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My first anvil build - looking for advice


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Hey everyone,

I'm finally getting to do something I've wanted to do since middle school... Blacksmithing!

Like many of you I couldn't afford a great 200# anvil so I decided to build one of my own. I also like the idea of doing this kind of project because it connects me so much better to my work.

I've so far designed, cut and rough shaped the anvil and I'll do a little walkthrough of my build, but I am also looking for any advice people can give me for finishing this little beast.

I'm lucky that at my work I have access to a scrap piece of 3" steel I was able to use to cut out my blocks. Here I have the blocks roughed out with my colleagues track torch (one of the coolest things, cutting through 3" plate steel like a hot knife through butter).

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And here they are in all their glory. Can you tell its going to be an anvil yet?

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About 2 more hours of cutting with the track torch which required very methodical cuts because it can't cut an angled surface, the piece has to be parallel to the track on both planes. I also spend a few minutes cleaning up all the slag with a 4" grinder.
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And I quickly switched to the 8" grinder, the 4" would have taken probably 4 times as long. This is pretty much the shape I think I want it. I still have to install my hardy hole. For that I'm going to use 1-1/4" square tubing welded inside that rough hole i cut.
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And that is where I stand today. I'll put my questions and further progess in other posts.


First of all, does anyone see any major design flaws in my anvil overall? I know I haven't put in my pritchel hole yet and need to radius at least one of the edges. It is also kind of hard to see from the picture, but the horn is not perfectly conical. It tapers back to more of an oval where it meets the step. Is that going to cause problems? If i try to grind it down to perfectly circular at the step, it will either be a much narrower cone or a much shorter cone.



What about the base and the center piece? I cut the center piece a little big (actually accidentally cut the top piece a little small) so you can see it hang out a little on the corners. Do I need to cut the middle piece down to size or would that little oversizing make for a good corner to upsetting/etc?

I need to do something to harden the face I know. I have a couple options. I can try to quench the face and even though its mild steel (0.25% C I presume) I theoretically should be able to get up to a 44-46C rockwell. Here is a post of a guy who got in the high 30s/low 40s with mild steel.

http://paaba.net/Projects/ZWeekendMet.htm

Would low 40s be hard enough for an anvil face? I know it wouldn't be very deep, but I think if anything that would help with the toughness/rebound/etc.

My other option would be to weld a hard face material on it. We have hard facing wire at work, but I'm told it is so hard that it will crack if you hit it with a hammer (maybe because they didn't temper it after welding, I dont' know). Any thoughts?

Any other comments people have are welcome, even negative ones. Thanks!


And on a side note, anyone know what would happen to the structure of mild steel held at around 700-800 F for about 30-40 years? This steel came from a pot used to oxidize molten lead.

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Stromam, you are doing some pretty cool stuff! First, your horn shape should not be any problem at all.  Very few anvils have conical horns, and that is an advantage most of the time.  As to hardening the face, I would say the answer depends on how you plan on using the anvil.  I have one a 500 lb Hay Budden, that has a face that is not as hard as it could be.  I don't have any problem with that, because i recognize that I can't beat on cold metal on it.  It works just fine when I forge hot metal on it.

It will be interesting to hear from someone about the steel structure, that is way beyond my expertise!

Good luck, and welcome to IFI.

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Are you planning on just welding the seams on the outside? You might get a tight enough joint if you slightly convex grind the pieces to pull them tight together, but you might end up with deadening gaps between the pieces. Or you can through weld it.

It will take a while, and a lot of welding rod, but here's what I did when I built up an anvil for a power hammer from large pieces that were stacked.

I tacked a piece of 1/4" square down the middle of one and then laid it on its side, lined it up with shims to the other piece and ran a bead in the gap, flipped it over and ran a bead on the other side. It took hours of welding, flipping it over and checking for true on each pass (just run additional beads on one side if you need to pull that side in), and using a long rod to clean the slag on each pass. Eventually you have a full pen weld. I used 5/32 7018 rod, and not too much problem with distortion when done.

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Are you planning on just welding the seams on the outside? You might get a tight enough joint if you slightly convex grind the pieces to pull them tight together, but you might end up with deadening gaps between the pieces. Or you can through weld it.

It will take a while, and a lot of welding rod, but here's what I did when I built up an anvil for a power hammer from large pieces that were stacked.

I tacked a piece of 1/4" square down the middle of one and then laid it on its side, lined it up with shims to the other piece and ran a bead in the gap, flipped it over and ran a bead on the other side. It took hours of welding, flipping it over and checking for true on each pass (just run additional beads on one side if you need to pull that side in), and using a long rod to clean the slag on each pass. Eventually you have a full pen weld. I used 5/32 7018 rod, and not too much problem with distortion when done.

 

That was my plan, in fact I was just thinking about that today.  What effect would dedening gaps have between the pieces?  I was even thinking about maybe pouring molten lead on the face before welding around the edge, filling in any small gaps between them.  Or maybe I could weld up three sides leaving a gap between pieces, then pour lead into the cavity and weld over that to seal it in.

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Looking good

I found it easier to fabricate the hardie hole then weld it into the anvil. You can get a much neater fit.

I would suggest hard faceing if you have access to the equipment. A couple of layers would be good.

If you want to round up the horn more multiple small bevels and a 9" grinder with a new disc laid flat works good.

Putting an upset block on your near side is a big help for you also.

 

Keep us posted as to how you go with it.

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Looking good

I found it easier to fabricate the hardie hole then weld it into the anvil. You can get a much neater fit.

I would suggest hard faceing if you have access to the equipment. A couple of layers would be good.

If you want to round up the horn more multiple small bevels and a 9" grinder with a new disc laid flat works good.

Putting an upset block on your near side is a big help for you also.

 

Keep us posted as to how you go with it.

 

What kind of hard facing would you recommend?  Should I hard face the horn?

 

How do you determine which side is the near side?  I think I've decided I'm going to offset the anvil on the base to give me a big upset area, but I'm not sure how to figure out which side to set it on.

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For me the horn is to my left when facing toward the anvil, so the upset block is on the side closes to me.

Hard facing talk to a welding supply near you about it. They should be able to advise you.

Check out the anvil I made here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.317237525051985.68928.315279835247754&type=3 for what I mean.

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What kind of hard facing would you recommend?  Should I hard face the horn?

 

How do you determine which side is the near side?  I think I've decided I'm going to offset the anvil on the base to give me a big upset area, but I'm not sure how to figure out which side to set it on.

You could always use a forklift fork drop... 4140, and homogeneously weld it to the top... Then again, you'd make one heck of a shelf... furthermore get a chance to re-work your horn to the size/shape you wanted... 

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You have done some nice work there, but I feel that you missed an opportunity.  A lot of modern beginner smiths get hung up on the idea of having a London pattern anvil, no matter what.  If you really think about what an anvil is for you will come up with a list something like this:  

 

1- Mass and hardness to rebound energy and not deform

 

2- Various shapes to form or support work.

 

3- Tool holding for when you want to hammer on a shape not already existing in the geometry of the anvil.  

 

Seems like you cut up a perfectly good and wickedly massive anvil just to attempt to fabricate a smaller anvil that looks like what everyone else has.  If you have access to another big hunk of steel like that try the following.  Poke a hole thru the center to mount the whole thing on an axle.  Stand it up on edge and support it on that axle.  Torch and grind any number of interesting shapes and "dies" into that 3" wide circumference.  When you have that much mass and area to play with the mass becomes much more important than the hardness.  If you ding the anvil just grind and polish the ding out, there is enough metal there for a lifetime of cleaning up missed blows.  Work hot steel and hardness is less of an issue.  

 

With that much area to play with you could cut all kinds of shapes into it.  Part of it could be swages, flats and assorted radii.  Look up Grant Sarver's Omnianvil for dovetail and bolt on tooling ideas.  Look up Brian Brazael's striking anvil.  Borrow or rent a mag drill and put in a dozen different sized holes.  Weld on a piece of tube to the side for a hardie hole.  The possibilities are endless.

 

You could have a 1000# anvil with more features than a London Pattern anvil and a swage block combined!

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Well, I have to agree with Judson a bit.  That giant round of mild steel (and I really doubt that an industrial melting ladle/cauldron was simple A36 mild steel) would have made a tremendous circular anvil and swage block.  A 3" wide face is plenty for any smith's needs, and being able to rotate the whole thing and bring up a new feature would be the cat's meow!  

 

Need a 1/2" bottom round tool?  No problem, just spin the wheel of fortune!!

 

Having said that, though, I think this project certainly has merit.  A smaller london-pattern anvil has a lot of benefits to it, and I like the design you've come up with.

 

For the face, I would be tempted to use a forklift blade if I could find one.  You don't have much of a step down to the cutting table, as is, so adding a bit of height with the blade wouldn't look odd.  Deep penetration on the welds would be critical, but certainly doable with a thin enough rod of 7018 or the like.  Eliminates the need for hard-facing rod which can be expensive.

 

The upsetting block on the near side is a nice feature, but I don't think you need to worry about it being on the near side (the side you're standing at) or far side on an anvil this small.  For me, I cut my teeth on an anvil with the horn pointing left as I stood at it and have a very difficult time using an anvil with the horn pointing right because it upsets my fung schway.  It's personal preference and what you get used to.  You can easily use an upsetting block on the far side even when you're standing at the near side.

 

And, the round that you have left over would still be plenty good as a circular anvil/swage if you still have the center available to mount it on an axle.  That would be the coolest anvil-swage combination in the world and everyone would be super jealous of you.  That thing must weigh an ungodly amount!

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Stromam, I think you've done an excellent job on your anvil build.  Not only does it look good, but it's your own creation and you're seeking good advice.  I too will be curious to see the final result, keep up the good work.

 

With that being said, the ingenuity and "outside the box" thinking represented in this post is great as well.  For crying out loud, who else would have thought of a 1000 pound revolving anvil and swage combination?  I've never seen anything like it, and probably would not have thought of it myself, but it's a great idea and I hope someone uses it.

 

All in all I think all the ideas in this post are good ones.  I'm sure Stromam is learning a lot from his anvil build, even if it's not related to blacksmithing in particular.  I don't think it matters what we're creating, as long as we using our brains and getting our hands dirty doing it!

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I would make beveled weld joints of at least an inch.  I would not put air gaps between each piece, then you would be banging on three pieces of steel, also with the  air gap you will be banging directly on the welds themselves.

 

 

Here's the big anvil I made the center was two 5" thick full penetration test weld coupons.

 

http://farwestforge.com/Forum/bsgview.php?photo=3441&cat=&by=Sweany

 

You can see the bevel in the top block, the base is 2" thick with an 1-1/2" beveled weld to the base. The horn is a tractor axle and yes I never really finished the horn as I would have liked.

 

Welding tips:

 

 Preheat the the blocks to 200 hundred before welding, ( I use a weed burner and a blanket of Kwool) 

Leave a small 1/2' or so weep hole in each weldment.  

 

Use the largest size 7018 rod you can handle with your machine ( 5/32"is good 3/16" is better)

 

Tack weld ever thing especially the ends. (so the welds won't pull your blocks out of alignment.)

 

Put a light pass in all the weldments. (to minimize weld distortion)

 

Put a second heavier pass in each weldment.   (to minimize weld distortion)

 

Skip around on following pass's including changing  direction of the weld. (to minmize distortion)

 

Post heat the  welds with the weed burner, bring them up to a nice cherry and cover with the kwool, arrange the weed burner so a little fire keeps it all warm for few hours and it cools slowly  ( to stress relieve the welds)

 

That's not a code stress relieve procedure but in worked well in my case. No cracked welds! 

 

That's the way I would do it.  P.S. I'd hardface ever thing including the horn and drill several sizes of pritchell holes. ( hardface after the hardy and pritchell holes are complete )

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Welcome aboard Stromam, glad to have you. Nice looking anvil for someone who knows what they want but not what they need. Don't think that was a dis. it's a common thing amongst new comers to this or any trade. We tend to THINK we know what we need but without experience it's a flawed logic.

 

Anywho, Forget trying to integrate an upsetting block at the face, you have a couple beautiful ones on the feet and it doesn't matter which way the anvil's pointing when you need one. The horn isn't commonly round on anvils so don't sweat it, it'll work just fine.

 

Do NOT hardface it! hardfacing rod/wire is for abrasion resistance NOT impact/deformation resistance. If you find the face dinging in use you can weld on a piece of HC steel but then you have the everlasting fun, Fun, FUN of hardening and tempering it with all that thermal mass behind it. If you use build up rod/wire instead of either of the preceeding it'll work well. Buildup wire is impact and deformation resistant BECAUSE it's intended to provide an unmoving support surface for hardfacing to stick to. If the underlaying steel moves hardfacing spalls off so buildup wire is designed to be unyielding without being unworkable and work hardens gradually, mostly just getting tougher and tougher. The stuff grinds reasonably easily, you don't even need a cup stone. Hardfacing tends to only grind at red heat unless you have lots and LOTS of time and blue wheels. Blue wheel/stones are expensive zirconia or diamond. You could probably buy a decent working anvil for the cost of abrasives to work hardfacing, not counting your time if you're patient and use TPAAT.

 

TPAAT is the Thomas Powers Anvil Acquisition Technique. You first of all, keep your eyes open ALL the time, secondly you tell EVERYBODY you know, meet or just run into what you're looking for. You'd be surprised how many smithing tools are sitting in someone's garage, garden, basement, porch, barn, etc. etc. in the way. When I say tell everybody, I mean EVERYBODY, your friends, coworkers, non-friends, relatives, the checker at the quickymart, supermarket, gas station, the person in front/back of you in line etc. EVERYBODY.

 

Oh yeah, do scarf the weld joints for proper penetration. You aren't likely to get significant flex in 3" plate but any little bit diminishes rebound making your blows less effective. A VERY slight convex grind on the joint surfaces followed by preheating welded with good scarfs will make for joints as solid as you'll get without full penetration welds.

 

Do NOT put lead in the joints, it will not only do nothing to rebound it will spew toxic vapors while welding. Seems like a logical idea but it's a really BAD one.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks guys, you all have really great advice/ideas. I love the idea of the lazy Susan anvil. We may be replacing another pot in the next year or two so ill think about it. Right now I wouldn't have any place to put anything that big anyway. I think for now I'm gonna try heat treating it, even if it only brings it to 35C that should help. If I need it harder later I think I'll weld on a plate. For the upsetting block at the base I have two options. I can center the top and have two 1" upsets on each side or put it on the far side and have one big 2" upset on the near side. Thoughts? My problem with going bigger was cutting out the right pieces. It's hard to tell from the picture, but that whole plate is bowed and warped from the electric heating elements under it (think of it as the bottom of a gigantic kettle). The bowing is actually the reason we replaced it. I'll be sure to keep you all posted and I'll start another build thread when we replace the next pot. The bowing and warping may give me stone interesting features to play with.

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If you offset the top to leave a 2" upsetting area, you'll have more than enough room for anything you might do.  Having 2 1" areas isn't particularly useful because you can only use one at a time.  Another idea would be to center the top and cut out another upsetting block that you can move around as you need.  Sometimes, having a block on the ground that you can drop a long rod on (to upset the end) is far handier.  A heavy block is very handy, and down the road you can file/grind in various shapes to make yourself a swage block.

 

Is there any way you can get the alloy of the metal tested?  Does your company keep notes on that kind of stuff?  A heat-treat where you don't know what the metal is..... well that's kinda like taking a shot in the dark.  Is it A36?  Something more esoteric to handle all that prolonged heat?  Air hardening?  Water quench or oil?  Lots of variables.....

 

In any case, I'd think long and hard about doing a heat treat on the top portion before you weld it to the base.  The less mass you have to heat up, the easier things will be on you.

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Looking good stromam! I am impressed at the amount you have done with just a cut-a-line :) I missed what kind of steel you used but I wouldn't be concerned about it if it is mild. I used mild weathering steel for my cnc cut anvil and even with no hard face, performs well. Someone suggested beveling your sections before welding. I highly agree. It will help make a more solid piece. If you are interested, here is the link to my CNC cut anvil.

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If you offset the top to leave a 2" upsetting area, you'll have more than enough room for anything you might do.  Having 2 1" areas isn't particularly useful because you can only use one at a time.  Another idea would be to center the top and cut out another upsetting block that you can move around as you need.  Sometimes, having a block on the ground that you can drop a long rod on (to upset the end) is far handier.  A heavy block is very handy, and down the road you can file/grind in various shapes to make yourself a swage block.

 

Is there any way you can get the alloy of the metal tested?  Does your company keep notes on that kind of stuff?  A heat-treat where you don't know what the metal is..... well that's kinda like taking a shot in the dark.  Is it A36?  Something more esoteric to handle all that prolonged heat?  Air hardening?  Water quench or oil?  Lots of variables.....

 

In any case, I'd think long and hard about doing a heat treat on the top portion before you weld it to the base.  The less mass you have to heat up, the easier things will be on you.

 

I have reason to believe it is A36.  It is only holding molten lead at 700 F, so it is unlikely it is any kind of special steel.  I am definitely planning on heat treating the top before welding it to the rest of the pieces. 

 

I found a hard facing that looks suitable for welding on if the heat treating doesn't do the trick.  Its called Wearshield ABR from Lincoln Electric and they recommended it for hardfacing an anvil.  It is also easily forged and heat treated.

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Be aware that some rods like those are for Abrasion Resistance, as those wear surfaces like blades and teeth enter into rocks and tough soils. After they would be welded onto something like an anvil you would soon tire of grinding the surface flat and level. Thos abrasion resistant welds will sit there and eat grinding equiptment.

 

A suggestion is to investigate Rannite Ranomatic BBG and Ranomatic DDG. One is for laying down a base coat that is used to go between existing surfaces and still be pliable and strong when the next series of top coat is applied. The top coat is max two passes thick! Now that is an IMPACT Resistant weld that should make your hammer action quite lively, according to articles I have read.

 

anyway you are going to get really friendly with a grinder with all sorts of stones. A suggestion is a cup stone on a large hand grinder...cost about $60 and is large enough to cover flatly from one side of anvil to other ...as you work it forward and back along the long axis. Later you will be swithing to FLAP type grining...various grit. Soooooooon it will be similar to a mirror...flat, and hard.

 

Please take pictures of the welding process for all to enjoy.

 

 

Carry on

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Frosty, maybe I used the wrong term.

The rod I used was a work hardening manganese bearing  rod, easy to grind flat the way David described it ,then followed by some passes with a belt sander.

 

The I started tapping with the hammer until the face started rebounding. Simply amazing stuff.

 

I dunno the brand anymore it was a rod recommended by my weld supplier after I told him what I wanted to do.

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Frosty, maybe I used the wrong term.

The rod I used was a work hardening manganese bearing  rod, easy to grind flat the way David described it ,then followed by some passes with a belt sander.

 

The I started tapping with the hammer until the face started rebounding. Simply amazing stuff.

 

I dunno the brand anymore it was a rod recommended by my weld supplier after I told him what I wanted to do.

 

Wearshield 15CrMn is manganese work hardening rod.  It is deposited at 18-24C hardness and when work hardened, increases to 40-50C.  I was considering using that until I talked to the Lincoln guy who recommended the Wearshield ABR (I suppose different technical guys would have different opinions like anything else).

 

I am still kind of up in the air on the two.  One can be heat treated and quenched to any hardness/toughness you want (which I admit would not be easy on a completed anvil).  The other has to be pounded on to get it to turn hard.  I like the idea of the work hardening material, but does it take a lot of beating/tapping to make it hard?  Does it get hard enough to become brittle?

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What I used sounds similar to the Lincoln 15CrMn rod. The rod i used did not need a base coat of another rod type, another reason I chose it.

 

I used a small 1-1/2 lb hammer started  down one edge, tap,tap,tap, bounce.

Generally 3,4 taps gave a noticeable increase in rebound. this anvil has been used for 10 years or so, no chips no brittleness.

 

I pulled up a chair and some Iced tea and did several rounds of tapping, lengthwise and crosswise.

 

Joseph Szilaski had an article in Blade one time about working for a Blacksmith. The Blacksmith bought a brand new anvil. Before anyone used the anvil Joseph, was to peen  the face of anvil until the blacksmith was satisfied, small hammer ,light blows, evenly across the face.

 

Sounded reasonable to me.

 

 

The stand is a little low and we used it for striker work several times.  Two guys 8lb. hammers 1" and 2" iron.

 

I went with  work hardening rod instead of the quenchable, because of the difficulty in handling a large piece and cooling it quickly enough.

 

That's my experience. Would I do it again? Yes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~+++

 

Bringing the the face and 4" or so up to 1450 f. Would require some help and a lot of water. There a Youtube video of a guy quenching an anvil with an extension in the receiver hitch of his pickup and backing it into the lake. That might work but I think I'd want some kinda pump for circulation.

 

In your case I think it might be doable to heat and quench the top block ( face of the anvil) before you weld it to the base.

 

Here's my reasoning.

 

1. We only need the face hard, two pass's of rod are say a 3/8" tp 1/4" thick depending on the size of rod and the pass you carry.

Then we grind it smooth.

 

2. The un- welded portion of the face block isn't going to get hard.

 

3. The heat from welding such a massive block of steel will probable not transfer enough to the face of the weld to degrade the quench and temper.

You could check the inter pass heat with  a temp stick and pause the welding if it is getting too hot.

You could use a wet blanket to protect the face.

 

4. Not having to handle the whole mass of the complete anvil would simplify the heating and quenching of the face.

 

Interesting project. That's why I love a good discussion, people see each project differently.

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