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Gifted an anvil, looking for wisdom.


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Hello, my name is Justin Pulliam. I am new to the craft. I was gifted an anvil for Christmas. It’s broken in two with a repair that had been made to it. There are some markings on it I’d like some help with identifying where it came from as well as any thoughts/opinions on the repair that was made and if it’s a useable anvil or just a good house decoration.. it weighs 156 lbs. i believe it used to be 150lbs but any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for any help. 

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I can't help out too much other than to say it looks a lot like my Hay Budden.  As far as usefulness, find a ball bearing (1" diameter or so) and do a drop test on it.  Hold the bearing up next to a tape measure 10" off the surface and drop it.  Watch the tape measure to see how high the bearing bounces back up.  Anything higher than 80% (thats a very rough number) or so and you'll be in decent shape.

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That's a very old and very blacksmithy repair.  I love it.  The top plate is thin, but it looks intact.  The bounce test will tell you something, but with even a relatively poor bounce (say 50%) it still can make a pretty good tool, just not a "top quality" tool.

I'm thinking that it's English, but Alan will be the definitive judge.

Do you have any stories to go along with the anvil?  Just from what we can see it has seen a lot.

I will give you the standard advice.  Use it as it is for at least a year without making any changes.  Resist the impulse to grind off the top to make it flat.  If after using it for a while you find there are features about it that you can't stand, then you can think about changing it.  It is much easier to take metal off an anvil than it is to put it back on.

I saw an anvil once that had broken at the the waist like this one.  It had started out around 350 lbs, so the broken part was around 200 lbs.  The owner had drilled in and fixed a couple of studs to the broken face and bolted it to a new (taller ) stump.  It had been in the shop, used often, for close to 20 years in just that state.

 

Geoff

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"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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Thank you Geoff.

my father in law owns a hay outfit in California, as he was making a delivery he noticed the horn of this anvil sticking out of a pile of things at the back of the barn. The owner of the anvil only knew it was her fathers who had passed on some years ago. So unfortunately as of now I don’t know the history/life this anvil has had. But it made a perfect Christmas gift to me and I am very excited. 
 

I have no intention on disturbing/cleaning it in any way. I too love it, as it is. I look forward to the bounce test and the beginning of my learning process. I hope this will carry my success and failures as I learn. If the bounce test is terrible I would love to keep it as is, in the shop as a conversation piece and search for another.

 

i appreciate you sharing your knowledge and story of another broken anvil you have seen. Until this one I had never seen a broken anvil. It must have been quite the force to break clean across. 

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I'm going to say it's a pre-1914 Hay-Budden made for a wholesaler.  When I have time later I'll see what I can find in the book, but that's what it looks like to me. 

 

These were made in three pieces: cast steel base, wrought iron upper half, and steel plate face.  It is not unknown for them to crack at the forge weld between base and top half, especially if someone saw the seam and tried to arc weld it shut.  That will always pop that forge weld.

 

Follow Geoff's advice on care. Absolutely do not ever get it close to a milling machine or surface grinder! All the hardness that makes it work is in the top 1/16" of faceplate. Love that repair. 

 

Welcome aboard!

 

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Thank you Alan for sharing your wealth of knowledge. That information would make a lot of sense. I found out last night that the man who owned this worked at a naval shipyard. We wondered if this may have been a salvaged item from the dumpster or a purchase from when the naval yard was deactivated. Either way that yard ran from 1853-1995 so a wholesale anvil that is pre 1914 is very fitting for what little I know about it. 
Again thank you, I will try to find out any more information I can on my end. And thank you for your time and help along my path of learning. 
 

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Okay, I'm back and have had time to do some reading in Anvils in America. It is most definitely a Hay-Budden, made in Brooklyn, New York in about 1900. It's the early style one prior to the first change to an all-steel top half in 1908 and the later change in shape that happened around 1925.  The serial number looks to start with a 5, and that only happened between 1899-1901.  I can't make out the inspection numbers, or the mark, unfortunately.   If it is marked as an H-B, it would have HAY-BUDDEN in an arc above MANUFACTURING CO. in a straight line, with BROOKLYN, NY in an arc under that.  They made anvils for at least 21 hardware companies that would have used their own marks instead of the HB logo.  

 

I can't find a good match for the lettering among those others, but maybe Lakeside? That was the one they made for Montgomery Ward. 

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Vintage anvils are being found in various conditions, and those that have been doing this for a while take them as they can get them.  I've seen guys with very dinged up edge chipped to almost dead soft anvils still making stuff. A vintage anvil even in that condition will probably be your first and last anvil you will ever need.  Even if you lost the entire foot of that anvil, you could still mount it in a stump and use it for a few more generations. 

 

excellent find.

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My first anvil was (and is, anvils are like guitars and spinning wheels, they come into my life and they never leave) a 200# Fisher.   The edges are pretty bad, the table is a mess and the heel is missing a couple of chunks where some fool struck an arc with a welder.  It's 83 years old, and I'm betting that it will still be making stuff 100 years from now.  Use yours and praise the smiths who saved her all those years ago.

 

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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  • 2 weeks later...

That is a pretty cool repair, and makes the anvil pretty special.  What is going on with the "Glob" in the hollow under the foot?  Is that part of the repair process?  It looks like someone put a pin the top half, and peened it over under the bottom half.

-Brian

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3 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

That is a pretty cool repair, and makes the anvil pretty special.  What is going on with the "Glob" in the hollow under the foot?  Is that part of the repair process?  It looks like someone put a pin the top half, and peened it over under the bottom half.

 

I thought about that as well.  H-Bs have a central handling hole under the base, often used as an anchor point on the stump by setting the anvil on a spike.  This one has obviously been filled, and I suspect the smith who did the repair used a threaded rod to tie  the top onto the base, then peened the end to hold prior to doing the outer patch plates. That is one cool anvil. 

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