Mary

Why is a cast iron anvil inferior to a forged steel anvil?

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I am a firm believer in quality tools... I collect tools as a hobby and I use many tools in my "collection" to pay my bills as well as pass the time in an enjoyable manner. It is simply more fun to use a quality tool... Its more fun to own a finely crafted and well cared for anvil than a chunk of "gray" iron pored in China by some poor guy making $.28 a day... I know I dont think like everybody but If you had two people both rebuilding a 1976 AMC pacer and one had the cheapest and basic crap you can buy at harbor freight... The other had a full complement of Snap on tools... All other things being equal... The Snap on guy would be having a much better day....


I agree with you in more ways than one. Tools certainly don't make the craftsman but there are a few schools of thought around this idea. While some people don't mind spending a buck or two to acquire tools that are above average, especially if there is a positive effect on the work itself, others find joy in the ability to overcome the limitations of tools and materials. Of course, there are more aspects to this, but a lot depends on your personality. As a musician I know that a crappy instrument can hold you back but I also know that there are people that do things with a POS that I could never come close to with the best of instruments. I think a lot depends on your motivation and life experience. If your not at a point to recognize the limitations in the tool or instrument you are using you might seem to be okay, but you progress could be limited by materials that are not at a minimum standard. Inexpensive could be great but as I've discovered, wrenches that are oversized cause more trouble than they are worth. Crappy instruments that are out of adjustment will hold most people back. You shouldn't have to learn in spite of your tools. Fine tools and instruments are a true pleasure to look at, hold and use. They don't, in and of themselves, make you a fine musician or craftsperson, but they take out lots of the limitations present in inferior products. At that point, it's all you. There are no excuses left. Your skill alone will determine the outcome. And, yeah, they are a joy to use, at any level.

That being said, I truly admire people who are not limited by what they have or don't have. To watch that video of the guys who built a power hammer out of an old engine block, :o that kind of stuff is amazing to me. Unfortunately, I'm not naturally like that. Baby steps. Sigh.

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"guys who built a power hammer out of an old engine block"? Who would that be?:D
I wonder :confused: I saw that early on when I joined the forum and couldn't remember who did it, but why am I not surprised? (Sorry to be off topic here)

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I have an issue though when folks suggest an inferior way when a better way may actually be faster and cheaper to implement. Like buying a cast iron ASO when a large chunk of steel may be faster and may be scrounged for free---why settle for less than you could have?

This comes out of belonging to several living history groups and having folks tell new people that being correct in kit takes too long or is too expensive and then suggest inauthentic stuff that takes longer and costs more than the real stuff!

It's a personal quirk, feel free to ignore me.

Engine block hammer: Look at the catalog of "User built and JYH (Junk Yard Hammers) Hammers" off the anvilfire.com powerhammer page

Edited by ThomasPowers

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Interesting topic, wait and buy quality or learn to use what is available and work up. We had a similar issue in the sword club. A few fights started over buying papered Japanese blades over what some called WWII junk. Some felt those suggesting the higher priced blades forgot their start. Most of us started buying what we could afford and traded up as knowledge and income allowed. I suspect craftsmen and collectors have that in common. In the end, most of our tools will outlast us and we should be willing and proud to transfer our treasures and knowledge to another generation.

As a rookie, I find the tips, techniques and insight on this site invaluable. No matter where we stand on quality over availability I think most of us share a real desire to learn and be a part of keeping an ancient craft viable and finding the balance between history and discovering new methods and pushing the craft forward. Interesting topic indeed.

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I have a HF 50 lb cast anvil, and it is dinged up and really crappy, maybe I'll do a sledge hammer test on it and post it, that would be fun! Try to crack it in half by smackin it really hard with a BFH!! What do you guys think? Should I do it? If I get 10 different affirmatives here, I will do it, and record it for posterity!

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Up to you, The MOB once took one of those anvils and drilled it out and made a propane stove out of it. Destruction is easy, creativity is hard!

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Thomas, do you ever post any pics of your projects here? I looked in the gallery and could not find you, and I don't remember ever seeing you post pics on a project.

Edited by divermike

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I'm going to have to go with ThomasPowers on this one. Creativity is hard, and the stove has been done already. Then again you *could* remake such an item.

Since it is grey cast iron it will probably carve (yes, carve) easily with a good cold chisel. How about making a sculpture?

Phil

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Divermike I own no camera, don't even own a cell phone. Every once in a while a friend will take a picture of something I have done---I don't know if the picture of my pattern welded pizza cutter is still out there; but I do bring stuff to put on the display tables at Quad-State and have shown off a bunch of stuff at SWABA meetings and demos.

Unfortunately my best stuff belongs to other people while I still have every mistake I have ever made!

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I truly admire people who are not limited by what they have or don't have.


Me too..... I am the best equipped & most under skilled guy you would likely ever meet. Not that I am proud of that but its the truth. Like I said in my original post, I'm a tool collector. I am finally progressing to the point that its not ridiculous to own the tools I own but only just barely...
But just because you don't "need" something doesn't mean it cant be a whole lot of fun to own and play with.... Is it that strange that I would rather have a Nazel than a Corvette? That I sold my Harley so I could buy a Chambersburg? But still every time I go to a conference or attend a blacksmith event I feel a little depressed... I look at the skill and craftsmanship of my peers and wished I would have caught the bug 15 years earlier. And I dont know that I'll would ever have the artistic ability to be a name in the blacksmith world even if I had a 100 years to practice. If I could trade every single tool in my shop in exchange for the knowledge, skill and understanding that comes with a lifetime of working at the anvil... Id make that trade in a second.... The tools are meaningless in the face of knowledge and skill.... But since I live in the "real" world and its unlikely I'll run into a "skills" fairy any time soon... I'll just keep practicing and taking classes and making an effort to improve a little every day...
I guess I should also say that metalworking is my only source of income and I do spend an average of 80 hours a week doing what I can to learn.. That 5 years ago I quit a great job because I knew that without working at it full time I would never become the metalworker I aspired to be...

How does this relate to cast anvils? Well I guess my thought is although I find having a nice tool increases the joy of its use, A inferior tool in the hands of a master will do a fine job.. He (or she) will produce in spite of the tools shortcomings... A superior tool in the hands of a average smith just makes the average work he does a little more enjoyable Edited by monstermetal
more to say?

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I have a HF 50 lb cast anvil, and it is dinged up and really crappy, maybe I'll do a sledge hammer test on it and post it, that would be fun! Try to crack it in half by smackin it really hard with a BFH!! What do you guys think? Should I do it? If I get 10 different affirmatives here, I will do it, and record it for posterity!


Why don't you just use it? There are lots of things that it is still good for. Many of the uses don't even require any modification. I have a small cast iron anvil. I don't call it an ASO. It is really an anvil. I have used it to:

1) taper a piece of schedule 40 pipe nipple so that it can be threaded for a 1/4-28 MIG tip. This saves money over buying a schedule 80 pipe which is harder to find as well. Note that the tapering was done cold. I think that is about the limit of that little anvil.

2) flatten various pieces of sheet metal which have distortions.

3) make Ron Reil's copper bracelet. This requires flattening the twisted copper wire cold as well as the welded ends.

This little cast iron anvil is weak, and I would never even try forging 1/4" square steel on it. But it does have its uses. Note that these anvils also make good gluing weights, and you could probably use the hold down to hold pieces for small welds. Don't run a cutting torch over the face. I have seen too many real anvils with cut marks. I can see how it happens. I've even c-clamped a piece of plate onto the heel of my anvil for a quick torch cut. But I did not touch the anvil. :cool:

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pk

Would you, or someone, help some of us new guys understand why having a mass standing vertically helps to "double" the effective weight?? I have read this type of statement a couple of different ways in postings. I believe it, but don't understand it fully - thanks in advance,

Tim

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I believe it's all about mass underneath the hammer rather than elsewhere in the anvil. Mind, I'm no physicist nor do I portray one in films (my avatar aside...)

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I would tend to agree however I would guess that there is a limit to the practical application of this. But the larger the force that's striking the greater the mass supporting should be.

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Take a piece of wood, say a lath like from old style plaster wall or a cutoff from a 2x4, so lets say 2x1/2x48 inches. Hold the lath in the air and hit the end with a hammer fairly hard, but not so hard to loose grip. You will eventually deform the end, and maybe break small pieces off but after several blows the piece is intact. The whole piece took the blow. Now hold the piece in air and hit it hard in the middle, the bending will likely break the lath in a blow or two, and there were parts of the lath that did not really get affected by the blow.

The same thing happens with a piece of rail, but the likelihood of breaking it is near zero. Now supported the rail will act better on end because there are thicker portions of metal supporting it on end than in the position a train sat on it.

Hope this helps.
Phil

Edited by pkrankow

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Thanks guys ... I think I understand now about the weight under the face ... hence earlier suggestions about setting a four foot piece of rail into the ground to hammer on. Sorry to get us off topic. Seems like the consensus is this, get something heavy (cast iron being the worst) and crunch hot things on it often, and get something harder and deeper as soon as you can and hit things some more. Free is best and when spending money, buy the biggest and hardest you can. And so on 'til you can get a power hammer or three.

So much to learn and so little time!
Tim

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I almost bought a cast iron anvil waaaaaay back years ago when I was in my teens and extremely interested in making a lot of noise and taking my angst out on a piece of hot steel. Luckily, I was with a few friends one of whom pointed out the now-obvious disadvantages of the cast iron, and advised me to go another route. My dad, a structural engineer, gave me my first anvil which was a chunk of high strength structural I-beam. My second anvil which I acquired a year ago but only got around to using a month or two ago is a 12" section of railroad track. I am actually looking to buy an old forged iron anvil off of a local metalworker that I know hopefully sometime soon. It is quite old and might need re-facing, but it's large, has a horn, pritchet hole, and hardie hole which is more than I can say for my setup right now. I do not know the brand or weight, but my friend definitely concurred when asked about the reliability of cast iron vs. forged iron or cast steel or iron with faced steel. Cast iron = not good.

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