Anvil – Anvil, iron block on which metal is placed to be shaped, originally by hand with a hammer. The blacksmith’s anvil is usually of wrought iron, but sometimes of cast iron, with a smooth working surface of hardened steel. A projecting conical beak, or horn, at one end is used for hammering curved pieces of metal.
Anvil | metalworking | Britannica.com
My Anvil Story
When I began to pursue blacksmithing, I started looking for an anvil. I first found a piece of railway which I used, but continued to look. I then found one for sale that was in my price range. It did have one rough edge, but could be cleaned up. The ring was almost to much, but then I learned that if the anvil is tightly fastened to the stand or block it would deaden the sound. It worked, not only did it deaden the sound but also worked much more efficiently in forging. I have since put that first anvil through its paces, and along the way, I continue to learn about hammer control at the anvil and the higher efficiencies that can be obtained with better forging profiles. This has brought me to examine my current anvil. Should I try for a repair or begin hunting for a higher quality anvil? For other tips on required tools check out Essential Blacksmith Tools for the Beginner.
What is a Good Anvil?
Whenever I talk to people about a Good Anvil, there definitely seems to be some strong opinions regarding anvils. I believe it is safe to say that people have varied amounts of money in their pocket. I think this greatly influences the Anvil that we look for and ultimately buy. That being said, there are a few things to look for in purchasing a good anvil.
First let’s just talk about the weight of the anvil. The weight is really more or less dependant upon the type of work you are going to be doing. Maybe not so much the type but the size of the work you will be doing. In my class setting, we have gotten by with 25 lb anvils for a while now. I was able to increase the efficiency of these anvils quite a bit, when I fastened them to a concrete base stand. This give us a lot of capability when working with smaller material. This is not to say that I am recommending a smaller anvil. By all means, get what you can afford. Just know that if a smaller one is all you have, that should by know means stop you from learning.
Second, I have discovered that a good round edge such as a 3/16ths or 1/4 inch rounded edge to help give you a smoother transition and prevent coldshut formation. I like how Blacksmith Joey Vandersteeg demonstrates this in this video using a piece of mild steel for his anvil.
What are the parts of the anvil?
If you study anvil shapes for long, you will notice that they come in all kinds of styles. We will first discuss the double horned anvil pattern. Starting with the base of the anvil, it will have a wider base than the top face to prevent tipping when being struck. The base may have feet attached that stick out wider or sometimes the the feet will hold the anvil up off the stand as well. On larger anvils there may be an upsetting block attached to the base. From the base we will move up to the waist which is a narrower cross section located between the base and the upper face. Now the face of the anvil is the top flat working area of the anvil. There will be a conical horn towards the front which can be helpful in drawing out, or can also be thought of as a bunch of varying diameters in consecutive order. The hardie hole is usually located between the face and the conical horn on these double horned anvils. The flat cone protrudes to the rear of the anvil with a pritchel hole located between the face and the flat cone.
The London Pattern will have many of the same features from the base, feet, waist, bick/horn in the front, with a extended face in the rear where the hardie hole, and pritchel hole are located.
What is the function of the Anvil?
As we think about what it is we are trying to accomplish with the anvil, let’s define it in such a way that will help us learn about the functions of the anvil. The goal we are trying to accomplish is to form/reform or manipulate the mass of steel using heat and pressure. Therefore the function of the Anvil is to aid us in providing pressure on the steel. By applying a force/pressure with our hammer there results an equal and opposite force/pressure being applied from the anvil. In this way we can think of the anvil as a bottom die and our hammer as the top die. Now we can use the various bottom die shapes to help us in forming our steel, the flat die of the face, the radiused edge, the larger radius of the horn. In using these different shapes, we can manipulate the metal into direction we so desire. Which leads us to our next question, What can I use as an Anvil?
What can I use as an Anvil?
From across the internet, I have seen all kinds of suggestions, Railroad rail, a old sledge hammer face, Blocks of steel. As you continue your search for the right anvil, keep the function in mind. Almost anything that you do find, can be improved by stabilizing it securely. If you come across a unique looking anvil, let me know what you have found.
Brief History of Anvils
Take a look at this interesting article describing a brief history of anvils.