From rLab

Some of the tools at the Hackspace are potentially hazardous to use, for these tools members are required to have an induction before they can use them. Inductions provide the most basic information on how to safely and effectively use the simpler functions of the tools, we appreciate that some members may have professional experience on some of these tools and in this case please tell your induction provider and the induction may be very reduced and just cover any risks or procedures specific to rLab. Some tools have multiple levels of induction in order to cover more advanced uses of that tool without making the basic induction take too long, higher induction levels will introduce some of the more advanced features of the tools but as with all inductions are only intended to provide basic information on the capabilities of the tools and how to use them safely. Some members of rLab may be willing to offer more detailed tuition beyond basic induction level or offer guided practice sessions in exchange for beer money or assistance on their own projects.

For all tools you are only required to take level-1 induction before use, after that you may perform any task that you feel confident you can do safely, higher levels of induction may be useful to you in performing more advanced operations but are not required before doing tasks covered in them so long as you're confident of your ability to handle those tasks without risk to yourself, others, or the tool.

PLEASE NOTE : All induction providers are volunteers who are providing inductions to the best of their ability but are NOT qualified instructors. Inductions are provided on a best-effort basis but you and you alone are responsible for your safety while using the tools and for satisfying yourself that you can operate the tools safely. There are professional training courses available from various providers in Reading and the surrounding area if you feel they are appropriate for the level of work you intend to undertake. Reading these notes is NOT a substitute for an in-person induction.

Note for wiki editors : Please do not edit induction pages unless you are one of of the people that gives that induction

The forge gets up to a maximum of 1350 ºC, uses flammable gas, has the risk of igniting metals and many other hazards, for that reason an induction is compulsory before using the forge. Induction normally takes about 2 hours, and another 2 hours for the forge to cool down afterwards before it can be put safely away. The forge has a useage charge of £5/hr so you can expect to pay in the region of £10 to cover 2 hours of forge time and materials to use for practice.


Topic Detailed Contents Rationale
Suitable Clothing
  • Old Clothes, they're going to get burn spots
  • Overalls are best
  • Avoid synthetic fabrics, they burn and melt
  • Heavy, Steel Toecap boots are a very good idea, but at least stout shoes, no sandals, no open-toed shoes
Suitable clothing is essential for safety
PPE Required
  • Goggles are required AT ALL TIMES WHILE FORGE IS LIT - the forge WILL shoot out flakes of red-hot scale
  • Welding gloves or heat-tolerant work gloves - dop rods will get hot!
  • Anti-vibration gloves if you're doing a lot of forging
  • Ear protection while hammering
Good PPE to protect from specific hazards
Workshop hazards and mitigation
  • Good air circulation needed - doors open but only slightly, monoxide hazard and detectors - immediate shut-down and evacuate if they go off
  • Heat buildup in the laser room
  • Slip hazard from quenching oil
  • Hazards of metals high in nickel, chrome, cadmium etc, and protection needed
  • Arc-eye hazards of welding
Hazards other than fire that could impact the rest of the workshop
Fire risks

Fire and burns are the single largest hazard in forging.

  • Clearing the area around the forge of all flammable materials, especially sawdust and the bins
  • Be aware of hazards of flammable vapours and solvents, keep well away from the forge
  • Back of the forge gets hot too, so be aware of what you're backed up against
Things that can cause fire
Dealing with Fire
  • In case of fire, TURN GAS OFF!
  • What types of extinguisher to use on what sort of fire
  • Using fire extinguishers
    • Calling for help, alerting people
    • Consider if the fire is small enough to fight
    • What types are suitable for what fires
    • We cannot extinguish metal fires, use the vermiculite to smother or place on a safe surface
    • NEVER use an extinguisher on the forge it's self, it has nothing flammable anyway and risks an explosion
    • Fire hazard from quench oil
    • How to use an extinguisher
Have to be ready to deal with a fire if it happens
Burn treatment
  • Evaluating the seriousness of burns
  • Basic burn first-aid
Shouldn't happen, but it's always a risk and people need to know how to deal with that

Theory of steel forging[edit]

[Draw the iron-carbon phase diagram on the board covering 0-1.5% carbon and 0-1500 ºC]

Topic Detailed Contents Rationale
States of steel and their properties
  • Ferrite - Soft, workable
  • Cementite - Hard, Brittle
  • Pearlite - Soft layered structure, normal resting state for most steels
  • Austentite - High temperature structure, soft, malleable, workable, dynamic structure
  • Martensite - Not a natural structure, formed by heat treatment, very hard, very strong quite brittle
  • Spheralite and Banite - Useful industrially but we can't make them here
Need to know the basics of how steels respond to heat in order to know how to work
Critical Temperature
  • Is at least 727ºC and can be more depending on %age carbon
  • Steels are generally magnetic below critical and non-magnetic above it.
  • Steel is formed above critical temperature and plannished below it.
  • Magnet can test for critical but learn to use colours
  • Other alloys can have different working temperatures
    • Bronze is much lower
    • Stainless steel is higher
    • Damascus steel is much higher
Vital concept for forging
Hot hardness Is a measure of how easy to forge the material is, small changes in composition can cause large changes in hot-hardness Key concept in working with different steels.
Heat treatment processes
  • Annealing
    • Heat slowly to above critical temperature
    • Soak till even temperature
    • Cool as slowly as possible, either in vermiculite or in the furnace
    • Some steels have a thermal "no-go" zone where you can't linger, check the datasheet
    • Results in a soft steel that's cold-workable
  • Normalizing
    • Heat slowly to above critical temperature
    • Hold it there for some time, time depends on thickness and your patience
    • Cool reasonably slowly
    • Relieves stress and lowers risk of cracking subsequent treatments
    • Not all steels can or should be normalised
  • Hardening
    • Heat to specified hardening temperature
    • Quench in air, oil, water or brine according to specification sheet
    • Leaves steel very hard and very brittle
    • Too slow cooling leaves metal soft, too fast will crack it
  • Tempering
    • Heat to temperature and time specified in datasheet
    • Reduces brittleness in hardened steels to make them useable
Basic ways to change the properties of steels
Heating Errors
  • Working a steel too cold - Very hard work and risk of cracking
  • Working a steel too hot - Hard to control and risk of crumbling from hot-shortness
  • Overly oxidising flames - Lots of scale and risk of decarburization
  • Overly reducing flames - Poor heat, Carbon monoxide risk, case-hardening, but unlikely to ever happen in our furnace
Knowing the serious errors and how to avoid them

Practical Forging[edit]

Topic Detailed content Rationale
Work Holding
  • Tongs
    • Type of tongs we have
    • Consider where to grip
    • Keeping the tongs from overheating
    • You can ask for someone to make special tongs if you need them, or make them yourself
  • Dop Rods
    • Much easier work-holding especially on items where you only work on one area at a time.
    • Welding onto the dop rods
    • Emphasize the need to use a LOT of weld material
    • Need to normalize the welds
      • What happens if we're not hot enough, or too hot!
    • They are GOING to break, what to do when they do
      • Watch for starting of cracks
      • Pick it up IMMEDIATELY with grips, place onto hot-safe surface
      • Allow to cool at least partially before re-welding
      • Grind off any loose material and re-weld
How to hold work in a safe and effective way
Examining and setting up the Forge
  • Describe the forge and it's parts
  • Visual inspection for loose pipes, gas leaks, electrical faults, loose bricks
  • How the tunnel can be opened longer for bigger objects
  • Never use brick choke and rear door at the same time
  • Vacuum out tunnel – clean before use, not after, it'll be too hot after
  • Reading the hours counter before you start and noting down the time it shows
How to get the forge set up and ready to fire safely
Lighting the Forge
  • Plug it in!
  • Checking the gas & air valve positions are closed
  • Start the blower
  • Cover the dramatic differences in gas and air settings
  • Turning on gas at the bottle and burners
  • Let a little air into the forge
  • Opening the main gas valve and using the lighter to get it lit
  • Adjusting the gas and air valves to get a flame the right size and slightly reducing
  • Demonstrate high/low, oxidizing/reducing, show what they look like
    • Large flames are more stable, small flames may result in burner over-heat, check this often
    • Overly oxidizing flames will damage metal and increase the risk of fire.
    • Starting up the second burner if you have a need to for a long object
  • You can start using the forge right away, you don't need to let it to full heat first
Getting it lit without hurting yourself, getting the flame properly set up for forging
Hammering technique
  • Holding the hammer
    • You need a grip tight enough to keep control but,
    • Avoid a "Death grip" on the hammer, you'll wind up with sore fingers and it won't help
    • Wear welding gloves for occasional use to protect against vibration, if you're forging regularly then get specific anti-vibration gloves
  • Using your body
    • Find a comfortable position, the anvil might not be the right height for you but do the best you can
    • Aim comes from your arm, power comes from your shoulder
  • Striking
    • Positioning yourself so that the hammer strikes just as it come parallel
    • Never strike directly on the anvil, they're both hardened and may crack
    • Using a light tap every few strikes to "reset" you position
    • What the different zones of the anvil do
Avoiding RSI and other injuries from the process
Shaping metal
  • Heating to a suitable colour, testing with magnet if you need to
  • Don't touch metal to anvil till you're ready to strike
  • Just get the feel of beating on the metal, try both hammers, see what it's like and don't assume you should use the heaviest you can
  • Consider the shape we're working towards
    • The need to come to both dimensions at once and not over-work in one direction
    • Correct any error immediately, don't let them grow
    • We can't fix over-thinning
  • Looking at the metal as it cools, seeing what needs to change
  • Drawing out using small hammers, large hammer on step, large hammer on side, edge of large hammer
    • Cycling draw out and flatten
  • Keep thinning, flattening, drawing out till target shape
  • Try to get the surface nice, so you can do less grinding
    • Plannishing below critical
Actually moving metal around with the hammers
Normalize and anneal when done
  • The need to normalize after forging to relax the metal
  • Annealing to make it more workable for subsequent finishing operations
  • Normalize for at least 2 cycles and maybe more for complex or precise shapes
  • Fix geometry before cycles
  • Using the vermiculite to slow down cooling to achieve maximum softening
  • Furnace cooling is also an option and may be more controlable
    • Using thermocouple to avoid any no-go-zone the metal may have
Post-forging treatments to make usable parts

Shutdown and clean up[edit]

Topic Detailed contents Rationale
Shutting down the forge
  • Air off – Gas off – Air on ; for fast cool-down leaving the air running to cool the forge if needed
  • Air off - Gas off with slight delay ; for furnace cooling of metal
  • The forge may stay hot enough to start fires for up to 2 hours
  • Marking out the area of "hot things" when leaving
Safe shut-down when done
Putting it away
  • Letting the forge cool down enough before putting it away
    • Hand-in-tunnel test
  • Don’t try to clean inside the tunnel, put it away dirty
  • Watching out for condensation dripping off the gas bottle
  • Sweep off anvil
  • Put anvil away
  • Sweep up scale, it's sharp-edged and irritating, don't leave it around for others
Putting everything back for the next person
Payment and Problems
  • Read the hours counter and calculate the cost
    • Put money into the downstairs honesty box
    • Or pay by bank transfer using "<yourname> - Forging fees" as the reference
  • If you saw any problems with the forge, contact the maintainers
  • If you saw any problems, change the "current status" on the wiki page
  • If you got any good photos, upload them to wiki or post on mailing list!
Keeping people updated on status