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Anvil height, how can you tell if it is the right height


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DO NOT build the stand until you find out the height of the anvil face that you can use comfortably.

Any arrangement of materials such as cinder blocks, bricks, boards, pallets, etc so you can raise or lower the anvil can be used for testing. You will want to start with the face of the anvil about knuckle height when standing erect with a closed fist. From there raise or lower the anvil until you do not have to bend over and allows you to feel comfortable when swinging the hammer.

My suggestion is to NOW place a piece of 3/4 inch thick wooden sheeting on the anvil face. Hit it 3 times with the hammer with the same swing and impact you would use while forging. Notice the crescent moon marks. 12 o'clock and the anvil face is too low. 6 o'clock and the anvil face is too high. 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock and your hammer is tilted. Adjust as needed until the indentations from the hammer are full circles meaning the hammer is hitting the wood flat and square. Use this height for a period of time and be sure you are comfortable with the swing, impact, and overall height. Adjust as needed to YOUR forging methods, keeping in mind you want a full circle imprint of the hammer.

Measure the height of the anvil face and build you new and permanent anvil stand to this height.

This has been covered in other threads and discussions on the site. You may want to look them up for additional references.

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Thomas Powers

Note that the "Knuckle height" is what is given in old smithing books where they expected you to be using a lot of sledges, top tools and a striker; most modern folks it's more like wrist height.

 

EricJergensen

Inseam measurement for pants is also a good starting point. For most folk, that's fairly close to Thomas's wrist height suggestion.

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Next swing the hammer so you bury it into the anvil about 2 inches. The anvil is not going to move and the hammer keeps coming so the hot metal has no option but to move. Be careful of the hammer rebound as it will launch from the anvil face, so let it. Catch it on the way up and bring it to the top of the swing, saving that amount of energy the rebound provides.

If you pull the hammer blow, or tap tap tap, you are not forging metal, you are playing with the metal. Bury that hammer into the anvil about 2 inches each hammer blow. Go slow at first until you can experience and control what is happening. Full swings are for moving metal, and you do not need a full swing all the time, so adjust your swing as needed for the work at hand.

Pause while folks go to the shop and takes a couple of test swings (grin)

When you come back from your testing, tell us your results. Did you need to adjust? Did it help? Did it make things easier?

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one thing I have use over the years to fined the right height for an anvil is a 2 ton floor jack 

you can play with the height easy enough -- BE Careful not to let the anvil slip off the jack though !!!

 

I like the Plywood Idea Glen gona have to try that :)  

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I have anvils at several differing heights as I teach and you always end up needing an anvil for someone 5'2" or 6'4".

As the stands and anvils are of differing heights you can mix and match to get even finer gradations.  However in general the smaller the anvil the taller the stand----light work on small anvil heavy work on tall anvils!

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Just curious, if the anvil is taller and the work bigger won't that raise the impact height? It seems it would make more sense to have an anvil for heavy work lower to compensate for the hight of the work and tools likely to be used.

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This is based on folks using 3/4 to 1 inch stock (or less). If you use 2 inch stock then put 2 inches of wood on the anvil face. If you use a sledge and striker, then set it up for the striker.  The idea is to show when the hammer face if hitting flat and square with the anvil face.

 

There is a fellow on the site that is a production blacksmith for small items. He sits to work, has his anvil low chest high, tilts the anvil toward him, and then has a bevel or angle on the hammer face to match the anvil face and hit it square and flat. Took me a while to wrap my head around his sitting and forging and heavy angle on the hammer face until I put everything together and ... it works. Works for him in his location at his forge and at his way of doing things.

 

Think of the wood as carbon paper (you may have to google carbon paper , grin) which shows where things touch. Like anything, you have to start somewhere, and then adjust as needed for your circumstances. The wood just shows you visually where you are or if you need more adjustment.  When finished, try that height for a couple of weeks to give it a fair test, and adjust as needed for your comfort.

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Wrist height!    Yes....  Geeze.... when I built my stand I followed the knuckle height and listened to advice about resting hammer on the face and your elbow should be just slightly bent.  Mine is perfect to both standards, but I know from lots of Saturdays of 6-7 hours of swinging a hammer that I still end up leaning over the anvil slightly.  And then I feel that in my back at the end of the day.   I need to raise mine up a bit - glad I designed a stand that could be adjusted easily enough.  

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I agree with Thomas.  Damion, you need to re-read his response, "- in general the smaller the anvil the taller the standlight work on small anvil, heavy work on tall anvils".  Heavy anvils are usually also taller but the stands are by necessity, shorter.  I have 4 anvils I regularly work on; the smallest being an 88lb Hay Budden on what would be considered a very tall stand. For me it makes sense, I don't see very well any more, since I'm way over the hill, and I use it for finer detail work. The largest is a wonderful 400lb Fisher that can can take any thing I can dish out, but is on a stand/anvil combination which is about 31" tall, I'm about 6'2" so its kinda low for me but works well. I have 2 other anvils (190lb HB and 330lb Reflinghaus)  that are precisely where my hammer face falls perfectly flat on a .5" piece of hot iron. I do almost all of my work on the those two anvils but its really nice to have the others when the need arises.  If I only had one anvil it would be where the last 2 anvils are situated. That. being said, they are a little higher than knuckle height sort of in between knuckle and wrist, You have to see where you hammer falls on a piece of metal (of a given height) rather than where your joints(knuckles and wrist) are located. it makes it a lot easier on your back!

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There is a lot of good advice here with substantial healthy variation. I am making a video on Basis hammering technique.The deeper I get  into it the less I know. 

That being said: I advocate an extremely loose hand grip, German cross pein hammer geometry (din 1041), and a hammer snapping technique that allows one to hit effectively at a wide variety of heights and angles as well as from different directions.

That being so, the requirements of the left hand become more important than the right hand. Relationships with power hammers and forges are also factors.

I set anvil heights for specific situations, and for use with very light to heavy hammers.

 I set this block of steel anvil In these 2 photos for an apprentice who was slightly shorter than me. I had him standing straight but not stiff legged with his left foot forward. His left hand was comfortable holding and rotating the 3/8" bar flat on the anvil or over the edge at an angle. With a 2.2 lb German cross pein he could comfortably hit the piece flat (planishing) or with the outside edge (fullering) with his right arm not quite fully extended. This would be a good starting  posture/anvil height formula.

This anvil was maybe a little high for me, but I stepped up to it in the first photo (I'm not moving) and registered my hammer flat to the anvil surface. In the second photo I am striking the piece flat. Because the anvil is maybe a little high my right arm is not fully extended, and I am not developing the full power I would have if the anvil were say an inch lower. No problem!

I simply adjusted my blow to the anvil height, and then to the piece on the anvil. As you work a  piece down, you are constantly adjusting your blow/swing geometry to the changing thickness. 

For heavy work I want the full swing/full power: a snapping blow with a 3.3 lb or 4 lb. German...or of course, a skilled striker or power hammer.                                                       For light work I set an anvil high, and snap a light hammer quickly with almost no arm movement. 

For a situation, you can raise your anvil height (plywood or what ever underneath the base) or you can stand on a temporary platform (especially for driving punches) to raise yourself up. I do that all the time.

 

hammer-ready.jpg

hammer-in-action.jpg

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I saw a pic once from one of the better known schools (might have been Tom Clark but I cannot recall) where every anvil stump was a big square piece of lumber, maybe 14-16" square and set on end but only a foot or so tall from the floor.  The anvil was fastened to a similar cross section piece, but also very short.  The two pieces sat above each other and were aligned at each corner with a large piece of angle iron with slots milled part way along the length.  The anvil was lifted or dropped to make it comfortable for whoever was using it at the time then wooden shims were slipped between the pieces so there were no air gaps.  The end pieces had large lag screws going through the angle iron slots which could then be tightened.  Pretty simple arrangement.

Another shop I toured many years ago had sand in a half oil drum that the anvil set upon.  The anvil could be lifted then the sand either scooped out or added to, thereby adjusting the height.

There are lots of ways to skin the cat...

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If your vision isn't as good as your hammer technique one of the important skills to develop is to trust that your technique is good, and do your best to stand up straight. Most of us given half a chance will lean over the anvil more than is comfortable for long stretches of time.  If you learn to do this initially you are better off, if you have to retrain yourself (its hard...) but likely worth the effort.  There are of course times when to get the angle with the hammer you need to lean over the anvil, but for general forging you should try to stand up.  I find myself with my face right down practically on the piece sometimes doing fine finishing, and have to remind myself to observe from afar and trust that my technique is good and so the results will be good, and if I have to touch it up a bit, oh well.

Having more than one anvil is a blessing. It is nice to have a Large and Low anvil for heavy work especially sledging, and using top tools. The main anvil for most work, and then a smaller anvil set up high with a nice thin horn and thin heel for lighter delicate work.  In my copious free time I think I need to make a bickern...

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Here is one solution to the problem of anvil height. This is an anvil stand that is adjustable for height and is pretty simple to build. The frame is made of angle iron and should be bolted to the floor. The wooden section is a build up of 2x12s and can be raised by putting wooden blocking underneath. The chain is attached to frame which is bolted to the floor. It is run over the anvil and is tensioned with a threaded hook. The chain pulls the anvil against the wood block and the block in turn against the floor. When the chain is tight the anvil is firmly anchored and does not move while forging. To raise the anvil simply loosen the chain, lift the block with a crow bar, and put blocking under the 2x12 block. It only takes a minute or two to change the height of the anvil so one could fine tune the height if they were doing a long production run on with a specific size of stock. I have built two of these stands and keep one anvil pretty high for hand hammer work and the other lower for sledging and using hand tools. The frame also provides a nice place to mount tool holders.

Trenton-Stand.thumb.jpg.923ac46de87920c3

Edited by kubiack
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I prefer my anvils lower by about 2".. I want my hammer with loose arms and relaxed hand to be at a slight down hill throw or angle   This allows for me to move over to the far side of the anvil and by just changing my position my back hand comes up which is good for me when working longer bars and forging tapers or balls on the ends..  

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I had mine like that and I very quickly got a back problem. I had to stand with my feet nearly three feet apart to save my back. I then did as Glenn recommends. I did it  before reading about it.  I figured it out myself. When your back hurts you get inspiration.

Now if you are a young man you may get away with a too low anvil - for now. Question is what it does to your back in the long run.   

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