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Breathing concern


VernonCooney
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Vernon-

 

Most blacksmiths get The Boogers, but if you're going to do this all the time you should take some precautions. The main one a lot of folks miss right away is covering the kaowool if you have a propane forge. Use Satanite or a similar refractory mortar to keep the fibers from floating about and getting in your lungs. They're asbestos level bad. People who do this all day often wear a positive pressure mask to deal with the rest of the smithing particles & fumes, as a respirator puts stress on your lungs, especially when exerting yourself. If you're not doing this all the time, then just make sure you have good cross ventilation. For grinding, a respirator is OK since you're not working hard, so that or a positive pressure filter is a MUST. I also sweep the floor daily- this is another one a lot of folks miss- kicking up old dust and grinding filth is a big source of problems.

I've been doing this full time for over 20 years in one capacity or another, and I'm 45 years old. A recent X-ray revealed happy, clear lungs. (A recent hearing test for some tinnitus actually showed very good hearing despite the minor ringing, and I have always worn earplugs. They said the tinnitus was age related but that for a person who does smithing work, I've taken good care of my hearing.)

 I have some simple dust collection tools I have either bought or created and always used in addition to a respirator when grinding. You can see them here:

 

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For forging, the steel itself is not a problem, it's the particulates from the fire.  Like Jól said, if you're using propane the fibers MUST be sealed.  If you're using solid fuel like coal or charcoal you must have a chimney of some sort.  The side draft hoods work best. Google "supersucker forge hood" for some examples. 

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My two cents here! been doing this for just over thirty years now,and the first twenty I did little to protect myself. My forges and grinders were usually in fairly open spaces with good ventilation. about 8 years ago I went through a couple major operations(unrelated to my forging and knifemaking), but I spent months on my back and full of anti biotics, which afterwards left me with little ability to fight off anything, my respiratory system has suffered the most in the way of developing asthma and allergies, sinus infections,etc.

  My daily routines now involve doing sinus flushes several times a day. These were "very" difficult for me to get used too, but now, they actually are a great relief each time. The reason I'm mentioning all this is that after a full day of forging, and particularly grinding(both metal, and any and all handle materials)I'm amazed at all the particulate matter that flushes out, even after wearing a face mask. I wear the painters masks when I do wear one, they are not great and my glasses always fog up, but they do help.

  Hind site being what it is, if I had known how effective sinus flushing was way back then, It would have certainly become a religious practice for me. Now I know the flushing won't do anything for whatever goes in your lungs, but I've found two things that help me most, the first is a good fan blowing crossways at your grinding station(if you don't have a dust collection system), and second, always use the most course grit abrasive possible when removing the bulk, rather than the finer grits. Your particulate matter will be bigger and heavier and not float in your breathing space as much or as long, and is easier for your lungs and sinuses to expell. Any kind of masking is better than nothing, and these guys are spot on about the floating fibers from forge liners, the gases will not be a problem if your not sticking your face in the front of the forge,  which you shouldn't be doing anyway because then you will have to deal with  your vision problems.  Anyway, consider the sinus flushing practice, when done right, it can only help.       

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Having a shop in Florida now, where I had to learn to grind in a closed shop if I want to keep the A/C going, I've learned a lot about dust collection.  Most of this is well-worn knowledge that can be found somewhere in old posts here.

1: A bucket of water w/ a tablespoon of dish soap in it underneath the grinder is a huge particulate trap.  Captures a lot of crap before it becomes airborne.

2: 20" square box fans + 20" square paper furnace filters + a few strips of duct tape are the best air cleaners ever.  You can buy these at a hardware store for a few bucks. I have three suspended from the ceiling in my shop pushing air in a churn flow (two on the outside edge going one way, one in the middle going the opposite direction). On the high setting they scrub the air aggressively. Cheap, effective, easy.

3: If you can afford one, a proper two stage dust collection system is extremely handy. Make sure you don't use simple wood working single stage dust collectors, as our metalworking sparks tend to turn those into huge flame throwers. I have one that I use in addition to the air scrubbers, but it's friggin' insanely loud. I use two sets of ear pro (ear plugs and bose headphones over them) and it's still loud. YMMV.

4: Counter-intuitively, I find that working with a rotary tool to carve is actually one of the worst environments for inhaling particulates. A down-draft table, which is a bench with holes in it that sucks air down towards it, really helps (and they're pretty cheap). If you don't mind the noise, a shop vac hose with a wide mouth attachment mounted next to your bench also works.

5: Finally, a positive air pressure face mask is the best thing to have, and you should wear it all the time.  However, I've found that realistically, most people (me included) only put them on when doing really heavy grinding. I have a Trend Airshield Pro that's pretty good. I've heard from people I trust that the 3M system is even better, but it's really expensive. Ultimately, I think having environmental systems that clean the air in your shop as a whole are more practical than masks. (But always wear a mask!)  (;

In terms of the forge: Both my shops are in garages and I only forge with the forge sitting outside the open garage door and a fan at my back pointing out toward the forge. It's not just the particulates from the wool (I find that it's nearly impossible to keep all the fibers coated all the time. There are always raw, exposed bits.), but also the nasty gases the forge produces. The fumes from the borax, the carbon dioxide, monoxide, etc. 

Luck, and be safe!

Dave

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"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

http://stephensforge.com

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I cant speak for propane forges, I have yet to finish mine. 

But when it comes to Charcoal and Coal, I too have noticed the black snot from a decent forging session, and also for long periods at the grinder. 

made me realize something, there was a reason my dad ALWAYS had a rag in his pocket while working ( part time welder / fabricator ) and was regularly blowing his nose while working. It was gross, and my mom always complained about the mess he would make of handkerchiefs, but now that I am working with metal particles, I see why he did it and why I should do it as well... 

on a side note, if anyone is interested in getting a group buy on for the 3M masks, I can help lower the cost, I work for 3M. 

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I've seen studies that show the typical disposable paper mask to be literally of no use.  They don't seal around your face and air just moves around them instead of filtering through. You must have a respirator with cartridge filters, a one way air valve and a good rubber seal that fits your face.

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For a long time I used the standard 3M mask from Lowes, nice replaceable cartridges, soft facial edges. BUT, being a hairy fellow lol, it is hard to get a seal. During grinding I'd be inhaling fumes, even though the mask was cinched down tight enough to cause pressure ridges on my face! I switched to the Resp-o-rator. This is basically a scuba diver set up but uses filters instead of a air tank. Overall, it was a good buy. There are some problems though. The mouthpiece takes some getting used to. You're breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, so you have to wear a nose clip and that gets annoying after awhile. I've also noted that my mouth tends to dry out really quick and that is uncomfortable. Also, because the breathing chamber is so big, condensation forms inside and works through the exhale valve. Basically after about 30 to 40 minutes, you start dripping on your chest.:wacko: Gonna have to fix some sort of catch system for that. My final dig is the filters. They are really good, I don't have any dust getting in, but they are propitiatory and you have to order them from the maker. However, there is a dude on youtube who shows how to take a 3M mask apart, pull out the filter locks and fit them to the resp-o-rator so you can use 3M filters, so that is a project for the future. If you guys want to see it in action, look up MichaelCthulhu on Youtube, its what he uses. He had adapted a plastic baby bottle to catch the condensation.

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I recently acquired a 3m 6000 series face shield/mask respirator. THe main reason behind the purchase of this was the 2nd sliver of metal dust that found its way into my eye which had to be removed from the eye doctor to the tune of 300~$ I realized i dont get many more eyes while im living so decided to get this mask. It costs around 250 to get all the filters and retaining clasps  fume box plastic face covers etc. BUt the mask is amazingly good at filtering. It seals great, no fog etc. Wish i would have bought it alot sooner! for what its worth. No more black boogies of doom or metal in the face!

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