The main task of a blacksmith is to pound hot metal and make cool stuff that’s useful to people. But I see more and more beginners on internet forums asking about the proper clothing of a blacksmith. Different smiths prefer different things, and everybody will tell you about their own opinion. In this article, I’m going to give you a general idea of what kind of clothing blacksmiths wear.
A blacksmith generally wears the following equipment (this includes protection gear as well):
- Safety glasses
- Protective gloves
The above list looks simple and obvious. However, a blacksmith needs to choose clothing and safety equipment that’s specifically tailored for smithing purposes.
He also needs to consider the various dangers when working with hot metal and choose his clothing accordingly. Let’s dive into each of the items on this list and see what one should look for in them.
If you’re going to get a shirt for yourself, there’s no need to overthink it.
The only thing to consider is the fabric. There are a couple of materials one can opt for when it comes to shirts.
- Cotton – You’ve probably heard of this one. It’s a prevalent fiber for shirts, and a lot of blacksmiths wear cotton shirts with close-fitting at the neck and sleeves without any cuffs.
- Wool – It is another material that works well. Wool fiber is probably less flammable than cotton fiber, but it’s too warm for a lot of people.
- Linen – It can be a bit risky to wear this fabric as an unfinished edge on linen clothing seems to catch sparks easily.
- Leather – It’s another excellent material because it doesn’t burn that quickly. But it’s a bit too hot to wear.
Simply put, natural fibers are better than synthetic fibers. A safe and standard option is to wear cotton in the summer and wool in the winter.
Generally, you’d see almost all blacksmiths wearing jeans for this purpose.
The criterion of shirts applies to pants as well: natural fiber is the best choice. I typically just wear a pair of 100% cotton jeans when working with metal.
Most denim jeans are 100% cotton, but you should check the tag just to make sure it doesn’t use synthetic fibers that are made to look and feel like cotton fiber.
One more thing to keep in mind is that the pants need to be long enough to cover the gaps between your boot and your ankle.
That is unless you’re okay with a piece of metal accidentally falling into the rim of your shoe.
All of us make mistakes, and even the most skillful blacksmiths may drop something while forging.
If that something is heavy, it might end up crushing your toes. That’s the reason why you’ll hear a lot about steel-toed shoes when choosing boots for yourself.
They’re an excellent way to protect your feet from heavy chunks of steel.
You don’t need to wear steel-toed shoes every time you forge, though. For general purposes, just look for a high-quality pair of work boots. Make sure it has a quality build and excellent stitching.
Also, remember what we talked about in the previous section. There should be no gaps between your pants and boots.
You don’t want hot metal shavings dropping into your shoe, so make sure that the entry point to your feet is covered.
I’m a huge fan of the Red Wing, which was the primary supplier of boots to American soldiers in the World Wars. Their excellent-quality boots are still manufactured in the US.
4. Safety Glasses
This one’s a no-brainer. Blacksmiths wear safety glasses to protect their eyes. Your eyes are precious and one of the most vulnerable parts of your body.
When it comes to blacksmithing, you want to make sure that your eyes stay protected from kinetic energy (projectiles) and light energy or radiant energy.
You should do proper research before buying safety glasses and invest in high-quality ones.
Now, sometimes even the most obvious things aren’t so obvious – not to me, at least. Back when I started with knifemaking, I was dumb enough to have no safety glasses on.
One day, a piece of a disk from an angle grinder broke and hit me in my foot. That got me wondering, what if that hit me in the face instead? I quickly realized how stupid it was of me not to wear safety glasses.
5. Protective Gloves
Protective gloves are essential when working with metal. If you go near the forge and don’t have a quality pair of gloves on, you’re risking a lot. Here is a good article on how to pick the right gloves for blacksmithing
Blacksmiths can pretty much get away wearing a glove whenever they want, and they probably should wear them most of the time. I’d like to show you some scars if you think otherwise.
With that said, a lot of operations in blacksmithing don’t require a pair of protective gloves. So it remains mostly a matter of preference, much like a lot of other things.
If you’re looking for a good pair of gloves, steer clear from anything that has a mesh backing or any type of polyester to it, for example, a mechanic’s glove.
You shouldn’t wear synthetics at all, even if it is claimed to be a fire retardant. That’s because even if they might not burn, synthetic fibers tend to get hot and melt, which can burn the wearer quite severely. Opting for leather gloves is the best option.
It’s easy to imagine how wearing an apron adds a layer of protection while working with metal.
However, some people prefer not to wear aprons. In my opinion, an apron is useful in that it protects your skin from cuts and burns.
There are also other benefits to it, which are often overlooked. An apron protects your shirt.
Sometimes, those small pieces of metal burn right through your shirt and land on your skin. Also, your hands get somewhat dirty when you’re working with metal.
I believe that if you are concerned about your safety, get a leather apron.
Now, a forging apron is simple enough. But one thing you must make sure is that your apron should have proper straps.
If you have an apron with only a neck strap, long smithing sessions will make you uncomfortable. In case you’re wearing a collarless shirt, the straps can even dig into your skin.
The weight of an ideal apron should be distributed more comfortably by the use of a cross or waist strap.
These are the essentials of what blacksmiths wear when they’re working with metal. Most of the attire is self-explanatory; you just have to remember that you’ll be working with fire and hot metal.
You can add or remove things based on the kind of job you’re about to do but always remember to have the necessary protective gear.
As they say, “There are two kinds of smiths: those who have been burned and those who have yet to be burned.”
Hopefully, this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading, be safe and good luck with your projects!
Cheers tools owners!