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I Forge Iron

Poll, Do you tap your anvil?

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Do you tap your anvil?
(shop forge only, not at demos)
We had 111 votes for this poll.

Tap the anvil while hammering
53 votes or 47.7%

Rarely tap the anvil while hammering
26 votes or 23.4%

Never tap the anvil.
24 votes or 21.6%

Tap the anvil upon entering the shop.
8 votes or 7.2%

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old superstition I learned from my father, tap 3 times on entering to drive away evil spirits, tap 3 times when leaving. I never tap anvil when hammering, I just let hammer loose in my hand and let it drop on anvil and catch it on the rebound when turning stock etc.

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I tap my anvil intermittently while hammering just to kepp the rhythm going if I shift the work, etc. Not one of the options in the poll, but I tap the anvil on purpose when leaving the shop, er... "forge area" since I am one of those uncouth neanderthals with no "shop", I forge out in the open on the concrete in front of the barn. Dan:)

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I tap while hammering!
I do tap the anvil during the forging process, although I do not tap the anvil much other than that. When I was young boy I was reprimanded severely for tapping on an anvil.
As I got older, I realized the guy was a very good blacksmith, but I also realized that he was full of his self and was over reacting to his own personal superstitions. What I had done that day was not wrong or out of line, but the early training seemed to stick with me for my lifetime!
To me, rhythmic tapping on the anvil while I am forging seems to keep the energy and motion of my body fluid with the work I am forming during each heat.
I was taught to view each heat as though it was a separate and a timed event, and to take full advantage of each heat in a very aggressive way.
I was expected to forge each piece with as few heats as possible while giving my full attention (focus) to the forging process as though I was in a fight for my life.
When I first started as a young boy, I notice the old blacksmiths who first taught me the forging process, tapped the anvil while forging. So I tried my best to imitate what they did.
Over a period of time, I found tapping the anvil while I was examining and evaluating the piece for shape and determining my next angle of attack seemed to help me keep more focused.
I believe that every second you have a piece out of the forge fire can work for you or it can work against you. It all depends on how effective you use your time while you still have forging heat available in your piece.
I was also taught to practice my movement, know the location of my tools, and to do dry runs while the steel was cold!
I believe the bottom line is that what ever seems to help you focus on using your time wisely is fair game!
No matter how I try to justify or figure out why I tap, it is a habit with me!
Be Safe!
Old Rusty Ted

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LOL Richard. A hole to bolt down a hold down maybe?? Seriously though, I don't generally tap the anvil, least not on purpose. I hit what I'm forging till I'm done then lay the hammer down. I am superstitious, however. I believe if I hit the anvil too much, the neighbors will tell me to "quit making so much noise" ;)

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Frank Turley talks about the "Three R's" of tapping. Rest, Rhythm, and Rumination (. The rhythm thing has already been addressed. I have about as much rhythm as a frog in a blender, so tapping anything isn't going to help.

Unless I'm forging something humongous, I don't need to rest (that happens when the iron goes back in the fire for the next heat).

Rumination (thinking) doesn't work for me either since I'm an honor grad of the "what I wish I had done school.

All seriousness aside, I guess there isn't anything "wrong" with tapping, lot's of good smiths do it and if it helps, good.

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There is a BIG difference between tapping the anvil on purpose and the unconcious act of letting the hammer bounce while working. I learned it from my father, who learned from his father, who learned it from his mentor. Every old smith that I ever met when younger did the bounce thing while working at the anvil. Several of the old smiths when I was apprenticing told me that they could tell who taught them to work hot iron by the way they worked at the anvil. I guess its much like being able to tell who a telegrapher is by his fist or the way he works the key.

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I was once told by a smith of superior years , skills and experience that tapping the hammer between blows was a tradition brought to America by smiths from Europe. When they entered this country they paid heavy duties on their tools, but they were free to bring their bad habits. Since it was a harmless trifle that brought pleasure to the ear and hand and cost nothing; "Why not?"

I admit to this bad habit, I also ring the anvil 3 times entering and leaving the shop to remind my self of smiths like my great grand father, grand father, Paw Paw Wilson that have gone on before and have shaped my life as a smith.

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I tap once in awhile as mentioned above to give me time to think or to get a better look at what is going on. Usually just one tap.

Two years in a row I was working at the anvil at the Iowa state fair and heard a voice in the background in the crowd say "a good blacksmith hits the anvil every third lick". He wasn't talking to me but to someone with him or next to him in the crowd. Never did see who it was but I thought to myself that I sure wouldn't get much work done that way.

A year or so later I visited a roadside museum shop in northern Iowa. The guide there said the exact same thing...had to be him. Didn't figure it would do any good to dispute the point since he had probably said it 15,000 times.

The smith who had run that shop in the old days (and who I am sure did NOT hit the anvil every third lick had cast his own firepot and swage block. The guide showed me the pattern for the firepot but said they did not know what had happened to the pattern for the swage block. I told him it had probably gone in the woodstove (perhaps after cracking). The pattern for the firepot he saved because he might one day need to cast another. Hope I taught him one thing anyway :D but I doubt it.

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In addition to my custom work, I have a line of standard products that I sell on-line, like coat racks and other simple stuff. When you do production work of any kind, no matter what it is, you will fall into a pattern at the anvil. I just finished a run of 50 coat hooks and I noticed toward the end of the run that I was using the same amount of licks per hook end (100 as these hooks are double ended). It began as a reflex but I had a tap stroke between the shoulder set and the beginning of the snub on the end of the hook. I believe this is where the tap started, as a natural transition while the smith either moved the material or made a decision where the next hit would be because it was easier than stopping, in other words, it is simply conservation of momentum. When you stand at the anvil for several hours in a row, anything that conserves energy is welcome.

As others have stated. hitting the anvil when you enter the shop is a cute superstition but purposely hitting every second, third, fourth or whatever stroke is a waste of energy and accomplishes no work. Do it only if it makes sense.

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Never heard of tapping the anvil for luck, etc. but I live way far away.

I occasionally give the anvil a tap but it's usually an unconscious thing.

I've heard people in the audience say all kinds of things about how a "real" blacksmith does things. One of my buddies is demoing at the ongoing state fair and a couple days ago a couple youngsters, 19+/- started telling him ALL about smithing. They started off by telling him his 48kg. Kolswa was an ASO and as such not a "real" anvil and finished by telling him it "looked" lighter than the marking claimed.

Mark finally just ran them off by pointing out they'd at least look smarter if they kept their mouths shut around professionals.

Anyway, I don't hit anything but the work on purpose.


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I've heard of the 'tapping the anvil for luck' thing, but I never did it.

Once in a while, I swing and MISS! But that doesn't count.

I do have a 'coming to rest' tap,when I'm done with something,but that's not an intentional tap either.

The funny thing is,if I'm nailing a sheet of plywood or wood flooring of something, I DO tap between nails......and keep rythm.

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I am familar with the book you speak of. The fellow who wrote that had many little bitter comments about Europe - as did some immigrants of the day who were given no choice but to leave their homeland. I feel that such was the reason for his low opinion of European techniques and customs.
If you look in the blueprint section (BP0038), there is a reason for tapping the anvil. In large shops there is far too much noise to speak effectively; so you must use signals of some sort. I was taught the signals when I apprenticed, and I still use them all the time, even when I am the only one in the shop - it is just good practice for when you have a striker.

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