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I am a beginner to the iron-working arts and I am looking to put together my own smithy for a wide variety of projects, everything from period recreations to modern items, tools, small farm implement repair (lots of farms in the area for work), etc..  One of the most necessary items that I can't seem to find is a good anvil.


Here's some more information:

  • I live in Western MI (north of Muskegon/Grand Rapids)
  • Son of a retired Ferrier (many tools and his anvil were sold before my interest was sparked [sorry for the bad pun])
  • I am looking to get something in the 100-200# range, preferably something towards the lighter side for a starter anvil since I will most likely be carrying it should I need to move it anywhere and at first I'll only be working smaller projects anyway
  • I have checked many online resources and can't seem to pin down a good price range, I've read on these forums that $2-6/lb is standard for new anvils and that's why I'm looking for a good used one if it is available, as money is a bit of an issue for now

Any other information and good sources for tools, raw materials, etc. would be appreciated, but my major focus right now is getting a budget for a beginner shop together and the cost of the anvil seems like a major factor


Thank you,

Jacob Hornbrook

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This is a rather common question here, may I suggest you mine the pages of replys to it here?   One thing to search on is TPAAAT.


What era of historical recreation?  Vikings used quite small anvils that look little like a modern london pattern anvils---and rocks at times!

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I'm a bit of a dabbler historically, I already have the rig to make pre-dark ages butted chainmail (doesn't require any heat or tools other than cable cutters, pliers, and an electric drill), so historically I'm mostly looking to do anything up to middle-ages.  As far as equipment I'm looking for whatever gives me the most flexibility to work and hone my skills while keeping my limited budget in mind.  I did look around on the formus a bit and I haven't found a recent one for someone asking about an anvil in my area, so I was asking to see if anyone knew of any local resources.

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The point of TPAAAT is that there are usually "local" sources around. You just need to start asking people. Antique shops, flea markets and places like that usually want to charge a premium on blacksmithing gear. You find the "deals" by looking at the places most people don't look. Ask everyone you know or meet and chances are you'll locate one.



Example: A customer of mine has a neighbor who supposedly has an anvil buried somewhere in his fathers old workshop. As soon as they get thru digging thru the 2 truck loads of alum scrap that he accumulated over the years, I'm supposed to get 1st dibs on it. So far they haven't been too anxious to drag all that junk out... However the other day the neighbor mentions he's got a friend who works at the junk your who has an anvil he might be willing to sell. Sure enough he's got a really nice 125 lb Peter Wright in an old box trailer in the back. He's not sure if he wants to part with it or not right now, so I left my card and told him I'd pay the number he thinks he might want when he's ready to sell. ( I'd have taken cash in hand but the work truck just took all my spare cash for the deposit on emergency repairs...) Last one a guy in my machining class has an anvil he's promised I can have that came out of his fathers machine shop. I saw him the other day and first words out of his mouth were " Don't buy an anvil! I've still got that one and you can have it like I promised." Only problem has been matching his work schedule ( he's a police officer with the local township) with my irregular schedule this time of year. My chiropractor knew an old farmer with two anvils. The better of the two he wants to keep and the other is a bit too worn for what I want right now. The folks who run our 4-H shooting sports program used to have a bunch of old blacksmithing stuff, but they sold the anvil a few years back. They are pretty sure the hand cranked forge is still in one of the old outbuildings they haven't had time to go thru yet since her father passed away.



On top of those, I've seen at least 6 anvils other smiths have had for sale simply by going to a couple of local blacksmithing clubs or events. Prices on these have ranged for really good, to more than I'm willing to pay at this time.

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I don't recall pre-dark ages butted mail; can I have a cite?  All the early stuff I've seen is riveted.  Testing has shown that riveted mail links are about 10 *times* as strong as butted links of the same wire and size and as early armour was a real top end thing it would be like expecting your million dollar sports car to come from the factory with a bad paint job.  So I'd be real excited to get a good cite on it being used pre dark ages!  (BTW "The Celtic Sword", Radomir Pleiner, is a great source of information on the metallurgy of early ferrous swords.)


Now I can cite several examples from more recent times---the Negroli book (Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance) has an example of very fine butted maille that was Renaissance parade armour and I have seen a Moro shirt that was butted but it was made in the 19th century  (and of course the tons of modern butted mail)


If you want a good dark ages smithing set up, a hole in the ground forge  burning charcoal of course and two single action bellows does well on the fire side and a 15 pound "cube" anvil with a spike for a stump handles the anvil side.  It's possible to find tongs and hammers that resemble roman ones at fleamarkets sometimes. Or make your own of course.


I like pre 1000 smithing myself but I do draw the line at bag bellows; it's hard enough to get a bellows thrall to use wooden top/bottom ones! (and hard for me to work on my knees anymore so I generally translate the set up to waist+ height like is shown on the Heylstad Stave Church carvings


Almost forgot a couple pre-dark ages references:  "The Mastery and Uses of fire in Antiquity" Rehder, and Egyptian Metalworking and Tools, Scheel.


I have some Migration period sources too if that's not too modern for you.  One is about "The double edged swords of the German Migration Period" (as I translate the title, it's in German), published in the late 1930's and includes quite a lot of great photos of items that probably did not survive the war.  It's the photos you want anyway as the text has the nationalistic slant you expect from much of the European archeological work of that period, sigh.

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Here's one website that makes a point of dispelling the "naked savage" idea of the iron-age Celtic warriors, who routinely would wear chainmail armor: http://www.academia.edu/3891226/Celtic_Chainmail

Everything I've read shows that they had the technology for butted mail but may not have figured out riveting yet.  Known examples of butted mail among the Celts goes back to at least 300BC (per the article at least).


I wish I could do riveted mail, but it takes a lot of resources and tools that I don't have.  Riveted mail means having to flatten out the ends of the rings or stamp them out of sheet metal as flat rings, punch a hole in both ends, thread a wire through it, and rivet the wire down or somehow connect it back to itself.  It would be much stronger, but I'm working out of a living room with no real shop to speak of, so you can see how riveting might be a little beyond my means right now. 


Back to the main topic, I would love as many resources as I can get, I'm not a technique-purist in the sense that if I want to make a viking-age item it has to be with viking-age technology, for example, I plan on finding what works best for me and adapting it to make whatever it is that I need, and starting with a good (but cheap) anvil was where I was going to start.

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Save your money and go to Quadstate conference next year. The most Anvil I have ever seen in one place. I live in Farmington Hills MI. any anvil I fine in this area are way over priced and beat bad. You can also check local scrap yards.  



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