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Was it worth it?/Restoration (Columbian Anvil in Hawaii)

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So I am currently living in Hawaii and decided to get into knife making. I started to look around for an anvil and to my surprise found this one on c list. The guy I got it from said he found it in a ravine behind a stable out here. It was rusty and he tried cleaning it with coke and a wire brush. I got it for $100 took it back to my place and cleaned it up some more to try to identify it. I found an upside down triangle with what looks to be a degraded C in it on one side and an M on the other. This leads me to believe it is a Columbian Anvil from Cleveland OH. Was it worth the price I paid? Any way to better narrow the manufacture (1905-1925). From what I read these are cast steel anvils and it does have a nice ring. Looking at getting it into shape for knife making, The base does not seem to be level and it rocks (angle grind the high spots?). I see you should rub it with oil but what kind? I saw one youtube video of a guy using motor oil, is that ok?(I'm not going to paint it) Any opinions filing or resurfacing the face? Is that needed? Just want it to be in working order that's all. I like the old look to it and don't want anything that is "crisp and new".

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I'm afraid grinding is would kill it as a tool. She will however make a good stake plate to hold bottom tools. You can make a nice clean face with a shank to fit the hardy hole. She'll hold your other bottom tools too, fullers, swages, hardies, bending forks, etc. However unless you want serious texture her face is really rough.

"repairing" it would involve serious cleaning, pre heating welding with the proper rod and a LOT of grinding. That might make for a nice face but would kill it's antique value.

I'd keep her but keep looking.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I second Frosty's evaluation. Another option would be to take an just kiss the top with a big flat sanding block/belt sander to highlight the high spots. If they are fairly even all across you could try u-bolting a thick plate to the top. It won't be perfect, but it will give you a flat surface that won't bounce around. 

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So my dilemma is that in Hawaii you will hardly ever come across an anvil. Getting one shipped here is ridiculously expensive. I want something I can work with and if that means it losing is "antique value" then I'm ok with that because I do not plan on selling it or displaying it. I just really want to get it in working order. You said grinding it would kill it as a tool, why is that? I guess its the easy way to get things flat but don't understand how grinding the base to get it flat would kill it. Again I'm new to this so not so informed. Is it better to clean, weld to build up and then grind the base?(the base looks high in the center, the feet look to be aligned with each other) I am guessing the process would be the same for the face and step as well, weld fill the divots and grind.(face looks to be pretty straight with just a few small high spots. Really appreciate the feed back.

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Usually I'd agree and say not to touch it. But a light going over with a flap disc wouldn't hurt. Ultimately an anvil is a tool that needs to be used, if you have the ability to make it a better tool then theres's no reason not to do so.  I'd definitely clean up the horn if nothing else. 

Most folks that want to "repair" their anvil and there is nothing wrong with it, this one looks like it spent a lot of time under water. I reckon you could take 1-2mm off the surface without doing any damage. My own anvil had that much material removed with no negative effects. 

And yes - it's a "Columbian" - Cast steel and very good anvils. 

 

Andy

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I agree with Andy. You won't make it worse taking a flap disc to it. Take it down enough that you can have an area to forge on. 

Just don't get overzealous on the grinding. If you grind it and it has poor rebound and dents easily then Google Robb Gunther anvil repair. There is a right and a wrong way to weld repairs on anvils. 

 

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Thanks for the info fellas, really appreciate it. Gonna clean her up some more and see where im at after that.

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Frosty was referring to grinding the top, not the base. 

What can happen when  grinding the top of some anvils is that you get down through the hardened layer, and into softer sections. That kills rebound. Some plates are thin to begin with (Vulcans), and removing anything really reduces their life. So, would that happen with this one? You won't know until you do it. 

Do Columbians have a top plate, or is it just a cast false edge?

You have a few options to mull over.

1. Sand/grind the top smooth 

2. Have it machined flat

3. Weld it up, and resurface

4. Do a Gunter repair

5. Use it as is for texturing, and holding hardies.

In regards to the above;

1. Is easiest, but it may result in a softer top. I might leave a section as is after seeing how the texture looks on an item-make a matching hammer.

2. Have the base machined FIRST, or the top could come out all wonky. A GOOD machine shop would take the time to set it up so it came out right.

3. This will need someone who knows about anvil requirements,not just a good welder. Lots of hour$ to do right.

4. See number 3

5. Get hammering

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BigGunDoctor,

So there's not a lot of history known behind this anvil. The guy I bought it from said he was hiking behind a stable his wife was working at and saw it laying in a ravine. Had to climb down and haul her out and back to his car over a mile away. My guess is that the stable used it at one time and during an expansion or Hurricane it got lost or washed away. Wish I had more to the story but guess that's the way it goes sometimes.

Brian

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I think at $1 / lb roughly, you did well, especially seeing as how something like this isn't easily available where you are located at. As far as the bottom, a light grind so it sits flat won't hurt anything. As far as the top, it's really hard to tell exactly how deep those pits are. As a beginner anvil I doubt that surface will be detrimental. Sure you won't be able to forge nice smooth surfaces on it, but you can certainly learn to do tapers, bends, slit and drift etc on it just the way it is. You may even find that it imparts a nice surface texture you like to pieces if the pitting isn't too bad. You certainly don't have to worry about miss strikes damaging the surface like you would with a mirror smooth surface. As you learn and grow, you may eventually find the surface is holding you back. At that time you can always deal with the condition. You may find that simply thru use, the surface improves all on it's own.

 

I'd have happily dropped that kind of change on that anvil. It would make a nice "beater" anvil for the kids to work on where I wouldn't have to worry about them damaging my good anvil. I'm also sure I could always find a buyer at that price in the future if I wanted to sell it as is. Someone new to the hobby without an anvil would be happy to get it.

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So my dilemma is that in Hawaii you will hardly ever come across an anvil. Getting one shipped here is ridiculously expensive. I want something I can work with and if that means it losing is "antique value" then I'm ok with that because I do not plan on selling it or displaying it. I just really want to get it in working order. You said grinding it would kill it as a tool, why is that? I guess its the easy way to get things flat but don't understand how grinding the base to get it flat would kill it. Again I'm new to this so not so informed. Is it better to clean, weld to build up and then grind the base?(the base looks high in the center, the feet look to be aligned with each other) I am guessing the process would be the same for the face and step as well, weld fill the divots and grind.(face looks to be pretty straight with just a few small high spots. Really appreciate the feed back.

You can grind the base all you want. Blacksmiths grind the wood the anvil is going to sit on, but it is YOUR anvil, grind all you want. 

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If you're going to clean it up, do the base first and use the sides to get it square front to back and side to side. Then do the face. The danger of grinding one flat is removing too much of the high carbon steel face. If it's thinned too much it will flex under the hammer and you'll lose the energy into the anvil's body rather than imparting it into the work.

If there isn't enough face left to grind smooth then look up the Rob Gunter method, it's tried and true but you'll need someone who knows how to weld properly, a professional would be good. This method requires grinding out any and all rust, flakes and cracks. Preheating to the correct temperature and laying stringer beads in a tight pattern without laying wide deep beads.

I've done a partial face rebuild with the Gunter method and it worked nicely I just don't recommend it unless it's  really needed.

Frosty The Lucky.

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that anvil it's smaller that you may imagine and that pitting it may be not so deep, the tangent light makes the pitting look deeper. if that anvil were MINE, I would just take an angle grinder with a flap disc, I would take that risk. the pitting is quiet deep just on the far edge

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The pH of your local soil can have quite an impact on whether tools will last outside.  For example, I live in an area with very alkaline soil, which you might think would not attack ferrous items, but I have seen things rust away to almost nothing in just a few short years if in contact with the ground.  Cedar fence posts will commonly outlast steel t-posts in the Texas Hill Country - especially if the ground is slightly damp.  That being said, your anvil may not have laid out very long at all to receive that amount of pitting.

With regard to repair, you have already received some great answers - grind/sand the minimal amount to remove most of the dings and forge on...I used to have a Haybudden with an almost perfect face but there was a quarter sized divot near the pritchel hole that was about 3/16" deep.  I left well enough alone because to eliminate it would have meant grinding away a good portion of the face - something that was simply not required for general use.

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