Fire Hazard Shop Safety!

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by stezann, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. stezann


    Apr 13, 2011
    Two horrible events shocked our community recently, and amazing people lost their shops to fire.
    I didn't feel to hijack the dedicated supporting threads, but i believe we need to talk a bit about shop safety regarding fire, just in case it would be helpful.

    After i heard of those burnt shops i started asking me why my shop didn't follow the same route? Just luck? YES!!! and that is not good.

    So please share your own experience, how do you do to make it sure your hot oil quench tank won't fall on the floor making it a lake of fire, or how do you ensure your red hot flux or your tack welding sputters won't sprinkle on the steel wool into your scrap bin....etc. Do you think having just one fire extinguisher in the shop would be enough to handle any fire?

    Please also share your experience about totally unexpected events which could have gone wrong or actually did.

    Thank you
  2. Hengelo_77

    Hengelo_77 Basic Member Basic Member

    Mar 2, 2006
    I don't forge but I have a seperate "fire room" in my shop.
    The walls and ceiling are plastered so nothing can burn.
    It is the only place I use my angle grinder, welder or torch.
  3. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I try to remember to dump the shop vac after the day's grinding is done.

    Before I leave the shop, I turn out the lights and look in the dark for glowing piles of metal dust on the bench magnets.

    When I have been doing some heavy grinding during the day, I usually come back out to the shop before turning in for the night to check for smells or smoke one last time.
  4. JSMcustoms


    Feb 2, 2012
    I think one of the simplest things that can be done to minimize fire risks is to have a metal container (one that can be sealed) for oily rags. You'd be surprised how many shops I've seen that just use an open topped plastic bucket for collecting them in.
  5. Chris Larrikin

    Chris Larrikin

    Jul 19, 2012
    Stacy you do a lot of checking as a matter of procedure; how often have you seen those embers or smelled smoke?
  6. hardingknives


    Mar 29, 2010
    I always do a hot work rundown when finished, NOTHING on the floors and metal walls floor to ceiling, check the grinder piles and even give the mound a little squirt for safe measure. another smart thing is to keep your rechargables on a strip and shut it off when gone
  7. Drew Riley

    Drew Riley Riley Knife and Tool Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 17, 2007
    I put a fairly wide base (although it could probably be wider...) on the bottom of my vertical quench tank. I also have a lid that fits tightly around it.

    I recall ONCE trying to edge quench a large chef's knife, where the only "oil tight" container I could find that was big enough was a plastic drawer out of one of those cheap little press together organizers. Well, sometimes we get a little too focused on what we're doing to necessarily go over a cause and effect scenario, so I didn't think too hard about what happens when you plunge 1500F glowing hot steel into combustible oil with a much lower flash point, contained in a thin plastic container with a much lower melting point. Now, historically, if I'm quenching in my vertical tank, I plunge the entire blade in and get almost no flash or flame. This was obviously not the case, however, for an edge quench. As the flames exploded out of the top of my poorly thought out "quench drawer" I could actually see the sides starting to turn clear and begin to bow. It's at times like these that you find out what your lungs are made of.... Fortunately I was somehow able to blow the flame out before the plastic collapsed and sent a river of flaming parks 50 all over the floor of my shop.
    Maybe it was all those years of playing saxophone.....
  8. aarongb


    Nov 2, 2007
    I'm obviously not Stacy:). It happened to me only once that I know, which means it can happen again. Nothing special about that circumstance. I had been grinding a couple of blades, fiddled around the shop some (I'm a hobbyist, "fiddling" is the job description), was going to the house to watch TV when I saw a spark in the steel dust on one of the magnets on my grinder. Not a big deal, but I wondered how many times that happened before I started checking every single time.

    But then, it's not so much about how often it happens, it's that it CAN happen, easily.

    My precautions, always a full bucket of water with a lid, "ABC" fire extinguisher, and like Stacy, check for sparks and smoke after doing anything in the shop.
  9. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I have found a glow in the metal dust on a magnet a few times.

    I smelled and saw smoke once and found a smolder in a corner behind the grinder. Some wood dust and grindings had caught just enough to be a punky slow burn. Maybe it would have burned out, and maybe it would have burned the shop down. That is why I come back and check. A second look/check is wise when so much is on the line.
  10. Salem Straub

    Salem Straub

    Oct 20, 2008
    I have found wood and grinder dust smoldering in my shop, too. It's not a good idea to have any exposed wood where sparks from your belt grinder can land. A steel cover over your grinder bench, or hang the grinder off the edge of a bench, and put a metal spark plate on the wall behind it.

    Another time my dust collector caught fire. That's when I learned to check the water level much more frequently!

    This is a very good discussion to be having right now.
  11. JoshW


    Nov 1, 2015
    With as handy as everyone on this forum seems to be it would be a very simple and inexpensive task to plumb in a DIY fire sprinkler system into a shop. Fire sprinklers are -very- effective at preventing total-loss type fires. Also, contrary to popular belief all sprinkler heads in a system don't activate if one activates so no worry about losing your shop to water damage.

    Just a thought...
  12. Salem Straub

    Salem Straub

    Oct 20, 2008
    Actually Josh, having been a fire sprinkler fitter apprentice myself for a couple years, you are right. A typical knife shop could be fully covered by 4-8 heads, or less. It's not rocket science, either. That's a good thought.
  13. pwheeler


    Dec 30, 2013
    I set my shirt on fire cutting Ti with an angle grinder the other day, does that count?
  14. Gilbert M

    Gilbert M

    Sep 8, 2013
    One thing I started doing recently is my paper towels I use to clean oil off handles,hand sanding blades or drilling I put in a plastic bag with water in a metal can. Also open the garage door and use my gas blower.
  15. JMJones


    Jul 14, 2010
    I have my forges on carts. I only use them outside, as well as only use the oxy torch and angle grinders outside too. I mounted a post leg vise outside the shop to hold stuff when using the torch and grinders.
  16. mwerner


    Apr 23, 2002
    I'm just thinking of getting into this, and I've been looking at those "home-made forge" videos on YouTube. Of the dozen or so I looked at....Only ONE guy mentioned having a fire extinguisher handy.
  17. Lieblad


    Jul 24, 2015
    I am fairly fireproof of construction 5/8" sheetrock tightly firetaped and/or tall foundation walls.
    None the less, I always take on brief firewatch after I shut down for the day. & a fire/security system consists of rate of rise heat detectors in the dirty areas.

    If something catches alight whilst I am present,
    A couple 20lb ABC extinguishers and about 30 gallons of water based science project in the slacktub.( the dog drinks from it, It cant be that bad...)
  18. Nathan the Machinist

    Nathan the Machinist KnifeMaker / Machinist / Evil Genius Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Feb 13, 2007
    Many moons ago I had an oiled canvas coat. I wore it welding a few times. It eventually caught fire while I was wearing it. Pretty big fire too...

    I was a pretty dumb kid...
  19. Scott Hanson

    Scott Hanson Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Sep 6, 2014
    Yup, in high school shop class I had a pair blue jeans that kinda ratty at the cuffs catch on fire in a welding booth.
  20. Rhinoknives1

    Rhinoknives1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 1, 2013
    on a cold winter day about 18-19 years ago when I was a noob I set myself on fricking fire :eek: by Sculpting a bunch of Ironwood handles and then grinding a blade of carbon steel Damascus.

    I switched to a new 36G and started grinding the Damascus, I had my respirator on so my downward vision was obscured.

    I smelled smoke?:confused:
    I then saw that the pile of of ironwood at the base of my Coote grinder was smoldering but felt even more heat and that the heavy cotton jacket I was wearing was on fire in a fold by a button where the ironwood had collected was on fire.
    :eek: The moral of the story is that if it can go wrong it will go go wrong.

    Particularly when it comes to fire! :eek: I always have at least one and usually two fire extinguishers handy in my shop or ANYWHERE I am working and Fire is possibly from sharpening/grinding.

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