Updated November 08, 2010.
I'll add more material here when I again have time to write and produce for this website. Planning for a set of drawers or shelves for convenient storage of small supplies and tools under the forge hearth.
Tongs and other tools should be hung out of the way so that they don't interfere with the work being done in the fire. On all of my newer forges the tongs racks are made to allow the jaws of the longest tongs to hang below the surface of the hearth or edge of the hearth. The above photo shows the jaws of the tongs are level with or below the sides of the forge. In the tongs rack thumbnail photo (above right) the tongs rack is made of 1/4 x 2" flat stock which is rigid enough for short racks without bowing too badly. This particular rack hangs from the side edges of a steel forge hearth.
My earliest forges had tongs racks mounted level with the hearth. This turned out to be a problem at times for the type of work I do (gatesmithing and general blacksmithing) because it allowed the tongs to interfere with or snag large objects being heated. The jaws of the tongs are were well above the surface of the hearth and caught on large scrollwork and frames as I was moving them into and out of the fire. But some smiths don't seem to find a problem with this style of tool rack placement and many smiths who handle mostly small forgings find this arrangement comfortable. Every smith has their own way or style of hanging tools out of the way. Some smiths kept lots of tongs in racks around the forge. Some keep tongs on racks attached to the hoods of their forges. Some keep their tongs away from the forge entirely. Here are some photos showing examples of this.
At far left is one of the forges located to one side of Otto Schmirler's old shop in Vienna, Austria. In that photo all the tongs were hung either on wall racks or on racks attached to the hoods of the forges. See more of Otto Schmirler's shop in Vienna, Austria here: http://www.beautifuliron.com/vienna.htm
In the photo at left is an ornamental blacksmith shop in Gmünd Austria, and we can see that no tongs are hung around the hood but the hood is used instead as a drawing board for details and notes on the work immediately in progress. The smiths' tongs being hung on the horizontal leg supports beneath the hearth. See more of the shop in Gmünd, Austria here: http://www.beautifuliron.com/gmund.htm
Compare the above photos with this one at left. The Dean shop from Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. The medieval style forge used in the Dean shop has tool racks hung in front of the forge to either side of the fire. See more of the Colonial Williamsburg blacksmiths here: http://www.beautifuliron.com/anderson.htm
Conclusion; Tongs Racks: While tool racks need to be kept nearby the forge to allow the smith to grab a tool as needed, at the same time the racks must not present an obstacle to the work. The smith has only seconds to complete his work when the iron is hot and this dictates that work space be made as efficient as possible.
Tool racks can be cast into the masonry during the construction of the forge. Tool racks can be welded to steel hood structures, and racks can be welded to steel forge legs. Racks can be fastened to walls. In all cases the tools used most often are kept nearest the forge. It is a good idea to design the attachment of a tool rack to allow the ends of the jaws to hang below the level of forge hearths if it is anticipated that long bars of iron or large objects such as scrolls, are to be heated. Knife makers forges and horseshoeing forges seldom are used for heating long bars or larger objects and racks hung above the level of the hearths of these forges probably won't snag the smaller work that is being moved between fire and anvil. But on larger forges that handle larger work, it would be a great labor saver to have the tongs hung as far out of the way of the direction of movement from fire to anvil or fire to other equipment.
Tong racks hung on walls or forge hoods present another aspect that give smiths pause before installing. Racks on forge hoods must be hung high enough to keep tongs handles up out of the way of the smith's eye-view of the fire and keep the tongs handles from fouling the smith's body during work in the fire. Tongs racks hung too high make choosing tongs too difficult or time consuming. Handles of tongs hung on racks will normally spread open and this may cause the handles to protrude into the workspace of the blacksmith while he is working at the fire.
It is best to make a mock-up of a tongs rack to be fastened temporarily to the area the smith would like to place the permanent tool rack, to test the convenience and practicability of the intended location of the tool rack.
Updated November 08, 2010.
Page Created January 04, 2004.