Thursigar

Suburbanite Shop

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Hello everyone! I'm new to blacksmithing but have been doing a great deal of learning. I've pribably already spent 25 or more hours reading and watching various videos. I already have a small bookshop in my garage, but would like to build a shed primarily for metal casting/blacksmithing (yes, I know two very different fabrication techniques), but also have as a place to do so misc other work. 

Anyway, I live in the suburbs and have already pulled the building codes, hoa regulations, and zoning permissions. With everything combined, I can only have a shop that is 9 ft high at its tallest point and 150 square feet total. I was thinking of doing a post foundation to have the safety and comfort of a dirt floor. 

Do you guys have any recommendations on the dimensions of those 150 square feet? I was thinking maybe doing 10x15 to be able to use 10 ft lumber, but didnt know if that would be to narrow a working space once I put in the forge/tools/anvil/existing equipment. 

Right now I'm planning on a dual burner gas forge to eliminate smoke and smell for my neighbors. Are there any safety concerns with it being this size? I've considered both putting in sheet metal and spraying the inside with a fire retardant. but I dont know how expensive either option would be. Also slightly concerned about the long term health effects of fore retardant sprays. 

Finally, I know I can wrap a chain around my anvil, use magnets, and bury it a little in sand. But do you guys have any other suggestions on noise reduction, also to be a considerate neighbor? We are already very friendly with at least 2/3 of our neighbors and dont want to spend too much social capital on our noise levels if it can be prevented. 

Finally, I'm doing all of this as cheaply as possible. So if any suggestions could steer towards cheaper that would be great!

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I do not want to burst your bubble but 25 hours is a vanishing small amount of time in studying this craft...I've spent more time that that just on one book. (The Knight and the Blast Furnace, Alan Williams).

Anyway  shop layout depends on what you plan to do in it: Gates or sculpture where you may want to swing a 20' long stick of steel requires a different sized shop than doing hand forged jewelry that might fit comfortably in a  6'x6' space.

When I take the forge on the road I fit very nicely in a 10'x10' area with forge&blower, anvil postvise and tools on a small work bench. 10' x 15 ' should give you enough room for both a forging and a casting area---perhaps separated by a "shared" fireproof workbench.

The issue with running propane in a confined space is CO. Can you make the shed with sliding barn doors on the sides? Open up the forge area when running the forge. Open up the casting area when running the foundry?

As for cost; not knowing where you are at and the rules you have to meet makes it hard to advise you.  My last shop addition was made using hail damaged steel roofing, Free, utility poles, Free, Over run steel roofing, Free---bad hailstorm damaged all the roofs in town and when they reroofed the public schools there had considerable left overs that a friend was hired to dispose of..... I did buy 2 old used trusses and a used roll up door and C shaped metal purlins and a LOT of SDST metal screws. Living out in the country in New Mexico USA there was no hassle building such a structure and friends helped setting the utility poles and lifting the trusses.

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Hey Thomas, thanks for your reply. 

 

I didnt mean to insinuate 25 hours was sufficient or that I understand.well, ANYTHING really. Just that i was and am attempting to do my due diligence first before seeking the advice of others.

As far as where I am located, I am in Pflugerville, a suburb of Austin Texas.

Good point about the ventilation, I have not thought of a solution to that hurdle yet. Sliding doors may very well be an option...

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Have you gone to any of the meetings of the Balcones Forge group out that way?  Seeing what other people are using in your area might be a big help dealing with climate and availability of cheap stuff.  balconesforge.org   next meeting looks to be Oct 27

I get out that way at least once a year as my boss works off of Parmer and  I-35 and I visit the "Mother Ship". 

 

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3 hours ago, Thursigar said:

I am in Pflugerville

We won't remember this after leaving this post, hence the suggestion to edit your profile to include location. I suggest reading this thread to get the best out of the forum.

https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/53873-read-this-first/

BTW Welcome to IFI... and a dual burner propane forge will roar like a jet engine. If you want low noise level look into a charcoal JABOD forge with a hand pump blower.

Our forge is only ten feet wide but thirty feet long. Most of our work is conducted in fifteen feet of that length and the rest is storage. Been working for my wife & I for at least thirty years, although we put in a ten by ten gravel pad outside the entry door for using our propane forge outside with an anvil and post vise.

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Welcome aboard, glad to have you. A 10' x 15' shop is enough space unless you're doing large projects like railings, driveway gates, etc.

There's a benefit to a concrete floor in this situation as well, it'll allow you to move equipment you aren't using out of the way more easily.  Sure you can move things on a dirt floor, especially if you've compacted it hard but it complicates things. for example I can scoot my anvils, leg vise, forge, etc. around with no more inconvenience than screachy noise. When I'm set up for demos on dirt I have to either get someone to help lift or bring a hand truck.

And yes, I tend to arrange my equipment for the project I'm doing at the time. For instance if I'm doing hooks I'm working multiple pieces and once drawn down they cool rapidly so I'm accessing the forge often, say every 5-6 minutes. For this type work I want the forge within reach of the anvil off to my left side. I do NOT want it at my back the radiated heat will toast you i short order. When I'm working heavier stock, say 3/4" sq. and up I want the forge farther away and facing away from me by about 90*. I'll be at the anvil working the stock and it'll take longer to heat so there is no reason to have that level or IR close. Having the extra free space is sometimes necessary as well, larger stock calls for larger tongs, sometimes two handed tongs.

Don't try to arrange your smithy in anything like a permanent manner till you've spent time working with the tools and equipment. Remember, there is NO PERFECT, just the best for what you're doing and that WILL change as your skills sets grow. The better you get the fewer tools you'll need but the more kinds you'll be able to use effectively. 

Of course that's just my opinion, yours WILL be different. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 10/8/2018 at 11:44 AM, Frosty said:

Welcome aboard, glad to have you.

Thanks for the warm welcome! 

I do not plan on doing any large projects, only small to medium. 

As far as the concrete floor goes, my other concern with concrete is that I will be doing some metal casting as well. I've read that if an accident occurs, the molten metal will cause the concrete to explode. I've also spent a good amount of time standing on top of concrete in my day job and would prefer something softer if possible. 

The points of not doing anything permanent is actually really great and relevant. I was starting to think through things that may be permanent in design, like exhaust vents or burying the anvil stand. 

On 10/7/2018 at 5:35 PM, ThomasPowers said:

Have you gone to any of the meetings of the Balcones Forge group out that way?  Seeing what other people are using in your area might be a big help dealing with climate and availability of cheap stuff.  balconesforge.org   next meeting looks to be Oct 27

I get out that way at least once a year as my boss works off of Parmer and  I-35 and I visit the "Mother Ship". 

I have not, as they are in San Antonio, a couple hours away. I did check them out though! 

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I suggest you spend more time perusing their site---the Marble Falls TX meeting was a lot closer as well as the classes being offered in Austin.   Note that many blacksmithing groups rotate where meetings are held among the members.

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I understand not liking to work on a concrete floor, I wear soft soled shoes but that's what works for me. You are absolutely correct about concrete and heat, a caster associate of mine has a large pan with a few inches of sand in it in which he pours bronze.

However there's nothing wrong with a dirt floor so long as you're prepared to compensate. Everything has consequences to compensate for say not just grabbing things in a hot shop. After smelling sizzling flesh or having it stick to your hide a couple times you learn to pause a second before touching it to feel for radiated heat first. Almost nobody touches the glowy red stuff, it's the 500 f black hot things that get you. Envision tossing a steak in a 500 f. dry cast iron pan. Hmmmm? I have a squeeze bottle of Aloe Vera gel in the shop and Silvadene in the house.

Be aware, Silvadene is NOT a trivial medication, there are potential side effects and interactions to take into account. It is however a good treatment for more serious burns say 2nd. and to prevent infection, etc. It's definitely a talk to the doc creme to have on hand. It works well for me but there are lots of folk sensitive to silver in so active a compound so be careful.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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I am a fellow suburbanite. Different suburb, but that's a minor point. :)

For what it's worth, my "shop" is all housed under an 8x8 El Cheapo tent roof thingy mostly on my back patio. I have a nice sized forge table (30"x 45") with some 8" duct hanging from the tent frame / resting on the forge table as a chimney. My anvil is mounted solidly to a stump (thin rubber mat between anvil and stump) and the stump sits freely on my patio. It makes very little noise and can be moved easily. My vise is mounted to a horse shaped contraption which can double as a vise mount for demos. I have a second stump sitting nearby that ends up being used like a coffee table. It just collects crap. 

All that sits under the 8x8 cover easily and I get plenty of work done there. Even in the snow. I do small stuff 99% of the time. 

As far as noise goes, I find that hammering orange hot metal doesn't make much noise. Missing the work makes noise. Cold chiseling makes noise. Filing makes noise. But the actual smiting part of smithing is one of the quieter in my experience. I'd spend a bit more time making cookies to buffer the days you have to cold cut and file something out of 1/8" plate rather than inventing a stealth field for the anvil.

On 10/8/2018 at 1:47 PM, Irondragon Forge & Clay said:

Ten other Smith's will have at least 19 other different opinions too

I'm not sure I hit my quota on opinions or not. I did try. ;)

IMG_0479.jpeg

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I was/am facing a similar dilemma as you. My property is only 10k square feet and our town allows up to 200 sqft structures. What I decided to do was to have two separate structures. First is a 10x10 shed with 3 work tables with grinders, drill press, small bandsaw, small tempering oven, and plenty room for finishing work. Directly next to it I have a steel gazebo meant to surround a bbq grill or firepit. I have a propane forge, post vise, anvil, and swage block under that structure. For the winter, I hung canvas from the structure and sprayed it with fire retardant material.  As for the neighbors I asked them if I was being to loud after a long day of banging steel.  They said they didn't notice anything out of the usual.  Having the more open structure allows me to forge larger items (not that I am doing that now)  and is also more comfortable in the summer compared to forging in a small shed.  Most importantly, my wife approves of the smaller structures in the backyard, she felt that the 20x10 structure would be too obtrusive in the backyard.  Up here they had all the remaining gazebos at the local big box store at 75% off in October, so that was also part of my decision making process.

FYI, I am not a blacksmith, I am just learning.  I have this great knack of learning how to do things the wrong way, but it is still learning...

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On 10/9/2018 at 11:20 AM, ThomasPowers said:

I suggest you spend more time perusing their site---the Marble Falls TX meeting was a lot closer as well as the classes being offered in Austin.   Note that many blacksmithing groups rotate where meetings are held among the members.

I have revisted the site and see that they move around (but are definitely based further south), thank you. 

 

On 10/9/2018 at 11:44 AM, Frosty said:

However there's nothing wrong with a dirt floor so long as you're prepared to compensate. Everything has consequences to compensate for...

So what are the drawbacks of a dirt floor....other than it being dirty lol?

Quote

Be aware, Silvadene is NOT a trivial medication

I am very Health and Saftey conscious. About 25% of my budget has been on PPE and other Saftey Equipment. Working HR in a manufacturing plant for a couple years will do that to you. 

 

On 11/16/2018 at 5:45 PM, robie1373 said:

For what it's worth, my "shop" is all housed under an 8x8 El Cheapo tent roof thingy mostly on my back patio.

After not getting a bonus this year, I am having to make considerable changes to my smithy plans. Going from a dedicated framed and sided structure to considering something temporary like this. How is the material holding up? I'm concerned about both material degradation over time as well as it being flammable. Considering getting something like this this week since its on sale: 10 foot x 8 foot x 8 foot

Shelter 01.jpg

 

Or this since it has a higher roof: 13 ft x 20 ft x 12 ft H

Shelter 02.jpg

If I do head in the enclosed direction, I would want to make sure the ventilation was good with a fan blowing air out the opening and already have 2 CO monitors (in case one fails). Thoughts from any of you more seasoned folks? 
 

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Depending on what kind of soils you have and how you treat it can mean the difference between nearly concrete hard and stable to sand trap. In general though the most common problems are: hard to move heavy things and easy to lose small things. Then there's the dusty dirty and damp floor.

None are insurmountable but they're worth consideration.

Frosty The Lucky.

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"Damp Floor"  location specific!  (Actually where I am located our soil is rated for direct pour for concrete installation---basically subsoil and no topsoil.)

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Frosty,

Have you, or any other I.F.I.  person(s),  used calcium chloride  (CaCl), to keep the dust down on a dirt floor smithy?

I have not done so,  but CaCl  is used in some places to keep the dust down on country roads.

I look forward to a response,  on this thread.

Regards to all,

SLAG.

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3 hours ago, Thursigar said:

How is the material holding up?

It's rubbish. After less than one summer in the sun it is noticeably faded and feels ... 'tatty?' It blew over once and tore a hole where the mid-span stabilizing loop attaches to the sheet. I got a little bit of snow on it recently (not much. I'm in the DC area not the midwest.) and wow! I'm going to have to keep a very close eye on it. I can see the whole roof shredding with a couple of inch snowfall.

Having said all that, it was _cheap_. I don't expect much for the price I paid. I was seriously hoping to be under more permanent cover by now, but... life. 

That peak style shelter has one thing I wish I had with all the rain lately. Sides. I'm not convinced it is worth the price difference but those sides would keep things quite a bit dryer in there. It would be horrifying in the summer, though. such hot.

The garage in a box thing looks nice. That would be like working in a gymnasium! :) If the sides roll up and you can find a way to rout a chimney, that thing could be a contender. One consideration, though. I did some napkin math recently about what it would cost to build a 10x10x8 timber frame out of big-box material using a thin-skin sheathing as infill. Depending on how you roof it, I was in the ballpark of twice the cost of the garage in a box. If you can get any part of that for free/cheap, you might be able to make something much nicer for a reasonable cost. As long as you don't burry the posts in concrete (bolted to steel plates buried in concrete for example) you can even take it with you when you move.

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SORRY,  Folks,

Calcium chloride's formula is  CaCl2.

Not CaCl.

  I need another cup of coffee.

SLAG.

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A lot depends on what is allowed where you live.  I built a very cheap smithy addition: 20' x 30' with 10' walls and a peaked roof with 2 10' x 10' roll up doors through creative scrounging and sourcing: total cost was under US$1000 (way under!) It is a "pole barn" structure in a rural farming area.  As a bonus there is minimal wood in the structure: 4 utility poles (free from the electrical coop) and the wood that goes around the base of the structure to hold the sand/small gravel floor in. All the rest is steel + 2 fiberglass panels for skylights and said sand/gravel floor sourced from the local arroyo.  Only thing I bought new were the purlins, lots of SDST screws and the skylight panels.  I would have never got away with this in a city; but here in the country it's better looking than a lot of others!

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That is exctly what is driving the price of my smithy higher than it needs to be. They require special siding and roofing that match the house.  Hate HOA's. Thankfully they dont regulate canopies or carports. :D

17 hours ago, robie1373 said:

It's rubbish.

This is my primary concern with investing into the above solution. 

 

19 hours ago, Frosty said:

 In general though the most common problems are: hard to move heavy things and easy to lose small things. Then there's the dusty dirty and damp floor.

None are insurmountable but they're worth consideration.

Good to know, thank you once again for the wisdom!

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Living here in Oklahoma I can attest to the survivability of the steel car ports. If you order from a company that uses square tubing and specify snow load rated you get 2” square tubing on 4’ centers. This allows you to use the white backed steel building insulation that is 4’ wide on 100’ roles (roof insulation in the summer even of a shade structure is a good thing). This leaves you an open sided space to work in so security is an issue tho. Sheep panel can be used to fabricate reasonable security fences/gates.

 

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17 hours ago, SLAG said:

Have you, or any other I.F.I.  person(s),  used calcium chloride  (CaCl), to keep the dust down on a dirt floor smithy?

Francis Whitaker used either this, or mag chloride in his shop. He watered it on Friday and raked any high spots into the low areas usually in the triangle. I've followed suit, and it makes a great floor.

21 hours ago, Thursigar said:

what are the drawbacks of a dirt floor....other than it being dirty lol?

Quote

Some like dirt floors, some concrete.  I am a dirt floor guy. It's easy on the feet and allows your post vice and anvil stumps to be sunk into the ground. And if you need to move them, it's far easier than dealing with concrete. 

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So my shop has both.  The clean shop has a concrete floor and the dirty shop has an arroyo sand&gravel floor.  The dirty side  is much easier on the joints.

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18 hours ago, SLAG said:

Frosty,

Have you, or any other I.F.I.  person(s),  used calcium chloride  (CaCl), to keep the dust down on a dirt floor smithy?

I have not done so,  but CaCl  is used in some places to keep the dust down on country roads.

I look forward to a response,  on this thread.

Regards to all,

SLAG.

Yes. I used to work in a DOT materials lab, stabilizing soils was a major thing for us. Calcium Chloride is hydrophilic and absorbs moisture from any source, the air always has SOME moisture, even Antarctica in dead of winter has some relative humidity. 

Sodium chloride works better but is much more corrosive so it's not a good choice for soils stabilization. It's especially hard on concrete that isn't specifically formulated for salt water contact. That's why most sidewalks in snow country are so rough and chipped up looking, Type II cement is considerably more expensive. It's a complex process but largely salts leach calcium and alternately, crystallizing when drying then dissolving when wetted leaving voids for larger crystals to form and expand. It attacks chemically and mechanically. 

While less corrosive, calcium chloride still attacks things and loves iron. Being hydrophilic your floor will always be moist so you have to be careful about iron and steel in direct contact. Wet + corrosive = rust. Yes? It doesn't attack concrete though so is safe to deice your steps, sidewalk, etc. 

If you're going to stabilize soils with Calcium Chloride the soil MUST have a significant % of fines, -200 though silty soils will stabilize. The higher the % of clays the less calcium chloride you need but let's talk silty or loes soils. first till the top few inches to a foot if its going to see heavy machinery. Mix a saturated solution of Calcium Chloride and fresh water, mix enough to make the soil you're stabilizing approx 2% - 5% Calcium Chloride. You can look up "CaCl2 soil stabilization mix designs" for all the intimate details, I did. Remember boys and girls, "Never memorize something that you can look up." A. Einstein. Google it!

There are a bunch of other things to include depending on soil conditions, mix designs for specific soils is what we did at the lab, one of the things.

Anyway, once you've determined the desired % and mixed up the solution wet the soil with it and till it in. A roto tiller works really well but you can use a rake for a shallow capping treatment or a shovel. I LIKE power tools but that's a personal preference. Mix it, grade it and compact it till the compacter  is bouncing. 

Another option is "Sodium Sulfate," but it's not as popular. We used it in the lab to simulate freeze thaw erosion of the gravels being used in: road grades, concretes, macadams, in situ stone, bedrock, etc.  It's not as corrosive but crystallizes strongly, aggressively(?) Big crystals in the tiniest space with a great deal of expansive pressure. Not nearly as much as water ice but enough we could calibrate and simulate freeze thaw. 

You can also "cement" stabilize soils but it's not as effective in desert conditions unless you dampen the soil before tilling. Capping CaCl2 stabilized base with portland cement stabilized soil is a good option. The CaCl2 hardens up the base course and stabilizing the top say 2"-4" with cement caps the salt below the surface and the salt (CaCl2 IS a salt) provides the moisture the cement needs to set and cure. Google a mix design if you wish but a few % usually works provided there are enough fines in the soil if not add ash.

I am NOT a fan of oil stabilizing soils unless we're talking asphalt if so use a good emulsified asphalt but wear throw away clothes or hose yourself and tools off IMMEDIATELY, once it breaks you have tar asphalt. Mixed with soil and you have "asphalt macadam." We had a special room in the lab for asphalt mix design and sample testing. I don't have a degree in chemistry so it wasn't in my bailiwick. 

I only worked in the lab a couple years but it was a real educational experience. I learned enough to know what to look up if I need specific info.

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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Frosty,

Thanks for the prompt, thorough, and well 'researched', response.

Regards,

SLAG.

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