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I Forge Iron

Personal injuries while smithing..

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In 42 years of working with metal I have gotten shrapnel only once.. It happened with a brand new Japanese made hammer with lifetime warranty.. first time at the anvil 2 minutes in making a knife.. Chip came off and hit me in the thigh..   The nice people at the store refused to replace the hammer saying it was normal use..

   As for punches I don't grind off the swarth off the ends ever.. Never gotten a chip off of..

 I have had my thumbs sucked into a grinder maybe 400 times,  nearly had my to front teeth nearly knocked out by holding a T piece of metal the hard way in a vise and trying to upset a the bottom leg of the T ..  

5 metal flakes in the eye wearing saftety glasses 2 times without..   Worst eye damage was working on an car exhaust and a chunk of rust hit me in the eye.. Surgery time.. 


  Few 3rd degree burns treated at home.   1000's of 2 degree burns (just ignore) and maybe couple thousand 1st degree burns.. (just ignore)

Mig welding is the worst for burns..       Over head welds with no head sock or jacket.. Shoot me now..

For shirts maybe a few thousand with burn holes from forge welding and to lazy to put on an apron..   

Oh hit the thumb once with a hammer while shaping a shoe..

Off the court is so much worse.. Broke both elbow funny bones 3times right, 2 times left..   Took a 400lbs log to the top of the head,  Fell 35ft off a cliff onto my head,  had a sand blaster hose explode onto my finger..    LOL.. 

the list is endless..  

Strange thing is I'm the safest person I know.. :) 

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Come on now..  I didn't seem all that dangerous now did I..  ;)    I did put my Apron on after all..    I was more concerned about your freezing or the anvil having the horn snapped off.. :) 

With this said.. I'm not afraid to share the injuries if someone else can learn from them..  I work much slower now than I used to.. Well as least when I'm with people.. LOL.. Well at least when I'm doing video or teaching.. 

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I used to be a baker. I can't remember how many times I've gotten burns on my forearms from reaching into the ovens to turn loaves of bread around, or having a hot sheet tray come off the rack as I'm maneuvering it around and the rack tilts. Plus numerous nicks and cuts from cutlery, both dull and sharp. At some point in the kitchen you just expect the owwies to come.

When I worked for Kinkos many years ago the papercuts were so numerous I stopped feeling them. I'd only notice I was bleeding when the white paper had a red corner. I kept superglue in my apron pocket and people thought I was crazy.

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JHCC, did you sign the papers allowing her to take out insurance on you? If you didn't you were probably safe...well safer....

I always tell folks that when knifemakers get together it's a lot like that scene in the movie Jaws where the shark hunters are sitting around and comparing scars... (Of course sharing such stories is a safety course in itself: I didn't do this and this happened or I did do that and look at this!) 

My wife wants me to keep a CLEAN rag in a sealed ziplock in the shop so I'll stop wrapping myself up in a "typical shop rag" that encourages the ER to want to inoculate you with everything they can get their hands on STAT!---and can you get the CDC on skype priority 1????

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Phew Thomas..   I was fearing for my life for a minute when you mentioned a  "Shark" and then knife makers getting together to pull out their wares..   All I could picture was 30 guys in a tight circle with all the blades out.. Much like a Sharks mouth when it is open.. :) 

Thomas..  What kinds of forging incidents have you had?  Must be a few in there..   

The idea of this thread is to share some of them..   After reading about Anacgrinist shrapnel story.. 

No injury is funny or fun.. But sometimes its nice to know I'm not the only one.. :) 

As a knife or sword work note..       I have filleted my 10 layers of skin while water stone polished a blade a few times when I am not using the wrap..  I have also completely worn away the 10 layers of skin polishing on water stones but since I use a lime water didn't realize it till finished and wash my hands off with soap..  

Itchy wowwa..   

Mazwell B
 I get cut nearly every day at work as a farrier,, cuts, stabs, Rasped knuckles..      A paper cut or a small scratch is the worst pain ever..  LOL..  I've lopped off parts of fingers that are less painful.

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I absent-mindedly moved a brick with my ungloved hammer hand that was probably a few hundred degrees in the forge box that I was using to hold my stock up. That got my attention and the fingers involved still have the brick surface imprinted on em a little.

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Well I get through boring meetings cataloging the scars on my hands---not necessarily forging ones; but shop related: slipped a veiner chisel trying to do knotwork on ebony, bowsaw x X,  Great Dane bite, license plate---my sister threw it at me,  random cuts beyond number, currently I have two fingers that the pads on them look dirty from blood glucose testing sticks.

The three most memorable scars were: about 32 years ago I put a chunk of spring into the coal forge to unwind it and hadn't noticed that tucked inside it was a zamac? fitting. It squirted a thin stream of molten zinc along  the backside base of my right index finger. Not so bad except my "day job" was a night job working on an assembly line doing moderately heavy lifting. They didn't want to give me an excused absence or light duty and I needed the money to support a family so every night for a week or two it got pulled open making the scar a bit more noticable.

The second one was a decade later when I was late on getting a blade done; I had been sick and was still not 100% ; but I thought I might be able to do some grinding on it sitting down...not being in "position" I ended up feeding two fingers into the grinder.  Thus the proverbial dirty shop rag, climbing up the basement stairs and telling my wife: "I've done something stupid; can you drive me to urgent care?" 

When we got there, the triage nurse asks me what happened and asks to see the wound and tells me "Well there's nothing here to suture"  (sort of the definition GRINDING trauma...) and sends me back to the work area.

The nurse there asks me what happened and asks to see the wound and tells me "Well there's nothing here to suture" and sets it to soaking in a pan of warm water, soap, and antiseptic while I wait for the Dr.  (such an interesting sensation...)

The Dr shows up and asks me what happened and asks to see the wound and tells me "Well there's nothing here to suture" and I ask him if the staff ever talks to each other about these things...

The third was just a couple of years ago---a simple smithing booboo involving a piece of black pipe in the forge that I hadn't plugged and so had acted as a chimney and I ended up putting a semicircular brand on the inside of my wrist, like an almost new moon---I could cover it with a wide watch band and tell folks it was part of my initiation into a secret society...the ferrous lunatics.   And now that I've told you this; you all have to go out and forge something this weekend! (The scar looks a lot like the moon should Sunday/Monday.)  Try not to induce yourself into the secret society!

The absolute worst hand damage happened to me about 40 years ago, I was moving a full sized O2 bottle on an outside loading dock in the middle of winter; it skidded on a patch of ice and got away from me and headed down.  I went down with it cradling the valve stem---no cap!---trying to make sure it didn't hit anything.

Unfortunately my right pinky was a bit too far under.  Smashed flat. They stopped counting after 6 breaks in the end joint. For a couple of decades afterwards you could see little crosswise scars where it extruded like a squashed caterpillar.  Of course it was after hours and so I sat up all night waiting from the health clinic to open---couldn't afford the ER.  It leaked all night which the Nurse said was probably the only thing that kept the pain down.  I was offered a choice: the low pain option---they could splint it and it would look good but never work again. Or they could splint it one day and then "break the joint open" and if I kept working the joint while it healed; it would work to some extent but would probably not look as good.  This was also the "way of pain"!   So I spent a day with a baseball bandage---they wrapped gauze around it till it looked like a baseball  or a cartoon bandage.

The next day I went back and with no anesthesia they "broke the joint open"---MOST AMUSING, Leopold would have *loved* it!  None of the clinic staff would admit to being a Marquise---I kept working the joint and it still bends to some extent 4 decades later. It's much fatter than my other pinky and bent a bit as well---also it tells me about weather changes and doesn't like cold. (I still tend to work the joint in meetings, especially when it's cold out.)

Fishing a sliver of metal out of my eye with a super magnet was trivial as it hadn't gotten stuck in and rusted---yet. (And I had been wearing a full face shield!)

(That the sort of stuff you wanted? I have a dedicated set of Hot Brick Tongs and so NEVER touch a brick with my hand...)

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Had several involving ill fitting/broken tongs. The first pair of tongs I made out of rebar one bit broke off and the hot steel hit my foot burning through my sneakers while I did the dropped steel dance. Another while forging a knife blade with tongs that didn't quite fit the stock and it flipped out sticking me in the thigh.

Like Thomas so many cuts that were wrapped in old shop rags, my wife made me put a paper towel dispenser in the shop. Every time I come into the house to wash a cut and bandage it she says "little ouch OK" she learned that saying from her Sensei.:)

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Thomas, thats it.. Thanks for digging in..  Those are the kinds of things that happen simply because of working with items, times, places like that over a lifetime..   Hind sight always being 20/20... it's easy to sit in a chair and tell someone else what they did was obviously bad..  different when you are on the front lines and things happen fast.. 

Another one is putting orange hot uncapped pipe into the water tub..   

Irondragon forge & clay..  That is cute..   "Little ouch OK"..    

In some of the posts I have done, it sounds like I am haphazard but it's the farthermost from the truth..  I constantly evaluate safety..   I work in dangerous environments so having to be on ones toes is paramount..  

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If you do something long enough; there's more time for Murphy to catch up with you.  Oddly enough I am rather proud of my battered hands---they show that I have *DONE* something with them.  A lot of bit herders only have their carpal tunnel surgery scars. They make fun of my percussive typing style and I point out that with more decades working with computers than they've been alive, I don't have carpal tunnel issues!

OB Smithing:  I once had a piece of orange hot steel flip up and tag me below my glasses---didn't give me a burn as much as a cut, neatly cauterized and almost painless. 

I find I use my leather aprons more on students than myself these days...

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Yup, I've had a few of those hit and runs too..    

Thomas I to am proud of my scars..  Or I should say how I got them.. The dedication to both craft and search of skill,   Some day when I'm old and can't lift a hammer I'll be telling them younsters about my glory days... :)  LOL.. 

Being in the "Know" sure does make a difference..         Thanks again for digging in..    

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4 hours ago, jlpservicesinc said:

to be on ones toes

Speaking of toes, I broke my big toe while cutting a RR tie for a post vise. I cut one end to length and picked up the rest of the tie to move it out of the way and dropped it right on my toe. To this day when it gets cold the little ouch reminds me to pay attention.:)

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 I only have a couple few scars, not because I don't occasionally do myself a serious mischief but they go away in a few years.

The scar that's lasted longest is an avulsion scar on the pad of my right ring finger. I was slotting a piece of steel pipe to braze in carbides to make an improvised drill bit. I was using a 9" 1hp. Milwaukee disk grinder on edge. . . Yeah, I KNOW better, did then too. Well, I let off the trigger before I took the disk out of the slot, it was the 5th on the end of a piece of pipe and I was tired. . . Yeah, I  knew that too. When you let off the trigger that big honking motor torques the whole grinder, the disk jammed in the slot and took off. It tried to jerk my finger through the slot when that didn't work the handle tried to bash it through the slot. 

I felt the hit but I didn't know I was injured, I was numb to the shoulder. I walked across the shop to pick up the grinder . . . pieces. The handle was in about four large pieces and a bunch of chips. Two of the large pieces were held together with wiring and still dangling from the motor housing. I'd killed it good. 

My right hand didn't want to work, it moved but didn't have any strength and still hurt too bad to actually feel. When I finally looked down at it I noticed a bit of the cotton glove pinched off a finger and the glove was saturated with blood. I think it was the raised lip behind the trigger that scooped a pencil diameter gob out of my ring finger like a thick hinge, right to the bone.

Wrapped it with gauze and tape, called the office and drove to the Doc in the box. The guy at work with me that day wasn't a lot of help, he reacted badly to the sight of blood but keeping him talked out of panicking helped keep my mind of the wound. I thought the doc was going to lose it too. 4 deep stitches to reconnect muscle and 6 to close it topside. AFTER debriding.

I really dislike having wounds debrided it's worse than the injury.

Then there was the time Paul and I were changing out a broken wheel on a FN 25 Nodwell track rig. The lug nuts hadn't been removed in years and they were seriously stuck and being inside the track there was no good way to stomp a wrench. Soooo, I held the socket on the nut on an extension to a 36" breaker bar. The extension was braced from underneath on a short length of 2" x 4". When it was in position I stood up holding it with my left foot, jumped as high as I could and stomped down with both feet.

Have you seen how far a breaker bar will flex and spring right back? It flexed far enough my feet slid right off the end and it sprung back fast enough to launch itself straight up. I dove for the track and climbed inside. Paul was shouting, asking if I was alright, I was waiting for the wrench to hit the floor.

When it did I rolled out and it took a second to figure out why I couldn't see out of my left eye, what felt wet and why Paul looked about ready to flip out. The breaker bar had clipped me on the head about 3 fingers above my left temple for a 9 titch compression tear. 

That was my first experience with being debrided. The bar had driven: hair, dirt, grease and who knows what under both sides of my scalp and he had to get it ALL out. Scrape scrape flush, lather rinse repeat. Local please? Nope, can't administer narcotics sorry. He was a RN or something similar, couldn't give me more than tylenol. 

Fortunately the Doc showed to do the stitches and gave me a scrip for decent pain pills. Having that wound debrided was much worse than getting hit or stitched up. I can vividly recall the feeling of a surgical instrument poking in and scraping around on my skull. 

I've only broken bone a couple times but BOY were they doosies! Fell off the tilt deck equipment trailer and shattered my let elbow. 6 surgeries and I don't know how many screws and plates but the elbow works fine. Not quite full range and no longer stock but perfectly functional. Thank you Dr. Duddy! I  made a nice marble topped, cable twist legged side table for his office.

Then there's the Birch attack. Those scars are fading already in only 9 years. The scar where the feeding tube was inserted is a dent. 

Those are the most memorable, debriding is a great memory aid. More mundane, cuts, bruises, burns, pokes slices, etc. too many to list though some pretty memorable. Say losing my balance on the deck of a drill rig and grabbing the hot exhaust pipe, that left the palm of my left hand shiny for almost a week. Stuff like that. Not so many injuries in the shop, fewer things to surprise me in a shop.

Frosty The Lucky.

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i had a falling in with piece of red hot steel last week and lost the fight :angry:

i was working on a project in the forge and a red hot piece rebounded on the anvil and hit me on the chin and left i nice big gauge and first degree burn marks on my neck. i had to go to the ER for a couple of stitches.  

a learned a good lesson along the way, use proper tongs for holding the work or make a pair the will fit the work first!




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7 hours ago, ADHD-forge said:

i had a falling in with piece of red hot steel last week and lost the fight

Lots to be said about proper fitting tongs..   As one gets long in the craft we will take short cuts and sometimes will use ill fitting tongs either through laziness or just because.. 

This is a prime example of the Better not to thing..  

  Can't thank you enough for sharing..  Its information like this what help so many..       

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2 hours ago, MaxwellB said:

Now I know why you use the tagline "Frosty The Lucky". Glad you're still with us!

Yeah, that one settled on my after the birch tree got me. It's a story but I'm seriously lucky to be alive and not drooling in an assisted living home. The responding EMTs are based at the fire station 3 minutes away. The flight medic is good enough to get my heart started again on the 13 minute flight to Anchorage. The hospital they took me to had just opened the newest state of the art head trauma unit in N. America a week earlier. I was their second customer. 

Lucky hardly covers it.

Frosty The Lucky.

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47 minutes ago, jlpservicesinc said:

Lots to be said about proper fitting tongs..   

that's just what happened at home, i've got plenty of those from work as well from taking short cuts or just dumb stuff and bad luck. ADHD can be a blessing as well as a p.i.t.a for being inpatient. 

being inpatient is what gets you in the end. take it from someone who know it all to well and just can't learn to get rid of it. i've got 2 shot knees, a bad back from doing stupid things which the old timers told me not to do and still did it. and i still do stupid things at work (lift way to heavy things,etc..) when it's taking to long and i get inpatient with my co-workers. 

and i know all to well its bad for myself, but i cant get over the fact its taking to long or people are not even trying. (i have this saying at work, its a hammer and your'e supposed to hit something with it not hug or tickle it. )


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