back when. As in when I was working it every chance I had(no, it's not quite the Devonian Age; shut up). Was married back then, and the house had a six-foot-square garden shed; after I built my big forge(more on that later) I fabricated a hood and chimney and put it in the shed. So figure a 6x6' space with a two-foot-wide forge, stump and anvil, and- after I found one I could afford and repair- a post vise mounted to a stud opposite the forge. No, not much room; but I did one hell of a lot of work in that place. Knife blades and guards and pommels, fireplace tools, camping stuff, candleholders and a bunch more(I've got pictures around somewhere, but right now I'm too beat to dig for them; I'll try to add them later).
Now, there were really only two drawbacks to that setup: one was heat in hot weather, and the other was noise. Yes, I had a pair of earmuffs, and wore them when I could(no earplugs; God, what I'd have given for a couple of sets of good ones); couldn't wear them all the time. Light pieces, no real problem, but when it came to big stuff- say, 1/2" high-carbon stock or 3/4" mild steel and up, or forging a damascus billet... that anvil rings. LOUD. The original Security Staff ignored it most of the time, but on those pieces, this one
would stand outside the door and howl; between the two, it got damn loud.
I mentioned heat, did I not? Ok, think of a 90+ degree day, and you're in a six-foot square space with a fire hot enough to burn steel, and a bunch of hot steel; I think working in a steel mill couldn't have been any worse. The rule is you wear long sleeves and pants, boots, etc.
In that weather I'd wear shorts and a t-shirt with a bandana tied around my head to try to soak up the sweat before it could drip down my glasses. And I'd drink constantly. Actually, 90+-degree days with low humidity weren't too bad: just drink enough. High-humidity days... On the former it really didn't feel bad to me(either my temp sense was fried or I was just used to it), in large part because in that heat the sweat dried fast. The latter days, you sogged. The shirt, the shorts were soaked and almost dripping, and no matter how much you drank it didn't seem to be enough.
God knows why I'm still alive.
Which brings me to what started this trip down memory lane: it comes and goes, and right now I've got that sound like something running in the other room living in my left ear. Between shooting when I was a kid, before plugs and muffs were commonly available, and all the hammering later, my ears give me hell at times. I guess they match up with the hell my hands(and sometimes an elbow*) give me over it all.
Oh, and add in the coal smoke, and oil smoke from quenching blades. Small ones weren't bad, but big ones... in hot weather I could set the quench tub just outside the door, but cold days I'd have to have it in with me: small pieces cool off so fast in cold weather there was no choice. When I finally was able to get a bucket of actual quenching oil, it made a big difference; still smoked, but not quite as much, and didn't smell as bad as motor oil.
*I don't blame the shoulder on this; it's from the damned bicycle crash. As I said at the time: "I've been riding motorcycles for years, gone rappelling, scuba diving, done SCA combat and other crap, and what damn near puts me in the hospital? A bicycle."
And if you're wondering, yes, the kids wore plugs or muffs from the time of their first shots; by that time I'd been able to get some of each.