When it comes to deciding what to wear to blacksmith class at Brown County Forge or any other blacksmith shop or school, there are a few good rules of thumb:
- No synthetics – Synthetic materials like lycra, spandex, nylon, and polyester don’t stand up to high temperatures and sparks. In fact, they melt almost immediately when the come into contact with fire and hot surfaces. To avoid injury, I always encourage attendees of my classes to avoid synthetics if at all possible.
- Boots or sneakers – Ideally, we would all be wearing leather boots in the shop, but I understand that not everyone owns boots. Sneakers are also fine, but be aware that the rule about synthetics also applies to footwear. I’ve seen some really nice shoes get damaged when a piece of hot scale or a spark landed on them.
- Cotton, canvas, denim – This goes along with the synthetics rule, but if you’re ever wondering exactly what goes and what doesn’t in the shop, stick to Cotton t-shirts and canvas pants (think Carhartts) or denim jeans. These natural materials, as long as they aren’t blended with lycra or elastane, will resist sparks. They’re not fireproof but they help.
- Hair tied back – Long hair in the shop is no problem as long as it stays out of the way and away from the fire.
And that’s it! I provide all other safety equipment in class including hearing protection, eye protection, and gloves.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in class soon!
At Brown County Forge, we have an age limit of 14 years old for our classes.
In addition, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult (parent or guardian).
The parent or guardian is not required to take the class, but must remain on site during it.
Why Not Younger than 14?
I’ve given the age question a lot of thought over the years.
Sadly, I’ve had to turn down a few folks and their kids if they weren’t quite old enough.
Here are the main reasons I keep the minimum age at 14:
- From experience, I can be reasonably sure that most 14 year-olds have enough arm strength to safely swing a 2.5-pound hammer for a couple hours.
- Hand-eye coordination is one of the most important skills involved in blacksmithing. While kids are still growing and especially during adolescence, they often have trouble controlling body movements. Adding fire and extreme heat to that equation can be very risky.
- Ability to follow instructions. It’s incredibly important in a blacksmith shop to be able to do exactly as the blacksmith says. If you can’t, the risk of injury skyrockets.
The ultimate goal of the minimum age requirement is to keep everyone safe.
There is no way to guarantee that someone younger than 14 can’t meet those requirements or that anyone over 14 can.
There are many adults who struggle with those same three concepts above and I’ve met some younger kids who can handle the responsibilities very well.
As a rule of thumb, 14 is the minimum.
Other Blacksmithing Opportunities with Lower Age Limits
If you have a youngster with a deep interest in blacksmithing, I can recommend a few resources for learning more:
- The Indiana Blacksmithing Association holds regular Saturday meet-ups that younger folks are welcome to attend. There are often opportunities to get behind an anvil and get to work.
- Conner Prairie has a wide variety of youth-centered activities at their facility in Fishers. Full, hands-on blacksmithing classes may be limited. Classes cost $200+.
- The DIY Blacksmithing Course is open to all ages and can be taken from the comfort of home. It costs $97 for a comprehensive foundation in all necessary blacksmithing skills.