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Alright lads, I've been doing all the research my little brain can handle, and I figured asking here would be a good idea. So, I've been trying to understand what I can about safety regarding working with very toasty chunks of metal, and something that's popped up here and there is the issue of IR radiation and pale skinned people. It seems that it would be prudent to shield ones face from the heat/radiation of a warm forge, but I'm not sure what would offer sufficient protection short of a full welding mask. I'm not looking to cook my face and if any of you know any good solutions to protect my full face and eyes while still having awareness, I'd love to hear.

My idea right now is perhaps a thick leather mask (like used in blizzards or skiing) combined with some decent IR goggles. Does this sound like it would work?

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hm how big a chunk of steel we talking? like...you making anvils?

Im a pale-man and the closest I ever got was, mild sunburn on the arm during intensely hot forge welding practice(I literally, accidentally melted my steel) and that was because I didn't have very long tongs or a glove.
If you have tongs that are 20-40cm (8"-15") long, you should be ok.
you should be worried of burning yourself if your face is constantly 30cm (11") from the forges hottest part for multiple minutes at a time.

for bigger chunks radiating tons of heat id say thick gloves and maybe some welding sleeves.
if you're forging stuff that's like...sledge hammer head size, might be enough to just wear a glove on your non dominant hand.
that's what a lot of blacksmiths do, left hand glove, right hand free for hammer gripping and picking cold stuff up.

give us some reference for what kinda things you're looking to forge?

ps:
definitely avoid any and all synthetic fabrics! its better to burn than to melt! XD
cotton, leather, chain mail, linen(I like thick linen the best)

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I can only answer about propane forges because I don't know jack sh** about coal forges. With a propane forge, you're good with just safety glasses as long as you don't work at welding temperatures. If so, a good pair of shade 5 glasses and you're good to go. If you don't have any at the moment, I'd advise you not to stare at the inside of your forge too long. 

A piece of steel at welding temperature will also radiate a lot of heat but I wouldn't use gloves because a piece of scale or borax could get in your gloves and seriously burn yourself.

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Safety glasses are usually enough.  Gas forges cook you more than coal, too.  

I find shade 5 to be way too dark.  Just don't stare into the fire and you'll be fine.  

A thin glove on the tong hand is fine. No glove on the hammer hand, that way lies tendonitis.  And as mentioned, no synthetics.  Well, kevlar and nomex are okay, but for gloves the lightest split suede TIG gloves are great.  Those thick oven-mitt arc welding gloves will hurt you.

Welcome to the madness!

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Oh Great, tell him he doesn't need it, I was hoping to see the leather mask :-)

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Oh something else to add and I've never heard when starting out and learned the pain way:
keep your hands out of the water bucket! 
if you get a little burn or your hands get hot, don't dunk them in the water unless you're just about done with forging that day.

water softens up your skin and your skin will bruise and blister like crazy, especially if you haven't grown some thick skin yet.
water is not your friend.

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Don't wear a welding hood while forging, auto-dark or not. ;)

For those inevitable little burns from big hunks of scale landing where you don't want, like on the web of your hand or between your palm and the hammer handle, lay something frozen on it ASAP.  Freezer jam and cold-packs work well.  This both numbs the burn and stops the cooking.  Once numb, top off with your favorite burn cream.  The silver-based stuff is supposed to be good, aloe vera is great too.  

One more bit of safety advise involving gloves and water:  If you do wear a glove on your tong hand, don't let it get wet.  This can be from the water bucket or from sweat.  If your glove is wet, especially if it's the thick kevlar ones that let you pick up red hot steel with no problems, it will give you a terrible steam scald if you touch hot steel.  

But truly, all you really need is safety glasses, natural fiber clothes, and some common sense.  At least for the size of stuff we generally play with.  When you get into making billets that require a car furnace and forklift to manipulate, then you can think about the fancy stuff. 

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Yea , don,t want to cook your face! Pale skin or no , IR is simple heat , UV is the one to watch for.... not a big deal with straight up fire, gas coal, ect , but electric arc will fry your face in under an hour... , in smithing ...you will get burnt, live and burn baby live and burn....of course safety is a consideration not to be taken lightly, but best practices go a long way to stave off injury and pain. Make sure your tongs grip secure, your work area is organized, don’t just stare into the fire, be aware that flux will spray everywhere. Be ready to change things up if they are not working. Try things that might help. Personally thinking of one of those full face shields grinders use for the welding portions.

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20 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

For those inevitable little burns from big hunks of scale landing where you don't want, like on the web of your hand or between your palm and the hammer handle

One thing nobody ever told me when I started forging was that I would develop the super power to catch red hot scale in between my hand and the hammer, slightly release my grip on the hammer mid swing so the scale falls out, re grip like normal, all with no interruption to my hammering cycle. I dont even think about it anymore, it just happens.

It's when it comes in between the tongs and my hand that we have problems.

Gloves are a no go, I think. Its counter intuitive, but they make the danger of burning your hands worse. Makes it much harder to get hot things out (and they WILL find their way in.)

Another point I didn't see noted; avoid torn up, fringed denim jeans. That fringe is tinder. It takes a surprisingly little amount of encouragement for it to burn. The definition of panic is when you have flames from ankle to knee all because you decided to wear fringed jeans and use oxy-acetylene torches (speaking from experience ;))

Edited by Will W.

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5 minutes ago, Will W. said:

One thing nobody ever told me when I started forging was that I would develop the super power to catch red hot scale in between my hand and the hammer, slightly release my grip on the hammer mid swing so the scale falls out, re grip like normal, all with no interruption to my hammering cycle. I dont even think about it anymore, it just happens.

It's when it comes in between the tongs and my hand that we have problems.

Gloves in general are a no go, I think. Its counter intuitive, but they make the danger of burning your hands worse. Makes it much harder to get hot things out (and they WILL find their way in.)

Another point I didn't see noted; avoid torn up, fringed denim jeans. That fringe is tinder. It takes a surprisingly little amount of encouragement for it to burn. The definition of panic is when you have flames from ankle to knee all because you decided to wear fringed jeans and use oxy-acetylene torches (speaking from experience ;))

I'll never forget the day my buddy and I watched my dads tennis shoe catch fire while welding a roll cage in my car overhead.  We figured he must have know and were laughing.  Once he finished the weld he wondered what we were laughing about and told him his shoe was on fire.  It wasn't a big flame but it was definitely on fire, he put it out pretty quick after he noticed.  Hot metal has a way of finding flammable materials for sure.

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6 minutes ago, Will W. said:

Another point I didn't see noted; avoid torn up, fringed denim jeans. That fringe is tinder. It takes a surprisingly little amount of encouragement for it to burn. The definition of panic is when you have flames from ankle to knee all because you decided to wear fringed jeans and use oxy-acetylene torches (speaking from experience ;))

Not to mention when a hot offcut find its way into the hole at the knee and falls into your cowboy boot top...:o  I too learned the hard way not to wear ripped-up jeans at the forge.  

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9 minutes ago, Dave Brownson Jr. said:

We figured he must have know and were laughing

That's the worst part, you dont always notice. 

The incident I referred to, the bottoms of my jeans were all fringed. Well I decided to cut some 3/4" plate for a job, didn't even think about the fringe. Naturally, it caught fire. I didn't figure that part out for a little while.

I felt the heat on my legs, but of course it's hot, I'm using torches! Well eventually it started to hurt, so I stopped my cut and looked, sure as hell, flames from ankle to knee. 

Panic mode: engage. 

Luckily we had a large slack tub for cooling plates right near the torches anyway. My leg went right in, and the hair grew back eventually. 

16 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Not to mention when a hot offcut find its way into the hole at the knee and falls into your cowboy boot top

I have a feeling that cowboy boot was removed in record time that day :lol:.

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Luckily there weren't actual cowboy boots, they were Red Wing Pecos wellingtons, easy to slip on and off.  And yes, that boot was on the floor and my foot in the slack tub in approximately 1.5 seconds from impact. :lol:

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I'm a strong advocate for avoiding eye damage at any cost. Not just from shrapnel, but also from light.  All said above is pretty much key, but do make sure when you pick out safety glasses you pick out a nice comfortable pair even if they cost you a little more.  Wearing safety gear that is uncomfortable makes working a pain.

Depending on what fuel you are working with, you should avoid looking at the fire.  Coal/coke you can sometimes cover over pretty nice, but in general, I tell people instead of looking into the fire, pull the metal out briefly judge the color, push it back in.  Squint if you must look into the fire.

However I find my propane flame almost unavoidable due to its opening. I built my forge low to the ground almost waste height just to make sure that it was not going to be in my sight line, I also work with it at my back when I'm working at the anvil. 

Also don't stand overly close to your fire, I've also had what looks like a very slight sun burn from standing too close to the forge while working, both coal and propane. When you start out you do feel like you need to be right there in front of the fire watching everything, but you really don't.

 

Jeans, make sure they go over your boots/foot ware.  Don't stuff them into the boot, don't ware skinny jeans, and don't cuff them. Friend of mine at my club was working and got a piece of scale burn her right on the ankle due to skinny jeans.  I've worked with some guys that for some reason cuff their jeans just above their ankle, but normally a cuff is just a catch for scale.

gloves, I only use a glove if the work piece is long enough that I don't need tongs. And normally with coal fire as with propane everything is hot.  I wear a very open cuff glove so that I can shake it off if something gets in it quickly unassisted by the other hand, however I have hand big stuff fall into that cuff and burn me.

Typically, you will get your burns by touching something that is "black hot" or while grinding/cutting.  The key is to remembering if you hear the sizzle, don't grab.  You will probably hear the sizzle before you feel the ouch. 

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