For some strange reason, a lot of smiths still think that you have to have some special clothing for blacksmithing. While it does require having the proper clothes, blacksmith clothes are not exceptional by any means. The primary goal of wearing appropriate clothes is to protect yourself from possible cuts and burns. Don’t forget, as a blacksmith, you hold and strike the heated metal.
By the end of the guide, we will discuss the following topics:
- Proper Blacksmith Shirt
- Proper Blacksmith Pants
- Proper Blacksmith Footwear
- The Best Clothing Material
- Difference In Clothing Between the Summer and Winter
- What Safety Equipment Should Every Blacksmith Wear
The most critical aspect of blacksmithing clothing is safety. If your choice doesn’t accomplish that, you are wearing the wrong clothes. You don’t have to look cool during the forging, but you have to stay safe. Hmm, but what if there is a way to accomplish both?
Okay, let’s find out.
Wearing the proper shirt in the blacksmithing shop is one of the first things to get it right, at least from the clothing aspect.
During the work at the forge or anvil, small pieces can of metal sometimes fly around. The last thing you want is that heated piece flies and burn you severely. This is why the shirt should be made of natural material, like cotton or wool. Shirts made of natural fibers are less likely to catch fire and also much more comfortable to wear.
I will never forget the day when I severely burned myself in the shop. That was at the beginning of my blacksmithing career when I didn’t pay much attention to the clothing. I was wearing some cheap polyester shirt when some tiny bit of coal popped out from the forge and flew right on my shoulder.
Until I threw my short off, I was already severely burned. Without any doubt, that was the first and the last day of wearing any synthetic clothing material in my workshop. So yes, although cotton and wool shirts may be more expensive sometimes, they are definitely worth buying.
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of forging in the summer when its 90°F outside. This outside temperature alone can often be too much for doing productive blacksmithing work. If you have the gas forge, you know exactly what I am talking about.
So, obviously wearing the long sleeves shirt is simply not possible in such circumstances. Instead, we recommend wearing a short sleeve cotton shirt. Depending on the work type you are doing, you may add the apron to protect yourself even more. However, please don’t wear a sleeveless shirt in the shop as it reduces the protective surface.
Some of you don’t experience the real winter while some of you do. In both cases, covering every inch of your body is a good idea. This time, clothes protect you from both work and the cold.
Nobody wants to ruin their immune system and catch a cold, therefore, wearing of two or more layers of some natural fibre shirt is recommended. During the winter, wool keeps you warmer than cotton due to better insulation, so consider wearing wool shirts. Wool also pulls moisture away from your skin more efficiently.
To be even more specific, it would be ideal for wearing a wool shirt below, followed by material like cotton. While you could wear some synthetic clothing below the natural fibres, there is still a chance of slipping a heated piece of metal or coal through sleeves. Like always, it is better to be safe rather than sorry.
The last thing you want is to ruin your immune system and catch a cold that will prevent you from doing the work you love. So, we recommend having a nice and warm jacket (affiliate link) on top of regular clothing underneath.
The same thing applies to the proper choice of pants. You want to stay away from synthetic material, primarily because it is more likely to catch fire. Not only that, but those chemicals cause the material to melt instantly, which causes the burn to be even worse than a regular wound.
Generally, for blacksmithing work, long pants made of 100% cotton are the best choice. They could be either sweatpants or jeans, whatever you prefer more. Also, keep in mind that pants must be long enough to cover the valleys between boots and your ankle.
Now, let’s see whether there should be a difference between summer and winter.
I know that blacksmithing in the summer can be very challenging for most people. Adding the heat from the forge to the outside temperature is often unbearable for many blacksmiths.
Generally, 100% cotton jeans are the most convenient choice to wear in the summer. They are much more comfortable than sweatpants to wear in the summer.
On the flip side, wearing either long jeans or sweatpants made of cotton would be the best choice on the cold days. There were times when I had to wear a double layer of pants when the temperature was extremely low.
Having adequate footwear during blacksmithing work is just as important as having everything else. You will quickly realize that hot pieces of material and coal often fall on the ground during the work. Wearing the wrong shoes can be quite dangerous.
Steel boots are one of the best footwear choices in blacksmithing. They can withstand up to 70lb objects falling from 9 feet. Also, sprains, slips, falls, and burns are other possible injuries that can be prevented by wearing steel boots. These are my number one recommendation.
On the other side, if you don’t have steel-toed boots, an option like Red Wings is a widespread choice. These come in a variety of incredible styles and colours. The great thing about them is not that they are just so comfortable, but every smith also looks cool during the work.
To further protect yourself from burns and cuts, we recommend wearing blacksmithing aprons. It also protects your clothes, which is another great benefit of wearing them. Until I started wearing blacksmithing apron, my shirts would hardly last three smithing sessions.
When choosing an apron, you should ask yourself do you want one with pockets or not. Having one with pockets is excellent for holding various tools. Here is my favorite choice of the apron (affiliate link).
Should You Wear Gloves or Not?
Ah yes, the gloves. Look, your hands are the most valuable tool in blacksmithing. Without them, forget about forging. Now, I see some group of people saying that you should NEVER wear gloves during blacksmithing work. On the flip side, there are some smiths claiming that you should ALWAYS wear them. As always, I find the truth being somewhere in the middle of both claims.
Wearing gloves in blacksmithing depends on the situation. For example, during striking, you can wear the glove only on the holding hand but not on the striking one. Wearing a glove on the hand holding the hammer makes the grip harder. Do not ever wear gloves near the machinery work, especially when using a drill press, lathe, or power hammer.
If you are a beginner smith, then chances are you will grab the hot metal when you see it isn’t red or orange. That can easily trick you into grabbing it. Now, in both cases, you will burn yourself, obviously.
The only question is whether the burn will be worse or less when wearing the gloves? If you have sweat under the glove, the burn will be worse than not wearing any glove.
When working with various machines, make sure you don’t wear gloves. Namely, there is a high chance of snagging the finger at the cutter. That can completely tear the skin and even tear your finger off. Similar things can happen during the use of a drill press or power hammer. One can drill your hand, and the other one can crush it.
However, there are times when wearing gloves is very beneficial. Like, when using drifts, punches, or chisels. Since your hand is near the hot metal, which radiates the heat, wearing a glove in that situation helps a lot.
We recommend wearing leather gloves most of the time in the shop. They are very strong and have great durability. Also, besides being a great insulator, they are also heat-resistant.
Blacksmith Safety Equipment
While proper clothing may be very important to blacksmithing, safety equipment is of even greater importance. Namely, there are a lot of cases where workers injured their ears and eyes at work. A lot of safety experts claim that 90% or even more of these injuries could simply be prevented by wearing adequate safety equipment.
In this article, we will primarily talk about the importance of wearing safety glasses and ear protection.
The first and most important safety equipment is safety glasses. If you lose your sight, your blacksmithing career is over. Wearing them is not a problem, so don’t be one of those guys who thinks that wearing safety glasses makes him “less of a man”. You know exactly what I mean.
Typically safety glasses are classified into two categories: prescription and non-prescription (also called “Plano“) safety glasses. If you don’t need the prescription ones, you can easily find them type in your local store. On the other hand, if you need prescription safety glasses, you would have to buy them directly from a doctor or from some optical store with a written prescription.
This is why putting safety glasses (affiliate link) is one of the first things I do when I enter the shop. Know one thing, they are cheap, your sight is priceless.
As you already know, blacksmithing is known to be very loud. Striking the hot metal on the anvil often produces noise far beyond the 85 decibels, which is considered to be an upper limit of hearing tolerance. So, unless you want to develop a hearing loss, we recommend you to get a nice quality ear protection.
When it comes to ear protection, you have two options to choose from: earplugs and earmuffs.
Earplugs are simply sticked in the block of the ear canal. Also, they are typically cheaper than earmuffs. Some people find it to be a more comfortable option. It is important to note that they should be properly inserted as otherwise, it can reduce protection. Note that if you work in hot areas or indoor, earplugs are an excellent choice.
PROS of earplugs
- Simple to use
- Easy to carry anywhere
- Appropriate for hot working areas
- Easily replaced
CONS of earplugs
- More difficult to insert and remove
- May cause irritation
- Requires a more demanding hygiene
- The inappropriate choice for people with an ear infection and similar problems
The earmuffs look very similar to headphones. They consist of soft ear cushions and sound-reducing material. Altogether, earmuffs fit nicely around the ears. However, they must be tightly constricted but still be comfortable enough to wear.
Earmuffs are easier to put on compared to earplugs. In case you are dealing with very high-level noise, these two can be worn together to reduce the noise level more efficiently. These are my favorite choice.
PROS of earmuffs
- Generally, one size fits all
- Easier to put on and remove
- More durable
CONS of earmuffs
- Bigger and heavier
- More expensive
- Inconvenient for very hot areas