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

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On 11/17/2018 at 4:05 PM, Frosty said:

Holding the hammer at your side with the handle parallel to the ground?

To be honest, I've never tried the method I suggested. However I call this last 10 years of my life, well, let's call them my "roadie blacksmith phase", A journey of a special kind.  ;)  The journey was definitely a "trip", but the ending is superbe.

I've set up 5 shops on this journada. Some have been great, some have been doable only if you have a good imagination,,,  ;) but any port in a storm,, and now I'm setting up my last.

I've always set my anvils to knuckle height, but these last years I've found that knuckle height is no longer comfortable. So I've been trying to figure a better way for me. Thus, my thoughts on setting height when my handle is parallel to the ground.

I do know how I work at the anvil, my stance, so i will take my comfortable working stance and swing my hammer till the handle is parallel. I'll measure from here.  A bit complex, but it should fit me well.  

If the weather holds, and the gods of our craft keep smiling, i will be setting my anvil in a few weeks. 

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Knuckle Height was what was suggested back in the day when folks normally used strikers and often worked larger items---heavier work larger hammers.  However we tend more to doing smaller more precision stuff nowadays---especially things like knifemaking and bladesmiths have learned that using an anvil with a face around wrist height seems to keep the smith from bending over so it much. Hence the suggestion that if your back aches after a day of forging try adjusting the height of your anvil. For those of use lucky enough to have several anvils we often have them at different heights and so can use the height most suited for our work.

(Note in bladesmithing the use of the weight forward cutler's hammers that shift the handle up a couple of inches making the anvil face "effectively" a bit higher...)

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2 hours ago, anvil said:

my thoughts on setting height when my handle is parallel to the ground.

Great idea if you can step back and observe the parallel part.   [We will not discuss working on a hill side, or attaching a level to get things properly level. (grin) ]

May I suggest some anvil time dedicated to getting the right anvil height for you. Start where it is now, then raise the anvil 2 inches or the thickness of a 2x6 piece of lumbar. 2x6 because it will support the anvil easily with a reasonable height difference. Try forging at the new anvil height for a while. It is easy to go back to the old height just by removing the 2x6 and compare the two. 

Then go from original anvil height plus one 2x6 and add a second (now two) 2x6's in height. Try forging at the new anvil height plus two 2x6's for a while. Give it a proper go and if it feels too high, remove the second 2x6 and replace it with a piece of 3/4 inch sheeting so you now have the original anvil height, one 2x6 and one piece of 3/4 inch sheeting. 

Use that anvil height for a while so you can get accustom to the height. All this is to locate the anvil height YOU feel comfortable using.

Place a piece of wood on the face of the anvil and give it 3 whacks with a hammer. If the crescent mark is at 12 o'clock the anvil is low, if the crescent mark is at 6 o'clock the anvil is high. If the imprint in the wood is a circle, then the anvil is the right height.

When you feel you have the comfortable height at your anvil for the work you do, stand straight with your arm beside the anvil, and use a sharpie marker to mark that anvil height on YOUR ARM. This is a great visual reference that you will remember because it is on your arm. 

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11 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Knuckle Height was what was suggested back in the day when folks normally used strikers and often worked larger items

Thomas, what I'm not is a knife/blade Smith. I am a traditional architectural blacksmith. I call my shop a 1" shop. Meaning my standard material is 1" and smaller. However I'm quite comfortable with up to 2". Rarely a striker. They are not the norm in today's blacksmith shops. I do have a 25# lil giant and a Clay Spencer treadle hammer.

I made my first knife around March of '80. I finished up a course at Turley Forge the previous november or so. I made it with wrought from an old wagon tire and a leaf spring from a turn of the century wagon. It had 760 layers or so. I did this because the most asked questions were always, can you make a knife,, can you forge weld. Lol, this gave a quick answer. I've prolly made less than a dozen knifes since then, and yes, one spike knife.  :(

Thus I have no need for a cutlers hammer. I do in fact have one or two of similar type, but it is for repousse work. I was blessed to partner up with Dorothy Stigler at Bobby Meyers shop in Basault a few decades or so ago, under the guidance of Nahum Hersom for a 3 or 4 day workshop. Thanks to this, I'm passable with repousse, but it's not my strength.

I am amongst those lucky(luck? Naa, not luck) to have a few anvils. However, my workstation is set up permanent with our simple tools,, forge, anvil, and post vice, all set up for me. My other anvils have other uses, one for travel and onsite installs, the others are for those rare cases I either have a class or a helper.

As far as a striking anvil, nope, no need to waste space in my shop for a redundant tool, my anvil works fine. And as for a striker, well unless he/she is either a giant or a midget, they WILL strike as I show them, or they WILL NOT strike for me. Easy peasy. And when they do, well, the extra few inches in hammer length are easily compensated for by them on my daily driver anvil.

10 hours ago, Glenn said:

We will not discuss working on a hill side, or attaching a level to get things properly level. (grin)

Glen, good point as is your whole post, but perhaps better said for a beginner. And I have demonstrated on a hillside, but my shop is certainly level.  ;)

Thomas mentioned precision, and your thoughts on using a level are also pertanent, even if said tongue in cheek. So to ease both your concerns, I'd like to mention a couple of compliments  I received, not once, but twice from Frosty. Truly I hold his compliments in high regard,  and one of the best I've had in quite a while. It concerned two fire screens I made. I suggest you do a search, if it matters, and check them out. I'm sure that with all your experience, you will have no problem understanding my grasp of precision as a mere mortal traditional Smith.  ;)

And, Glen, I have no problem knowing the relationship of my hammer face to my anvil from leaving my anvil till its return. Without this knowledge, and literally having  it be sub conscious, you just cannot have a good grasp of hammer control.

So to clarify, I've noticed that over the last 4-5 years, my body has changed and my old standby of knuckle height to the anvil face no longer applies. Thus, I believe that I must determine my new anvil height based on my handle being parallel with the world, and think that this just might be a more precise method for many. It does require one knowing his approach to the anvil.

And Glen, a question for you. I asked this of you a few months or so ago, but I got no response.

Were you involved in the ABA archway donation to Old Town, Phoenix? It was a  Francis Whitaker workshop around the summer of '84. I was the only out of state guy and my part was the rosettes. What was special about this for me, was that he took the time to not only show me how he wanted them made, but gave me the story behind  them. When he apprenticed with Schramm(sp) in Berlin, his first job as an apprentice, was for a large screen for a bank, I believe, and his part was to do the rosettes. He wanted me to use those same techniques for the rosettes for this archway. It was quite a lesson for me, and to understand the historical connection is something I've never forgotten. Someone sent me a newspaper pic of this project, but I've never seen it in person.

Sorry for the long post, but it was a grand memory!

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1 hour ago, anvil said:

Glen, were you involved in the ABA archway donation to Old Town, Phoenix?

No. I was not involved in the ABA archway donation to Old Town, Phoenix, but I would like to have been.

Many times I post with the beginning blacksmith in mind. The more experienced blacksmith has already worked things out. No offense is intended toward them.  The material for them can be a review or at least a different way of looking at things. I always appreciate their input, and listen when they explain their way of doing things.  

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10 hours ago, Glenn said:

Many times I post with the beginning blacksmith in mind

I thought that was the case. It's always good to interject that info when possible.

Bill Calloway was an early inspiration for me, and that particular workshop was a major step in my journey. A big thanks to all you guys.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm 6'2" and I have back issues that act up when standing bent over so I tihnk I will be aiming for a higher stand, wrist height perhaps. I also need it to be mobile for now, so I am leaning towards laminating a simple wooden post and reinforcing the outside with steel.

Diresta recently made a nice looking stand, with an overly complex lifitng mechanism though... But otherwise I liked the general idea of using angle iron and flatbar to "trap" the lamination and keep it together. Might also be a good idea to use the router to sink the anvil base into the base a bit, and use silicone underneath as well for a better connection between anvil. And then some mechanical way to fasten the anvil to boot.

This plan is based on days of reading trough threads on this and other forums.

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I like just a bit lower than wrist height but whatever is comfortable for you is the right way to go. I mocked up a stand and stood with the hammer face resting flat on a piece of one inch lumber when my elbow was still bent some. It's pretty comfortable so far. It's been too hot to get a lot of anvil time lately. Good luck


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