Saturday, January 04, 2014

Protective Aprons?

Expanded (with images) from an e-mail response...

On 03/01/14 12:04 PM, Kevin wrote:

I took your bladesmithing course a while back, and I just had a quick question. What are your thoughts on blacksmith aprons and their length? I know it depends on the task at hand, but do you prefer below or above the knee length or right to the floor? Cow hide?

The apron protects your clothes mainly.
I have two, both ones I made up myself.

One is a farrier's style, which just belts around the waist and hangs to about mid thigh. This is the area where most of the spray from welding or scale hits you. The top of your pants is the area which gets most of it.

The other is a full bib type, which does sit fairly high around my neck.  This does cover your chest, which I like for more 'dangerous' work like metal casting and iron smelting.

The advantage of the short type is that your chest is not covered with leather. In the summer - this also means all that heat is not being held close to your body.

Both mine are slit in the centre - up to the crotch. I find this improves mobility, and really does not detract from the protection.

Mine are a medium weight leather. Truth is that a lighter leather works perfectly fine - the protection is not for penetration. I've used cow hide, but that was more based on what I had (and what was cheap - I had bulk purchased a pile of this gray stuff.) I'd almost think a pig skin might be better - it is more flexible.

You could easily use a heavy cotton canvas, it just not might last as long. Lee Valley and Canadian Tire have both sold reasonably good heavy cloth aprons in the past.

Here are another couple of other suggestions:

A trick I saw Scott Langton use (at a long past demo at Quad State Roundup) was to wear a carpenter's pock apron. This does offer some protection on the main upper thigh impact area. More important, it allows you to carry around some small tools with you as you work. In demonstration especially, away from your normal set up, I have found this trick extremely useful. Keep your eyes open, as cheaper versions (in leather) sometimes go on sale at CTC or Princess Auto. (I think I paid $15 for the one I use)

For 1800's demonstrations, I did spend a chunk of cash and get a custom made pair of horsehide pants. These are similar to a 'buckskin' style, without the fringes normally seen. I had the leather reversed (suede side out). The piece from crotch to knee on the outside is double layered. The leather is supple, like a deer skin but easily twice the thickness. Although some expense, I would expect these to last a life time - even if used daily. (Note that in this image, the apron is more for show than at all needed for cold copper forming!)

1 comment:

Cathy Raymond said...

Here's a slightly different question. Did smiths wear protective aprons in the Viking age and, if so, what were they like? Do we have any information that would help answer that question?


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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