking that this will be the floor that I will be making for my new workshop in Larnaca. Are there any books that explain how to make such a floor? How does the earthen floor come into conflict with a windy weather and windows open during the summer time? (will I be breathing the sand if there is wind through the workshop?) or can it become hardened enough in order to not have any particles dispersed through the air? Another question is if it will absorb the steel dust produced from grinding or if I will have to do a dedicated grinding room with a concrete floor so that it will be easier to clean and have a ventilation system in the room that will get rid of the particles immediately!

Next is the option of a wooden floor or wooden tiles that will provide a smooth concrete-like surface which will be coated with a varnish that will be inflammatory (if possible)! My only question is if there is a type of wood that is better against fire hazards and will be ok by the inspection of the fire department because they are very strict in the safety of the workshops built within the town! 

And lastly is there another type of flooring that I could be considering that is easy on the legs throughout the day? 

P.S. if there is another post which covers the matter that I haven't found please direct me to that one and I will erase this one! Happy smithing Year to everyone! 




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(If you're trying to find something on IFI, ignore the Search function: it's not great. Instead, use the internet search engine of your choice and include "iforgeiron.com" as one of your search terms. That's how I found those three links; it took all of about six seconds.) 

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 A packed dirt floor is traditional in a forge shop and easy on the body. You can dig it up to run water , air , or power lines.

Anvils , post vises , fixed benches and power hammers and other stationary machinery can have proper sized concrete footings buried below grade.

Sparks don't fly far when they hit a dirt floor and hot pieces don't roll and are easy to pick up.

Rake it smooth and flat every few days as a way to gather your thoughts and to warm your body up for the days work ahead.

Dirt floors aren't perfect, but they have a lot of advantages.  I've never lost so much as a rivet in the dirt.

Here's mine,  20+ years of dirt, sand , clay, scale , swarf ,crushed clinker and ash, wetted down and tamped periodicaly.



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 I'm sure that there is ''recipe'' for a dirt floor, but eliminating any organic matter and rocks that keep the floor from compacting is a good start. Some clay in the mix helps.

Keeping it damp helps to pack it down and keeps it from being too dusty in dry weather. 

In addition to the inherent softness of the floor , the natural gentle  contours that develop over time feels good as you move around the shop.

I sweep mine with a stiff broom between times that I go over it all with a fine toothed spring rake to gather up the leaves that blow in and the small rocks that work their way to the surface.

There is some maintenance involved and a lot of people would prefer to just pour a concrete lab and be done with it.

I wouldn't put a wood floor in a blacksmith shop, although it was fairly common at one time.

Recently ,I had an inspection at short notice from my industrial insurance company in regards to fire and ways to minimize the risk . Among other things, they seemed to like the fact that I had a dirt floor in all the areas of the shop where hot work was done. 

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Make sure that you've got good drainage, especially if your local dirt is high in clay. That stuff will soak up water and get muddy like nobody's business. Gutters and drainpipes to get rainwater away from the building are a good idea.

11 minutes ago, beaudry said:

I wouldn't put a wood floor in a blacksmith shop, although it was fairly common at one time.

Wood floors are quite comfortable to stand on, especially for long periods of time. Samuel Yellin's workshop had timber floors. The furniture shop/warehouse where I used to work in Brooklyn was in one of the old Navy Yard buildings (where they used to machine cannon barrels), and the floor was endgrain blocks of creosote-impregnated oak bedded in sand.

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 My forge shop was something that  quickly evolved in the flat area in front of my enclosed wood shop [ wood floor ] and machine shop [ concrete slab ]  .

Within a few months the business took off into a full time paying occupation and it grew to it's present form.

At first I just had a tarp for an awning to cover the area until I built a heavy timber roof structure and some sidewalls.

Even now , knowing some of the disadvantages and advantages of different types of floors,  I'd  still do it basically the same way.

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16 minutes ago, JHCC said:

Plus, you can use those moments waiting for your workpiece to reheat as opportunities to practice your bank shots.

It's kinda neat that the side pockets are still visible on the front edge. Makes for good conversation when someone asks about my hobby smithy. 

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The problem you're running into is common for folk breaking into a craft. You want hard answers so you can build your shop right but you don't have the experience to know what's right for you. This is the perfect time to ask questions.

What kind of floor you need or want has a number of variables effecting the better choice and the final deciding factor is YOUR preference. My preference for a shop floor except for casting is concrete. Good posture and boots pretty much answers the aching back, feet argument. I've worked on concrete my whole life and when I did fabrication it was essential. A FLAT concrete floor makes an excellent layout table and doesn't move. Moving a 1,000 kilo piece of equipment, job, etc. with a hand truck or just rollers is EASY on concrete, give it a try on compacted soil. Sure it can be done but it's more work. 

I don't have to do anything to level a piece of equipment if I move it other than sweep the floor. If it moves then the equipment, tool, etc. has an uneven base and needs a shim. Easy Peasy. If I'm doing  heavy work, say straightening a large coil spring, I can put a 2 meter cheater pipe on a BIG pipe wrench or scrolling wrench and pull for all I'm worth. The floor won't shift under me and I won't slip if I sweep it first.

I have GOOD work boots, two pairs of "White's, Logger Smoke Jumpers" but these are custom made back when I was making excellent money spending 10 hrs. on my feet and lived by one of the better axioms I know. "Take care of your back and feet!" If either one is injured you're out of the game or so effectively reduced you might as well be. I don't do heavy work anymore, bad accident ended that for me. Another pair of work boots I used in the shop most of the time have hard foam soles, they replaced the gum sole boots I'd worn out earlier. They weren't soft under foot but they didn't conduct shock to your feet. Now I mostly wear slip on boots with Vibram soles or sneakers if I'm not doing hot work.

I think that  covers my preferences and reasoning pretty well but I can discuss it more if you'd like.

If you like the idea of a hard packed soil floor then it's easy to make one. Sift out the big rocks, say more than 10 mm. ad no more than about 15% in the mix. Decreasing sized crushed gravel to sand and about 5% dust or clay. Mix it thoroughly with NO MORE than about 2% moisture, you only want enough water in the mix to act as a lubricant to let particle slip past each other during compacting to give you the densest floor possible. Too much water takes up space in the floor that should be compacted soil and when the water wicks or evaporates out of the space it leaves a void which can shift under force. If ANY free moisture shows up during compaction the soil is too wet! Free moisture is ANY wetness while you're compacting. If your plate compacter leaves a wet trail like a snail or slug your soils are TOO WET.

Is limestone available to you? If so buy enough 12mm.- crushed to cover the floor l at least 60 mm. deep. Lay and level it then compact it thoroughly preferably with a plate compacter, you'll know when it's done when the compactor is just bouncing around like a coin on a drum. Remember just DAMPEN the mixture as described above. Crushed limestone will compact like concrete and stay where you put it but NOT consolidate. That's cement itself together like concrete, you can still dig if you need to but it won't be easy.

The same rules apply for any soil foundation, a floor is a foundation. Fines will compact hard and gravel is the reinforcing so it can't shift too easily. A LITTLE moisture is a lubricant that makes good compaction possible too much makes god compaction impossible.

I worked in a soil's lab and later for the Bridges and Foundations Geology section for the State. I'm not an engineer but I have a good handle on this subject.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I concur with Frosty.  I may be a greenhorn blacksmith but spent 34 years as a geotechnical (soil and foundation) engineer.

I have a 10x16 shop.  I leveled the soil, scuffed the surface with a rake, moistened it to a damp condition, then evenly spread 2 - 94 lb. bags of cement powder over the entire surface.  I used the rake to work the cement into the upper 2 inches or so, then tamped it by dropping the squared off end of a log on it (too cheap to rent a compactor...but admittedly that would have been better).  Then I let it setup for a few days.  I scored about 10 pails of crushed chips for road surfacing and spread that over it...but that is not necessary.  Looks neat but don't drop a rivet and expect to find it.

The floor is nice and stable.  I think it is a little better than just packed soil.  Cost me $22.  Did I mention that I am cheap?

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1 hour ago, JHCC said:

You need to up your cheapness game, my friend.

Well I got 2.5 tons of coal for $100.  That would be a steal at $1 per 50# bag…for those that buy coal at Tractor Supply (notwithstanding BTU differences).


I like the challenge of frugality…leaves more to be generous with where it counts.

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hey everyone! Yes, Frosty again you are right from the first assumption in the post! The problem I've been facing with my concrete floor is firstly posture because it is really difficult for me to hammer on the anvil and stand straight due to scoliosis I've been suffering for almost my entire life! I have begun to swim and do areal silks to improve posture for the long run. Secondly, we have a shortage of shops here in Cyprus who stock good working shoes and any attempts to order online have proven fatal due to the sizes each company makes. I've ordered a pair of welder shoes from Amazon in size 45 and when they arrived it was almost size 47 for my legs! I sent them back and took another pair from another company and it still didn't fit well so I just quit the whole deal! But yes now to think of it I think it will be better to have a concrete floor and maybe I will make a gravel, sand mixture as you suggested only in the forging triangle!

Anyway, it is pretty late here so we will talk tomorrow! Thanks everyone for all the comments!   

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This just proves the old adage  that if you ask 10 blacksmiths a question you will get at least 11 answers, mostly opinions based on varying amounts of real world experience.

Another good option is a brick floor

I have a friend that has built two  blacksmith shops with this kind of floor and really likes them for a number of reasons. 

He poured concrete stem walls and then brought in a mixer truck with a load of pit run sand and water slurry.

The sand slurry was poured on the floor sub grade and  leveled with screeds. When the slurry set up hard, he dry laid hard bricks on the entire floor. 

When it came time  to install the power hammer, he pulled up the bricks in that area and poured a deep concrete foundation block .

The floor is fireproof , easy on the feet and  yet hard and solid enough to roll machinery on.

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What's not to love? Dirt floors are easy on the feet, Endgrain wood blocks look cool, are comfortable, and long lasting. Cement is smooth, comfortable and clean. I've mostly done dirt, as it was readily available and cheap.

I'd stay away from varnishes, they usually burn easier than the wood they protect. If you have something like a smooth wooden floor, (very much not recommended as a fire hazard) you can get some, imperfect protection by putting sand down near areas you may drop hot steel, or clad them in metal. Without long exposure, most of the time dropped steel just kind of smolders or chars the floors, but don't take chances as burning down your forge softens the anvils, irritates your spouse, and makes for a generally bad day. Wood buildings, wood floors, and and wooden forges always have an element of risk to them.

Inflammatory means tending to cause something to burn, and inflammable means the same thing as flammable. I know, it's confusing to me too.

A note, if you plan on putting in a power hammer at some point, especially a large one, the flooring underneath will have to be specially prepared so as not to trash your foundation, flooring, etc and send vibrations to your house and all your neighbors.

I've known people to mix in crushed rock and/or limestone, been wondering how Caliche would work. It's a clay found in central Texas that they use for foundations and roads and such. Like Frosty talks about, it compacts, but doesn't quite cement to itself. Very firm. Firm enough...well, if it were splitting wood, it would be splitting pecan that hadn't quite seasoned yet on a warm day, without a hydraulic splitter.


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Hi Beaudry,

do you have an image to post so I can see what it is exactly.? What is the sand slurry? the bricks you are talking about are the orange small bricks which are 20*10cm and 5cm thick? They are usually used on pavements and on decorating a road which is considered to be very old as in within the center of Larnaca for example. I think the most commonly available bricks are the ones on the middle image here but I like better the last one which is darker for a forge! And btw that is a great idea! thanks a lot! 




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Caliche is not a clay; it's a lime cemented sedimentary deposit---sort of like a low grade lime mortar.  Just get limestone crusher fines and wet them down on a regular basis and "make your own".

As for a wooden floor and fire: Don't varnish it;  just mop it with a strong borax and water solution and that will fireproof the surface quite a bit.

My casita here on the border has a mortared brick floor and masonry (concrete block) walls---even most of the internal ones!

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Those  are bricks set in mortar, but a inch of sand or rock dust with brick layer over it with sand swept in the cracks (1/2” of sand over the top and a vibrating plate compactor works very well to lock them in works very well). 

If ine googles “earthen floored” one will find a lot of information on traditinal adobe and cob floors. When treated with linseed oil they are beautiful and durable. 

Esentualy you fallow the plan laid out buy Frosty but use a bit more clay and finer particles in the top layer (you have better luck laying it in layers so it compacts) 

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Actually wood is out of the question because of the fire department! (they don't allow it!) But yes I will consider if the best solution is either brick floor or earthen. But after the suggestion by Beaudry I think I am quite leaning towards the brick floor with sand or mortar beneath them and a good pair of shoes made by order with a soft sole and some good protection. I believe that it will be easy to clean and provide the uneven gripping points so that the legs are more stable while forging.

Thanks to everyone who posted and for your very informative advice! if you would like to add something else feel free!

Kind Regards,

Andreas Santis!  

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