You Can Get Hurt


Whirl-fire (Photo credit: Loving Earth)

Bladesmithing. Forging steel into extremely sharp knives. Sounds pretty dangerous, right? But what specific part is the most dangerous, to either the smith or his wallet or sanity? And how could one prevent, or at least minimize this danger?

Bladesmithing is very dangerous, it involves sharp knives, torches, red-hot steel, smashing steel with a hammer and anvil, inhaling poisonous dust from antler or wood, or grinding metal with high-speed machines that could easily take off a finger if misused. Another biggy is the insanity you get when a blade one has worked on for days just up and snaps.

Probably the most dangerous is the risk of fire. Not necessarily burns (that just results in a lot of pain and yelling), but the risk of the shop itself going up in flames. This can be caused by a piece of hot metal left carelessly on a wood workbench, lack of good insulation and heat dispassion, or just a torch accidentally waved over a wood surface. If something does catch fire, the result is made even worse by the fact that there is always a tank of gasoline or acetylene nearby. I think you could guess what happens when fire comes in contact with gas.

To keep this from happening, I have modified my propane forge to be contained inside a metal barrel, and I also raised the whole thing off the wood workbench. There is already a fire extinguisher next to my workbench so no worries there. I also have a large jar of water (that I normally use for quenching) that I can splash over any possible smoldering, as well as a couple miscellanious bricks laying around so I have something to lay hot steel on if I need to do something else. There is also a water source (garage sink) that is only two or three strides from my work area, and lots of rags that I could damp and smother a fire in no time.

Surprisingly, I’m not really afraid of the risk of fires, mainly because of the above precautions, but also because I feel quite confident and in control around heat sources. I guess you could say fire is a friend that I trust.

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