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Minimum Work Triangle Footprint


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I'm in the first (wishful) phase of designing a smithy. So far, I won't be able to build until next spring due to pesky student loan payoffs, but I hope to put together a micro-shop of sorts, a walled shed 6'x6', 8' tall lean to up to 9' in the front. I recognize that 6x6 is a small area, but I want to limit myself intentionally, as I know that this craft lends itself to growing exponentially! 

I have a rough floorplan, and I'd like some input. Especially regarding the work triangle, what is the minimum that is recommended? I will be making small items only, no gates, railings or the like. small hardware, tools, and decorative hooks, 1/2" starting stock and lower, mostly. 

 

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Small spaces are fine. I have found that no matter what I work on my " work triangle " is small. In any shop I have ever set up I've figured a 1/4 turn to the the anvil from the forge, a 1/4 turn to the the vise. I might suggest you move your vise and bench to the window side, this would give you better light for bench work. In a small work shop like this, if you ever add artificial lights, put them on the edges of the work space and not in the center. From personal experience, I found I was always working in shadow of 1 light in center of shop.  Lot's of nice things have come from small spaces. Good Luck. Al

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Minimum work triangle? Think of the traditional smithies of Asia and Africa, where the smith works seated. In those arrangements, everything has to be in arm’s length of a seated position. 

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Well it depends on what type of forge you are using and what your heat tolerance is.  I could probably do a lot of forging in a 3-4' square including forge, vise and anvil.

Using a single soft firebrick forge I have forged in my basement, sitting in a chair so 3'x3' would work too.

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Very True, all of the comments; I will be using a coal forge, I may put another window in the back opposite the doors. This would give me up to three ventilation spots. The coal forge I am going to keep very small, as I know I don't need any larger than a brake rotor-esque forge. It is not going to be a luxery, but I want something that I can call mine.

Would the space be better utilized with a large workbench in back like I have, or with other open space for the anvil/vise/forge? And how does my placement look now? 

I'm going to try and get this mocked up on Friday, even though walls may not come until the spring. 

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I'd move the anvil and vise 1 block closer to the forge.  Got a driveway?  Get some playground chalk and lay out your ideas and then practice moving with a typical piece of  steel and tools and see what works the best for *YOU*.  

I'm right handed and so that's the hand I crank the blower with and like to rotate anti-clockwise to the anvil from the forge---but that's just personal preference.  When I'm using the propane forge I  can set it up either way.

Have you thought of extending the workbench over the coal bin and "mining" some floor space that way?   Perhaps shifting the vise to the corner of it nearest the forge?

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Ok. I redrew the layout, hopefully this might maximize the space. My anvil is only 75lbs, so it is on the small size and doesn't need that much room. 

I have a small machinist vise as well as a larger post vise, I plan on using both. The forge I need to figure out still. I had a Champion 400 and whirlwind Firepot, but I want to downsize that so I'm selling it. But that does leave me without a blower, but that's for another day. 

 

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You can store a ton of coal on a pallet that is 4 feet deep. 500 pounds in a 55 gallon drum. You have to ask yourself just how much coal do you need to store inside? Square kitty litter buckets are useful as they are square (minimum lost space) and stack-able. Pull one out and put it next to the forge for use. Put a board across the remainder of the buckets to make a shelf and still use the space.

Put your metal stock vertical or hang the long pieces diagonally from the ceiling. A couple of beam hooks into the wall studs and you can hang a lot of the stock on the walls. 

By putting the forge and the counter tops at the same height, you can share the area.

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"My anvil is only 75lbs, so it is on the small size and doesn't need that much room"

The issue is the distance from the forge to the anvil; how does having a small anvil make that distance smaller? If you have to take more than 1 step from working at the forge to working at the anvil; its TOO FAR AWAY for working small stuff!


 

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In my drawing, I have the anvil about 2' away from the forge. I figure I occupy 1' square, so perhaps I'll move it 6" closer so that I have some pivot room. Or, maybe I'll just add a swivel chair and sit down! :D

-Glenn, I think you're right with the coal. I only really need a small coffee can of it for an hour or two of forging. Anything more, and I can just have an outdoor bin. Hey, maybe one outside the window like a flowerpot, just open the window and grab coal! 

Steel stock I'll store upright if its short enough, or outside. I have plenty of outside space, so I might go that route. 

 

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Hang onto the Champion 400 it will be out of the way. I would put the anvil where the post vise is. If you are working small items speed is a must and having to do a 180 each time burns up time. With it right there you can have everything ready to go as soon as you pull the stock out of the fire.

This was my last setup. image.png.49141fd3f9ca2200651a0ea173f4ed80.png

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For me an equalateral triangle works best and one step from forge to anvil and post vice, and one step from anvil to post vice.

Unless it's a temporary setup for me, I always mount my post vice on a post buried well into the ground. Being  able to work a full 360 degrees around your post vice is a wonderful vice to have..

Also you might consider placing your forge in a corner, on dhe diagional. Meaning the back of he forge faces the corner Apex., This will be a bit more efficient and give you more room for your benches and other tools that will magically appear in the future. And if you do long stock, then cut a pass thru where needed in the corner.

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Smoggy - you don't happen to have a photo that I can draw inspiration from, do you? I know its not terribly common to have such a small shoppe, but I want to work with what I have! 

Ok, I got it mocked up, and it looks like the shop will be built in the next couple of weeks; my dad volunteered to lend me the money to build the shop, so I'm going to. 

Now that I have it laid out, I'm leaning more towards 8' x 8'. The forge is 26" x 24", built today. 

As far as shop design, I'm thinking lean-to, 8' in the back, 9' in the front, open front, three sides each with windows. I'm hoping to leave the eaves open for ventilation. Now, in my last shop, which had all four sides open, I did not have a chimney, burning coal. Would I be able to get by if my forge is one foot inside the open front without a stack? I'm thinking the coal would follow the roof out, but I'm worried about getting smoked out. The prevailing wind is from the back, and there is a treeline just behind the shop. With an open back window, would the air pull the smoke out of the shop? 

 

Thank you all for your knowledge and willingness to share! 

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I don't have a photo but it'll be of little use to you anyway, as you equipment will differ. I have a central walkway with a chair at the far end from the door, one side is the forge with the box bellows underneath, on the other side anvil, quench and other sundries, I have no room for tools, fuel or stock and keep it elsewhere only taking what I need for the session.

I do have a small gas bottle stove fitted in the corner that I make charcoal in.

You may find it usefull to have a removable wall panel by the forge to facilitate extra stock length and you should consider the same for the anvil.

You may also wish to consider what can be placed outside, for instance a quench could live outside the door yet be easy to acceess. I have a wooden work bench opposite the smithy with a vice but only use it on dry days.

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Don't forget, direct sunlight is the hardest type of light to identify colors

And with a 3 sided shop you should not have a problem with smoke,,, other than when you first light your coal fire

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I'm not too knowledgeable about spacing, but to me your shop looks pretty good. Tho only thing I would recommend is a bucket of water somewhere in or near your work triangle. I find it pretty useful for cooling mild steel, though it probably wouldn't work as a quench bucket. Plus, if anything you don't want burning happens to catch fire you don't have to run to the hose.

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Of course such bucket should have a lid on it if you will be working high carbon stuff.  High carbon steel makes a lemming look laid back and mellow in it's rush to immolate itself!  I have seen a piece being worked make a 3 corner bank shot to manage to drop into a water bucket and shatter!

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Seems my metal has a bit more of a will to live for some reason, so far I haven't had to protect any steel from swimming in my quench bucket. I'll be sure to put a sheet metal cover over my bucket from now on, though. Wouldn't want them to get any ideas.

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Well, after laying it out, I decided to go with 8x8 for the building size. 

I think it will work well, the triangle is in the front by the opening. Rain may come in slightly, but I think that will be mitigated by careful planning of the overhanging roof. 

As far as the back of the shop, it will be a workbench, 5" Post vise and some under the bench storage. I'll keep a small can of water next to the forge for cooling mild steel, but no big quench tub for me. Possible a #10 can of water hidden somewhere, but that's about it. 

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As you are designing and build a shop, incorporate all matter of things into the design.

Fold down work bench hinged on the long side to the wall.

Under table storage for short stock, tools, and what ever else you can put under the table. Just make it easy to get to and get back under the table.

Add a slot under the edge of the table to hold that speed square, just slide it out for use, and back into the slot for storage.

If you have a welding table, weld a piece of pipe or square tubing (say 2 inch) to the edge of the table and flush with the tip of the table for storing the welding rods you are using. Leave only the bare part of the rod sticking above the table.

Lots of little things just to make life easier for you. 

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