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Anthony Reid

Advise on doing real work on a tiny anvil

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Due to a series of circumstances I have been looking for ways to make my smithing and knifemaking operation more portable and one area I have been looking at is anvils. I wonder if anyone here has any experience doing serious work on a stump anvil or similar? I have been looking at the viking anvil and the block anvil offered by Fort Vause Outfitters because the pricing is pretty good and they are made with ductile iron which can't be the worst material ever judging by how many well recommended anvils are made from it. Even with the exchange rate and shipping I think the fort vause anvils would actually be cheaper then trying to by steel locally and make a similar item myself. For reference I called a local steel supplier that deal in small quantitities and a 4x4x18" piece of 4140 would cost over $300. I would normally head to the scrap yard for a look see but the scrap yard here no longer sells scrap to individuals citing insurance liabilities. So if anyone has any general experience with tiny anvils or even better the Fort Vause products in particular I would love to hear about it ! I find working on my normal anvil I only use about 4 inches of the face and rarely use the horn so a small face wont bother me but the lightweight of the anvil could pose a problem. I just wonder if there is a good way to secure a tiny anvil to make it work like a larger one?

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Do you know about these folks http://oldworldanvils.com/? They also make block and stake anvils.

 

The physics of an anvil are interesting, mass, shape, and hardness all come into play.

 

The more mass below the struck surface is better. An unsupported surface, like the heel or horn flexes and steals energy from your strike.

 

Hardness comes into play in returning energy to your hammer after the strike.

 

A small, heavy, hard, and well secured anvil will probably work better than a larger, heavier, soft, unsecured anvil. I have a 200# anvil that was OK to work on just sitting on a stump, but was a much better tool bolted down. Energy was lost because the anvil bounced with every hit.

 

So a small stump anvil, well secured to a large stump, may, I repeat. MAY, work better than a larger anvil. poorly mounted.

 

The one problem I see with Fort Vause anvils, is hardness. Ductile iron (which I didn't see in the description anywhere) is soft. So the rebound may be (will be) poor. That is one strike against them. Do you know anyone who is using one?

 

OTOH, a lot of smiths over a lot of centuries, would have taken any of those anvils and run away laughing. A lot of stuff got made on dinky little bits of soft iron (or worse) and the smiths were just fine.

 

Many smiths glue their anvils down. Silicone or construction adhesive works pretty well. An old school solution was lead. I'm not sure I would go that route.

 

Little anvil and a big block, is how I would go. I've got 200# under my 200# anvil, and it's not too much, except to move.

 

Geoff

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So far as I know cliff carol anvils, TFS, jhm,delta and a few others are made with ductile iron and I have seen them recommended but I haven't used them myself. I emailed the people at Fort Vause and according to them the anvils hold up as well as 4140 in use and can be heat treated if the user so desires but it might not be worth it I really don't know. Something like the anvil Bogdan Popov came up with would be ideal for me I think but so far as I know they are not commercially available and getting one to Canada if they were would be prohibitively expensive but that is the sort of thing I hope to replicate even if on a smaller scale

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You are right, all of these anvils are made of ductile iron. They are also all farriers anvils, and few (or none of them) advertise a hard face. The farriers I know don't do much forging, in the sense of making shoes. Mostly they take ready made shoes and adjust for size. I'm not dissing farriers, BTW, I have nothing but respect for the folks who do that work (our farrier is a Goddess, as far as we are concerned) and I know that there are folks out there who make shoes start to finish. I'm just saying that the tools sold to them are specific to the kind of work they do, and heavy forging is mostly not what they do.

 

I don't know how you'd go about hardening DI, (the spec calls for 3-4% carbon). The best anvils, IMHO, are made from 4140 or 8650(?). Older American and European anvils were made of wrought iron (later mild steel) with a welded hard plate. I'm betting that these DI anvils are little better than the Russian or Chinese anvils sold in discount stores. I could be wrong, of course, but I would like to see one, or better yet, work on one, before investing my cash in one.

 

I did notice that TFS and JHM both have a farrier line, and a blacksmith line. that makes me wonder.

 

You asked for advice, and I've given mine. Perhaps some other folks will weigh in as well.

 

Geoff

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I have worked on a TFS anvil, and they are somehow heat treated to have a hard face and decent rebound. I am worried that the guys you talked to said theirs was not so treated. In hard use that means it would mushroom and spall like my ductile iron hawk drifts.

 

As Geoff said, actual viking anvils were dinky little things made of wrought iron, and you can see the wear on surviving ones. The Vikings used stone anvils for heavy work like bloom consolidation and refining into bar stock, so those little iron anvils were only used for small work. Like knives, for instance. They were also considered a consumable in that they would be reforged when they wore out. On a big stone anvil.

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My 2c on the situtaion may be a bit biased but I purchased the 4x4 stake anvil from oldworldanvils.com and I love it. For knives it is imo more than workable, although as I said my opinion is bias since I went from a rr track anvil to this and have never had the opportunity to work on a traditional anvil yet.

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I've done most of my forging work on an iron age style anvil, weighing around 8kg. It does work quite well as long as it is a solid mass. Not as fast as a decent weight one, I could definitely feel the difference when I switched to one, but not that bad either. In my case, I had to take out the anvil each time, and place the stump away. If I didn't have to do that, I would have used a longer stump and buried it in the ground, and made sure the anvil was fixed firmly into the stump. That would have made it a lot more effective. Also, the stump anvil was mild, and I didn't find that a problem. Whenever the face was marked, I went over it with my hammer, and it was flat again in a few minutes, with exception of the deepest marks. I also really liked the square face of it for blade making. I don't like anvils with a horn at each end, because they are completely in the way when you're forging a blade.

 

Oh, and make sure that stuff on shelves are properly secured, as I had stuff walking off and falling down now and then ;)

 

forging.jpg

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I have a couple London Pattern anvils. My favorite anvil and the one I use, is a 4'x4' stump anvil from, Old World Anvils. For a while I even used a 12" piece of 1 1/4" square seated in a hole in a stump, just for the heck of it. I don't use the horn or bottom tools, just hammer and anvil. So, for me, all that is used is the hammer face and about the same area of an anvil. To each their own, but as previously mentioned, there has been an awful lot of ironwork produced throughout history on anvils no bigger than a mans fist.

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I still have a rail road anvil I made many years ago. I used it for making damascus knives for a couple years even. Now I use it mostly for jewelry / fine metalsmithing cold-forging. The most important thing was the weight of the stump it was bolted to. So long as you can find a sturdy base, the anvil itself need not be that mighty. I'd guess this guy is 15-20 lbs. But you bolt it to something really immobile and you're good. It can be done.

 

railanvil.jpg

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Second the poor mans rr anvil, this is my setup and works perfect for the money spend on the steel.

 

Avil.JPG

Edited by Karim

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I have used a variety of "Anvil" objects over the years from railroad track anvils to heavy equipment counterweights to a flat granite boulder when I was in Uganda so I know just about anything will "work" but what I am looking for right now is something that will work reasonably well while being pretty portable and not taking up too much space either in storage or in use. The old world anvils 4x4 stake anvil would probably work well for my needs but at $135 USD it comes out to $180 Canadian before adding in shipping etc so I would probably be looking at close to $300 by the time I got it whereas the fort vause anvil is $50 USD which makes it a lot more apealing but I also know from experience that cheap tools seldom are actually any good so I was hoping someone had some experience with them or a suggestion of something else I could look at. Its starting to look like my local source for 1045 and 4140 may not be so expensive after all. If I were to buy a chunk of 4x4 1045 or 4140 what would be the best way to mount it? Being able to take it out of the stand for transport would be nice but I am open to suggestions

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Also as I mentioned above I can get 1045 or 4140 in 4x4 section the 1045 is cheaper but if the 4140 is that much better it might be worth the extra cost. Also heat treating could play into it as either steel would have to be either used as is or heat treated by me

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I use a chunk (a big chunk, 260 lbs) of 4140 on end in a steel tube. It's held in place with some wooden wedges. Because it's 29 inches long it's tall enough (including the base) to be at forging height. If you had a shorter block I would do this.

 

A wood base with a piece of plate screwed to the top of that. Weld a square tube to the plate. Drop a 4x or 6x cut to the right length into the tube, put your block in the tube and wedge it in place. It would be simple to pull the wedges and pull the block (a big lifting magnet might help, or you could weld a couple of lifting handles to the block). If you put wheels on your base plate and receivers for a handle then the whole thing could be moved like a hand truck.

 

Another idea to play with. A chunk of heavy plate with a stump on it. Take a piece of RR track and bolt it to the side of the stump with the track on end. The end of the track is your hammering surface. You can build tool racks around the stump and other tools could be mounted on the top of the stump. 4 heavy chunks of steel welded together to form a square hole gives you a Hardy tool holder which could be set into the stump. A piece of big round laid on it's side would give you a drawing surface.

 

This is what I have built for my own use. The anvil in the block on the right side, the long thing is another block of 4140 on it's side which I use to hold fuller tools and stuff like that. There is also a swage block, which hold other tools like my cutoff and some forming tools. There is a hammer rack down the center. It all sits on a 1 inch plate on a 2x4 frame. I can get a pinch bar under the ends of the plate and put it on rollers if I need to.

 

IMG_9380 (640x427).jpg

 

Geoff

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If you have heavy equipment users in your area, check to see if they have any excavator demolition hammer bits that are unserviceable; they make a great post anvil. I have one that is 6" diameter about 5 feet long, rescued from the junk yard....there were 4 others all bigger thrown away as well.

Edited by SteveShimanek

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Geoff, did you heat treat your 4140 blocks at all? How are they holding up?

 

Steve, that's a great idea I will have to make some calls!

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I'm using them as found. They can be marked with a missed hammer blow, but much less than mild steel. Someday I may have the end of the post hardened.

 

Geoff

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Anthony, I have to ask for your definition of "real work" and what you intend to make on this anvil.

It's possible that the 4x4 stake anvil ($135 USD) would be a nice tool to have, but the 4x4 plain anvil ($95 USD) or the smaller stump anvil ($47.50 USD) might serve as well, especially when portability is considered. They are also less expensive.

 

A chunk of railroad track is a good idea, but they can be difficult to find, unless you have a railroad somewhere close by and can afford to walk the tracks looking for cast off pieces or a RR scrap yard to burglerize.......

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How heavy was that little stump anvil Ric Furrer used in the Nova special? Not only did he forge the sword on that, but he broke down a big billet of crucible steel on it as well. I'd call that real work.

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Real work for me is being able to forge anything from a small hook or candle stick to large knives/short swords and do the occasional work on larger stock for hammers and tomahawks. The vast majority of my work right now is knives forged from 1/2"-3/4" drill rod so breaking material down from round to flat and then forging a knife from it it most of the forge work I am doing lately but I do on occasion work larger stock up to 1-1/2 inch but that is rare as I work alone without a power hammer most of the time (always without a power hammer, mostly without a striker) Today I dug out my old loaner "Anvil" which is just a 7" long chunk of 8" round steel that appears to be some form of stainless given that it wont stick a magnet and throws very few sparks and hasn't yet rusted in all my travels. I was able to forge a nice leuku blade from 5/8" W1 drill rod but I definitely noticed the lack of rebound and the soft face... It did take up a lot less space in my small shop then my regular anvil and having symmetrical edges all the way around made forging bevels easier I think although a square post might be even better. The experience has me thinking I am moving in the right direction but I want to make sure I go about it in the best possible way.

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I don't have great forging skills, but I have often thought that a 6" square hunk of steel about 2 feet long (on end) would be more convenient for blade smithing than my London pattern anvil. There are a lot of times when I am dancing around the anvil to find a position where the rest of the anvil isn't in the way.

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I feel the same way about London pattern anvils... They are a great general purpose tools but like most general purpose items they aren't great at anything in particular and pretty bad at most things specialised. Bladesmithing is a pretty specialised part of smithing as a whole if you ask me so it follows that our tools will be a bit different

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I was able to get a couple pieces of scrap from a machine shop I used to work for making mine conveyor drums and shafts. If I remember correctly from my time there it should be 1045 or similar but I will spark test it to see it may just be mild or 4140 or who knows what... I have 2 pieces that might work for anvils 1 is 3in diameter and about 2ft long with about a 6 inch turn down on one end to about 2.5in the other is 5in diameter and about 6inches long now I just need to figure out how best to mount them. I think I may weld a spike on the bottom of the 5in round for a stump anvil and will probably just build a stand of some description for the 3in piece. Time will tell if I can get used to working on a round surface or if I will need to grind straight edges onto them. I also acquired a 16in piece of 1.5in round stock I hope to make some dog head hammers out of but I think that will be another post.

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