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I Forge Iron

Shop layout


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There are a few rules of thumb that apply in most cases but no hard and fast "rules."

Probably the most common and useful rule of thumb is the triangle layout scheme, just like in a kitchen. Your most used pieces of equipment should be laid out in a triangle pattern no more than two steps apart. (approx 6')

The mod of this I use is putting the forge at the center of a 6' +/- radius crescent so both my anvils, swage block and vises are within easy reach. The forge I'm using now is accessible from almost any direction so when I get a power hammer I can place it on the far side and keep to my working radius.

Another trick is do what you do arranging a furniture in a room before you build it. Sketch the room on graph paper and make paper cutouts to scale and move them around to suit. I made scale paper circles for my work radius.

Once you have a layout you think you'll like make life size cardboard cutouts, get some sidewalk chalk or a snap line and go to a paved parking lot. Sketch out your shop, place your stuff and see how it is to move around. Some things need to be modeled with boxes like bench tops so you can get the feel of height but for the most part you can get a feel for how it'll work for you.

Just bear in mind it isn't going to be THE layout, it'll just keep you from making horrible mistakes and get you to a good starting point.

Another thing you can do is download Google Sketchup then check out the tool and equipment libraries for smithing stuff and whatever. Then you can move your stuff around, take walking tours, paint the shop, adjust the lighting, whatever.

I'd still do the cardboard in the parking lot thing unless you've laid shop spaces out before.

Most importantly though is to remember you must leave yourself tweek room. You WILL discover you need to adjust things. Heck, probably forever so be very careful about permanently mounting things.

Good luck, have fun and keep us posted.


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The first thing to do is decide where the permanent things go then layout everything else around them, like a woodstove or forge with a chimeny, doors and windows, then decide where to put things accordingly.
Like Frosty said, you'll always be tweeking things, things will always change, new tools and equipment, adding a bench, etc.


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  • 10 years later...

Depends on what you need it to do.  Is a commuter car with great gas mileage better than a dually pickup?

4 of my post vises are bench mounted, a couple are on travel stands, one is  mounted to the telephone pole that is part of the frame of the shop and I'm working on getting one mounted stand alone with 20' on all sides of it!

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