Thursday, March 31

Creating Your Space

I spent about an hour today sinking cinder blocks, placing found stone for my border and filling in my work area with gravel.

Let's start with the cinder blocks. I put them in the ground to act as a foundation for my NC Tool gas-fired forge. It has a handmade stand with four pieces of pipe for legs. Over time, with the coming April showers, these four pipes could begin to sink into the ground.

Luckily, I spent the hour prior to this, putting down a moisture barrier under my ma's house. Luckily? Yes, because the builders, when they put the house where it is on its block foundation, left quite a bit of debris under there. Included in the mess were a few whole blocks, some chunks and some sandstone.

You'll notice the tape measure in the photo. I had to measure the space between my legs to know where to place the blocks. In my case, about 21" on-center front to back and 24" on-center side to side.

I put the first block in level and the second slightly above ground level to account for the slope of the yard. Great! So, the position of the forge has been determined and it has a firm, level foundation.

Now, it's time to fill in my dugout border with some of the stone and rubble I found under the house. Some of the pieces were too large for my purposes so I broke them apart using the edge of a double face mini-sledge. Ideally, you would use a rock hammer, but any hammer will do. Just remember: Don't hit with the face. It's a waste of energy and can potentially damage the hammer face.

The importance of preserving the hammer face becomes clearer the more you hit hot metal with one. Any deformity in the face will show up on the metal you're working.

So, now I have a border most of the way around my working area. Rather than clear off the grass and have a dirt floor for my space, I decided to use gravel as my fireproof floor covering. Since this will be an open air work environment, I don't want the weather to turn my shop floor into a muddy mess. The gravel drains and my boots stay mud-free.

Historically, blacksmiths opted for brick or dirt floors for their shops. Whenever sparks or hot metal hit either, nothing at all interesting occurred. This was good. Had it been a wood floor, something very interesting might have happened. The end result possibly being the need for a new shop.

I left an area uncovered to allow the setting of another stump for my small, inexpensive ($23.41) bench top vise. You can find them at your local hardware store. While you're down there, ask them where to get gravel in your area.

If you're putting a roof over your workspace or you don't mind mud, a dirt floor is an excellent choice. Other options include: brick as mentioned above, sand (think of it as building a grown-up sandbox complete with wooden framing) or user-friendly concrete products. If you decide on concrete, you'll need to either dig down or build up to contain your pad. Patience while it sets will also be necessary.

Next time: Hammers and Tongs

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