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Forging in my Basement

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I wanted to get some opinions for making either a solid fuel setup or small propane forge in my basement. It is a large basement with concrete floors and several floor level windows, there is even a small side room with a window in the basement that would be perfect for a little shop. 
My biggest concern is ventilation and obviously fire. I only plan on having a very small setup.

It is a perfect space if it is reasonable to have a forge down there. Any thoughts or advise would help.

Would it just be best to make a space outside in my backyard instead?? 
thanks in advance for any advise.


- J. Hamilton 

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Welcome aboard J. glad to have you. If you put your general location in the header you'll have a better chance of meeting up with members living within visiting distance. 

To cut to the short story. NO, it's never better to set up a forge in the basement than outside.

Propane and basement especially is a hazardous combination. First propane flames are notorious for generating Carbon Monoxide, (CO) which is odorless, colorless and deadly. It displaces O2 in your hemoglobin by being something like 80x as compatible with the iron that carries oxygen to your organs. It's also insidious, it gets everywhere so starting in the basement it WILL penetrate the entire house. With me so far?

Then there's propane itself, it's heavier than air so any that leaks will settle in low places waiting for a source of ignition. Low places like . . . basements waiting for a light switch or thermostat switch source of ignition. 

Solid fuel is a LITTLE safer in it isn't explosive if some leaks though it will settle in low spots but you can pick or sweep it up. Burning it does produce CO and other combustion byproducts, none of which you want to breath if you can avoid it. 

My vote is not just NO, it's HECK NO! Set up outside. Sell forged trinkets to save up for a shelter if necessary, pack your anvil, forge and tools back and forth or get a big dog to keep them from being stolen if necessary. 

Is it possible? Yes it is. Good idea to buck the odds if you don't have to? No.

Frosty The Lucky.

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You're welcome J. we're big on safety here and don't like reading obits if we can help it.  I'm glad you asked first, it's a good sign.

The Iforge OS doesn't use tags at all so they mess things up making the mods clean them out. Not being on the Mod's radar is a desirable thing. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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I’m turning 41 on Wednesday, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. 
It is such a strong desire and all I think about.

I have been soaking up all the knowledge I can short of striking the first piece while I get together what I need to start a basic setup.  Having a bit of trouble finding a good anvil or suitable ASO that I can afford.

I have so many questions but don’t want to bombard the feed but a few:

would it be a necessary idea to take a class or find a mentor? 
Is 41 a bit late to reach a high level of skill, as in master blacksmith? 
Any creative ideas on finding an anvil or suggestions on what type to steer away from? 
again thank you all for the feedback! 
feels good to have some support 

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Welcome from the Ozark mountains. I started when I was 41, with a master blacksmith as my mentor. I doubt I will ever achieve master status but it does not stop me from hammering hot steel and I'm 80 now.

To find an anvil or any other blacksmithing tools for that matter, employ the TPAAAT method.

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About the only way it would be feasible, IMO, would be if you invesrwd in an induction forge.  Barring that, my vote is with everyone else,  BAD IDEA.  Don't do it!  Potentially too dangerous to you and your family.  Also, it would probably void your homeowner's insurance if an accident happened.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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I started forging about 4yrs ago at the age of 44. I came home from work one day a found that my son, 15yrs old at the time, had built a forge and hammer head anvil. I supported his efforts and ran into an old friend who pointed us toward the local chapter of the Indiana Blacksmiths Association. After that I was hopelessly hooked and my son found other interests. At this point I can hold my own and I am throughly enjoying the hobby. Could I become a master, maybe if I quit my job and went full time, but I really don’t want to give up the comfortable life my family enjoys. I believe to become  master you have to: have some natural talent, put the time in, never be satisfied with you work, and be willing to sacrifice. I’m not in the position to do that myself. I am having one heck of a good time though!

Putting your location in your profile and we could be more helpful getting you setup with a local group. (You could be close by and I could help get you setup, right now, I can’t tell…)

YouTube can help, but there’s a lot of bad/dangerous info out there. There is a page on here of good channels that will point you in the right direction, but in person in the best way to learn.

Don’t try to setup in your basement. Spend some time digging around on here, there are several good examples of mobile setups. Up until my new shop was finished, that’s how I managed. Takes a bit more time setting up and tearing down each session, but it’s still worth it.

Keep it fun,


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To respond to your other questions:  41 is NOT too old to start blacksmithing.  I started my 2d career as an attorney when I was 41.  I started blacksmithing in my 30s.

If you can take classes or work with a more experienced smith it will be an easier journey.  I and some others here are self taught and it is not the optimum way to go.  When I started in 1978 all I had were some books from the library, some very nasty coal, and lots of my own mistakes.  Today there are some very good (and some very bad) videos available on You Tube.  I like Black Bear Forge, JPL Services (our own Jennifer), Torbjorn Ahman, and Christ Centered Ironworks.  I believe there is an IFI thread on recommended blacksmithing videos but the ones I have mentioned will give you plenty to start.

A large amount of blacksmithing is hand/eye coordination, where to hit the metal and how hard.  Once you develop that muscle memory the rest is refinement and details.  It's like riding a bicycle or learning to play a video game.

If you watch a demonstration, either live or a video, do it yourself as soon as possible.  That will develop the muscle/kinesthetic memory which will last much longer than just mental memory.

There are lots of IFI postings on improvised anvils which is all you need to get started.  Stay far awy from the Harbor Freight cast iron anvils.  They are [worthless] and suitable only for a door stop or boat anchor.

Again, if you put your general location we can give you better answers to your questions.  A surprising number of answers are geographically dependent.  Now, we don't know if you are in Lapland or Tasmania.

I recommend that you look up you nearest affiliate of the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America and seiously consider joining.  It will be money and time well spent.

Finally, welcome aboard for 7500' in SE Wyoming.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Edited by Mod34
Edited for inappropriate language
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There is no such thing as a "Suitable ASO"  an ASO is a cast iron object that may look like an anvil; but is NOT suitable to use as an anvil!  I know that folks on YouTube are mis-using the term lately; so PLEASE don't help spread the abuse of the term! Like "smelting" (making metal from ore) when they mean "melting" 
(melting metal for casting).

I think what you mean is an "Improvised Anvil" and there is an entire thread about them here on IFI

Stop by tomorrow morning around 9 am and several of us are going to the local scrapyard where they often have "improvised anvils" for 20 USCents a pound.  (I've started lugging an improvised anvil to demos just to show folks that you DON'T need a London Pattern anvil to smith with; shoot the "cube" anvil has been use 10 times longer than the London Pattern anvil and all over the world...

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Some times the collective “we” gets tired of answering the same questions over and over and will refer you to a sticky or thread to read so you can learn enough to be ignorant. But usually some one will answer up, be it a newer member paying it forward or a curmudgeon  who wants to help out. Often threads get long and questions and answers pile up along with the kidding and such. 

We can help you get started for little or no $. Blacksmiths world round have used a hole in the ground and  what amounts to a sledge hammer head to forge beautiful iron. Don’t fall into the hand sledge trap, 1-1/2 to 2# is plenty to start. I will use a 3# hammer but my day job is swinging a 2# rounding hammer and a dinky little driving hammer.  I have one handed a 16# sledge but I don’t recommend it. 
now as a farrier I recommend a long handle cup the hammer head in your fist and the handle should end at the inside of your elbow. You may find thinning the handle a bit mor comfortable as well. I like 1x1-1/4 myself. There are articles on dressing box store hammers but we will certainly help you on the way. 

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ASO stands for Anvil Shaped Object, usually cast from cheap iron and sold to folk who don't know any better. I think the gang has covered most of your questions, I was writing a reply yesterday and life made me stop. <sigh> 

There is no end to the learning curve, concentrate 100% of your time for the rest of your life and not cover a fraction. It's one of the things I like, I like learning new things, add to that playing with fire, hitting things, dirt, danger, smellyness and what more could a boy want?

While you're picking up the basics A36 is a good steel, it's the modern equivalent of mild and holds few surprises. Rebar is easily found but less consistent it's forging and heat management properties can change without warning, sometimes within a few inches. A36 doesn't contain enough carbon to harden so you don't have THAT learning curve you deal with. Make sense?

I start guys with 3/8 square hot rolled, it's heavy enough to hold heat long enough to hit it a few times before it needs to go back in the fire but isn't so heavy it's hard to work. 1/2" round hot rolled is close enough to the same weight/ft as to make no difference and lots of people like it. One of the hooks I set in beginners is the twist, they're also showy at demonstrations. Starting with square means you don't need to square it to forge some basic features like a taper for wall hooks. 

It's a preference of mine and those are some of my reasons. Do some reading and you'll see a lot of other preferences among the experienced, they all work ALMOST as well as the way I do it.:rolleyes: Blacksmithing is an art at the level we do it, commercial forging is a science, Hammers strike with exactly the same force every blow, into the same dies, the steel is the same: type, size, heat, preform, etc. so predicting the result is probable. Humans never strike the same piece of steel twice, your last blow changed it, it's thinner, wider/longer, a different temperature etc. so your next blow is on something new. It's like stepping in a river, it changes while you're in contact. All this means the fewer things you have to deal with while you learn the basics the faster and easier you'll learn them.

Once you know the basics to a degree of proficiency the other learning curves shallow right out. You'll already know how to manage heat, a different steel is only an adjustment, not a whole new skill. How it feels and moves under the hammer is just an adjustment, where and how you strike is essentially the same, maybe a little harder or softer but your muscle memory will log the change and you'll adjust reflexively so you don't have to devote precious conscious thought to the detail. 

I know all this advice is a lot to absorb, especially my esoteric ramble, don't worry about it, I'm saying these things to make the point that there's too much to learn very quickly. Relax and hammer some steel, have fun, try things and we'll be around to answer questions, maybe link you to a section to read but we we'll be around.

Frosty The Lucky.

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ASO or anvil shaped object and JABOD or just a box of dirt forge are terms that were coined here on IFI and are often abused or misquoted buy other forums and YouTube content providers. 
members try to be consistent in the use of jargon to describe processes and tools to help avoid confusion. Much like you will see “welder” and “weldor” used in older trade publications to differentiate between the machine and operator tho in English they share the same word. 
law Glenn is fond of pointing out some times you have to learn enough to become ignorant in a subject. 

The manners your mother/grandmother tried to teach you and the ability to laugh at yourself goes a long way here. 

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