15 Most Important Safety Rules for Blacksmithing

As with any industry, there are specific safety rules that must be respected. The same goes for blacksmithing. By not following these rules you greatly risk your health and those around you. Keep in mind that these safety rules apply to blacksmiths of all levels, not just beginners.

These are the most important safety rules in a blacksmithing shop:

  1. Always Wear Safety Glasses
  2. Always be Focused
  3. Use Face Shield When Grinding
  4. Always Have First Aid Kit in Your Workshop
  5. Always a Bucket of Water and Fire Extinguisher Near the Forge
  6. Wear Ear Protection
  7. Make sure that the head of the hammer is appropriately attached
  8. Metal Can Be Hot Even if Is Not Red
  9. Know when you should and should not wear gloves
  10. Always Wear Cotton Clothing
  11. Learn Proper Hammering Technique
  12. Do not Ever Forge Galvanized Steel
  13. Always Have a proper Ventilation
  14. Keep Your Workshop Clean
  15. Ask for Advice If Not Sure

Always Wear Safety Glasses

Since you only have 1 pair of eyes and cannot work without them, it is very important to keep them as safe as possible. This is one of the easiest and most valuable safety measures you can take and yet, many people don’t do this. Not wearing safety glasses is one of the most dangerous mistakes you can make in blacksmithing.

A lot of safety experts say that 90% of eye injuries at work could be prevented by wearing safety glasses. This is especially important when working near the forge. If you are working with coal or charcoal, be aware that some small pieces can pop out from the fire. It is very dangerous if this flying piece of hot coal catches your eye.

Unfortunately, some people have this egoistic thinking that they are not a real man if they wear safety glasses. My comment is that they will quickly change their minds when an accident occurs. Safety glasses are cheap and easily available to buy, so there is no excuse not to get one.

Always Be Focused

In terms of importance, being focused on your work is right next to wear safety equipment. If you are not focused during the blacksmithing work, a lot of things can go wrong. From, messing up the working project to burn your whole shop. This is why being focused is not only essential to making a good project but also as a safety measure.

To stay focused, you have to have enough energy. Blacksmith with a low energy level working can easily make a mistake which can be small or sometimes catastrophic. We recommend you always have a bottle of water in the shop, especially in the summertime. When you are dehydrated, you don’t have enough energy, and therefore you cant be focused.

Also, when you get tired, take rest. This is especially important when you are doing a lot of hammering work. Swinging a hammer for a long time will get even the experienced blacksmith tired, let alone a beginner. Loss of concentration often impacts all other potential dangers.

Use Face Shield When Grinding

Remember to always wear face shields during grinding or cutting operations. Flying metal sparks fly all over the place, so wearing it will protect your whole face, not just the eyes. It is cheap and easily available, yet some people don’t use it.

Watching a lot of people on the internet and not seeing them wearing face shields is making me wonder; what is wrong with these people? Maybe they want to look cool or whatever, but once they burn themself, they will quickly change their minds. I know one guy who was working with an angle grinder when suddenly, his cutting wheel shattered. Face shield saved him from a horrible injury.

Always Have First Aid Kit in Your Workshop

You never know what’s gonna happen in the workshop. The most common injuries in blacksmithing are burns and cuts. This is why having a first aid kit somewhere near you is crucial. First aid kit should include various sizes of plasters, sterile gauze dressings, various bandages, safety pins, disposable sterile gloves, tweezers, scissors, sticky tape, some skin rash cream, distilled water.

It doesn’t matter how much you are careful, accidents happen, so don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you. Note that you should advise with some medical professionals when buying the first aid kit.

Always a Bucket of Water and Fire Extinguisher Near the Forge

Wherever there is a forge, there is a potential danger. Having a bucket of water or fire extinguisher is incredibly important to have in your workshop. Either if you are using a coal or gas forge, fire is always possible. If you are using water, make sure that there is no electricity around. On the other hand, using a proper fire extinguisher is a safer option.

Just like there is many kinds of fire, there are many types of fire extinguishers. For the potential fire in a blacksmithing workshop, dry chemical fire extinguishers or carbon dioxide are mostly used. To see which fire extinguisher is ideal for specific fire check this article of Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association. In the end, if you know how to start a fire, you should also know how to put it out.

I would mention one more related thing here. Do not keep your forge near any flammable materials as you can put your whole shop on fire. One minute away from the forge is more than enough for a catastrophe to happen. Things such as gas, paper, and wood should not be near the forge.

Wear Ear Protection

Noise in the blacksmithing shop can exceed 85 decibels which are considered as a harmful noise level for most people. You may be surprised if a tell you that is not uncommon to see a blacksmith with impaired hearing. The ones who developed such a condition are the ones who didn’t use ear protection during the work.

All of the reasons mentioned above are why you should always wear some type of ear protection. When it comes to ear protection, you can choose between wearing earplugs and earmuffs. Earplugs can be moldable or premolded. You simply stick them in the block of the ear canal. Earplugs are mostly cheaper than earmuffs. I should add that if you have you have an ear infection or similar ear problems that you should not use them due to the possible irritation.

On the other hand, earmuffs are easier to use. They fit excellently around the ears and they are usually more comfortable to wear. Keep in mind that wearing earmuffs in the summertime is not ideal for most people. Since the temperature in the workshop can achieve very high numbers, wearing them can make this even worse. In this situation, earplugs are a better option for most people.

In the end, the most important thing is to wear at least one of the two. For some extreme level of noise, wearing both of them is recommended.

Make Sure That the Head Of the Hammer Is Appropriately Attached

Not ensuring the head of the hammer is tightly attached can be dangerous. During striking, the head of the hammer can slip out and hit you or somebody else near you. The heavier it is, the more dangerous it is. So always before working on the anvil, check whether it is hammered head properly installed.

Metal Can Be Hot Even if Is Not Red

This happens more often than you may think. Just because the metal is not red or orange, it doesn’t mean it is not hot. I don’t know how many times it happened to me that I caught hot steel not knowing it was hot. This happens mostly when you are tired or in a hurry, especially during the production work.

One piece of advice I would give you is that you find some specific space in the shop where you will place your hot working pieces. That way you minimize the chance of getting burned. If you leave hot metal anywhere laying around, there is a high chance of grabbing hot steal by accident.

Even if you have gloves, you can still burn yourself by touching hot steel, so don’t think just because you wear gloves, that you are safe. On the other hand, if you grab hot metal by your bare hand, the burn will be much greater. If you are not sure whether a piece is hot or not, just bring your hand closer and feel if it is heated.

Know When You Should and Should Not Wear Gloves

Most people think that gloves should always be worn in the blacksmithing shop. Just like some tool is not suited for all purposes, the same is with wearing gloves. There are situations when you should and situations when you should not wear gloves during work.

For example, wearing gloves is recommended when you are hammering the metal. More precisely, wear a glove on the arm which holds the stock, not on the one who is holding a hammer. So, if you are right-handed, wear glove only on the left as it will reduce radiating heat. Wearing glove on your right hand will make hammering harder due to a more difficult grip.

If there is one situation when you should NEVER wear gloves, then it is near the machinery work. More precisely, with drill press and lathe. There is a high chance of snagging the finger at the edge of the cutter what can tear your skin and even your finger off.

Always Wear Cotton Clothing

Wearing cotton clothing will cause them less likely to catch fire. Other than being natural and breathable, cotton clothing doesn’t contain materials that are highly flammable. Synthetic fibers are more likely to catch fire and melt which is something you definitely don’t want. Cotton is more expensive, but I believe it is worth buying it.

In case it does catch fire, at least it will not melt easily as polyester would which results in smaller burns. It is also recommended to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to protect your skin from newly-formed burns.

Learn Proper Hammering Technique

You cannot be an efficient blacksmith without learning to properly strike a hammer. Hammer is the tool used most of the time in the workshop. Striking with improper technique not only is ineffective, but it can also cause various injuries. Wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints are most impacted during hammering. This is why learning the proper hammering technique is critical.

Height of the anvil, the weight of the hammer and handles length are some of the most important factors which greatly impacts the hammering technique. Make sure your anvil is set at the right height, if you don’t know how to found the right height for your anvil, check 14 Most Common Blacksmithing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

Once you set the anvil, next is choosing the ideal hammer size. For beginners, we recommend starting with a 2-3 pound hammer. It is heavy enough for most simple blacksmithing projects and gives you good control. Note that everyone is differently strong, for some people 3-pound hammer is a joke where for some people can be challenging. Find what size works best for you.

In terms of hammers length, it should be long enough to give you different gripping distances from the head. For example, if you need more powerful strikes, you should make a grip it near the end of the handle. On the other hand, for more precision and controlled strikes, grip it near the head. Your feet should be width apart for good stability. Also, make sure your knees are slightly bent.

Don’t let the hammer go above the ear level during swinging. This can put unnecessary stress on your shoulders. Your muscles should be relaxed, not flexed during hammering. When coming down with the hammer, it should be parallel to the anvil’s face. For specialized work, a hammer can come down at an angle.

Do not Forge Galvanized Steel, Ever

This is one of the biggest safety dangers in blacksmithing. Working with galvanized steel can be very dangerous, sometimes even fatal. Forging a galvanized steel presents many hazards but the most dangerous one is releasing toxig gases. Namely, galvanized steel is coated with zinc. When zinc is heated, it releases its toxic chemicals. Breathing this toxic gases often lead to a serious condition, called metal fume fever.

You can identify galvanized steel by looking at its surface pattern. It usually has a spangle pattern which is created by grain boundaries of the zinc. Zinc coating serves as a protection from corrosion. Even if you have a mask or respirator, it is not worth the risk. There are a lot of non-galvanized metals which you can find at scrap yards. We recommend staying away from using galvanized steel in blacksmithing purposes.

Always Have a Proper Ventilation

Having a nicely-ventilated workshop is one of the most important safety precautions. It doesn’t matter what type of forge you are using, whether it is coal or gas forge, both require proper ventilation. During forging in a cola forge, some toxic gases are released, including sulfur. Chronic inhalation of sulfur can drastically impact your health in a very negative way.

Namely, chronic inhalation of sulfur can lead to health problems like asthma or even lung cancer. Make sure to have a chimney if you are using coal forge. It will hugely impact your airflow in the shop. On the other hand during forging with a gas forge, there is the possibility of releasing carbon monoxide which can be extremely dangerous. Unlike sulfur, carbon monoxide is completely odorless. This is why it is often called a „silent killer“. We recommend having carbon monoxide detector in your shop.

In case you are working outside, having a proper ventilation is not something you have to worry about but most blacksmiths have a small indoor workshops. Make sure you have at least 1 window, but generally two is recommended.

Keep Your Workshop Clean

When I say clean, I don’t mean that everything must be brand-spanging new and shiny. What I mean is that your workshop should be properly organized. Every tool must have its own space, so when you take the tool, make sure to return it to the same space where you took it. There is nothing worse than not finding the tool when you need it the most.

We recommend placing your tools on the side of the shop and placing your anvil in the middle. That way you created more working space. A good shop layout is even more important when you have a small shop. In that case, every inch matters. Also, make sure that the forge is not too far from the anvil.

It is recommended to work on a hot metal as soon as you take it out from the forge, so keep your anvil about 4-6 feet from the forge. If you are mostly working with long stocks, make the distance larger.

Ask for Advice If Not Sure

If not sure you are doing something right, stop, and ask for advice. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. Not seeking help or advice can lead you to make a small disaster all the way up to catastrophic ones. For example, at the beginning of my career, I simply could not light anthracite coal properly.

I was desperately trying but with no success. The fire would cool down very shortly, it was so frustrating. Instead of asking for some advice, I stubbornly continued to work on my own. Now, this is not so dangerous mistake, but stubbornness can lead you to make huge mistakes. Take my friend for example.

He bought a new power hammer with no prior working experience. Instead of asking for some advice on how to use it safely, he started working on his own. Of course, he injured himself on the first day of working, after which he had to rest for 2 weeks. All of that because he simply didn’t ask for advice. Many different dangerous situations can be prevented if you ask someone for advice.

Albert from Wyoming

Hi, Albert here... Forging World is the place where I share everything I've learned (and still learning) in my 20ish years of experience in forging. Hope you like the blog and #keepforging #keeplearning

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