my local scrap yard has been selling 75# anvils for $15; they look a lot like the anvil that the smith uses for forging katanas in National Geographics "Living treasures of Japan" (it's on Youtube) but if he can suffer with it I'm sure you could too. My last class I taught I pretty much did it without using the horn or hardy to show the students that while they are nice, they are not mandatory. (Thought I am forging my own T stake anvil to go with my medieval cube anvil.) I would stop using the ASO as an anvil and relegate it to a hardy holder and bending fixture and use a large chunk of forklift tine as the actual anvil if you can't source some dozer scrap. There is a reason we call them ASOs!
Well the definitions are pretty similar in the books I have read about it: an "open fire" is a collection of coke chunks that you place your work in. The work is in contact with the fuel on all sides. You can not see it but you can lift it out in any direction without messing up the fire much. A "closed fire" is an "oven" with a solid top and an entry hole. you can watch your piece as it heats and it may not be in contact with any fuel on the inside. There are several tricks to keeping a closed fire fed and maintain it's closedness. Have you heard a different definition? I've been using this one for 30+ years; but understand that jargon is time and location dependent. Only time I use a closed fire is when forge welding thin layer billets when I need to keep track of it to get the first weld in without burning up the outer layers.
Well I had a long reply written out and the update wiped it out evidently. so short version: 1: peel and treat ends to slow drying. Ash splits easily leaving the bark on will exacerbate this. 2: make a band that will take up with a bolt and use a router on a jig to rout a round "step" in the outer edge for bands top and bottom. If you know a blacksmith you can bend the end of the strap to 90 deg and drill or punch a hole in it for the bolt. Use a stout strap---looks better, works better. 3: I would have mounted the anvil off center so I could stand right next to the anvil in use.
How do you walk without falling over each step? Do you have an attachment that moves your legs the same way each time? Or did you practice it until doing it correctly is second nature? The swordmaker I studied under could get perfectly straight grind lines on 30+ inches of blade length just holding the steel in his hands against the belt grinder. I am not a big fan of jigs over expertise....
A jig for draw filing? You take a piece of square tubing a bit smaller than the width of the knife. and place it horizontally in the postvise and then C clamp the blade to it where it would rest flat on the tubing and file away. The surface will tell you if you are doing it right. Roughing out with a grinder can speed things up; but the file will get the bevel "nice". My student found that after he removed the scale and did some roughing out with an angle grinder that the surface had hardened---so we drew temper all the way to gunmetal gray and he was back in business with a file again. I'm a big believer in "teachable moments". Recently he told me that the colour charts differed in two books he was looking at and which one should he use---"The one that gives the best results for the alloy you are working with!" was my reply...
I'd be more concerned about neighbors with pitchforks and torches; I often wear hearing protectors!. My first set of single acting bellows cost me about a dollar to build using scrounged materials. It's still on my Y1K forge set up along with it's high dollar sibling---bought the leather for it!
Gooeyness is a feature not a bug! You do need to learn to manage the fire so the metal is not in the gooey zone---making sure you have a good pile of breeze to start the next fire and add the fresh coal to the backside and top can help. (as can getting used to tapping a workpiece against the forge lop to dislodge any gooey pieces sticking to it...) Boy I miss the large rafts of coke the coal I used in Ohio produced---excellent for forge welding, with both closed and open fires.
And thank you for taking my suggestions as they were meant to be: how to improve things in the next one---I'd still lengthen the bevel more---have you tried draw filing it (before heat treat of course!). If the pommel is already on he won't be able to solder the guard as it will burn the leather. In my early years I would sometimes hard solder a piece of copper wire around the tang hole in the guard (with it off the knife of course), and then hammer the soft copper tight against the blade to hide the gap using small punches made from square cut masonry nails and a tiny hammer---couple of ounces. (epoxy or silicon caulk bedding under it of course.) Using a thicker guard of a soft metal---copper or silver for instance I would sometimes just go around pushing the guard against the tang---if done carefully you get a nice "line" on the guard that looks like a design feature instead of issues with getting a perfect fit. (I was never a big fan of soldering a guard to the tang though I have done that as well) If the handle is in complete stage then you might think of soaking the leather in a leather conditioner/sealant. Did you build a fixture to compress the leather on the handle before seating the pommel?
How will it be used? The fat bevel looks more like a chopper than a slicer but the smaller tang makes chopping or other stresses more like to cause issues. If it will be used in wet conditions the gap around the tang at the guard may cause moisture to get under it and into the handle for hidden rust. Bedding it in something like jb-weld or using a low temp silver bearing solder like stay brite can prevent this. Your stamp looks very well done and the leather stacking looks good too.
I haven't followed a lot of the old SOFA crowd since I moved 1500 miles away and lost 1/2 my vacation time when I switched jobs, making Quad-State trips less frequent; but pictures of his tongs are still on the net.
you mean forge welding? Sure; just like you can win the Indy 500 by driving fast and turning left (IIRC). If you are already a good forge welder you can probably make tongs faster than refurbishing them. I don't know if Poorboy Blacksmith Tools still has his arc weld a set of tongs kits for sale but look for pictures of them to see how simple they can be made.