Heliotropicmoth

Help with first anvil

Recommended Posts

Hello, 

I have been interested in black smithing for some time. I plan on putting together a shop soon. From what I have read here all anvils are not equal. What should I be looking for when searching around for mine? I have seen a bunch on Craigslist but don't really know what is a good deal and what is overpriced. Should I only be looking for carbon steel, are all anvils some percent carbon steel? Is there an easy way to tell, by manufacturer maybe. Should I start with a railroad anvil, I can get a 18" one for $50 on CL. Is that a good deal? A guy is selling a Vulcan for $170 near me, I have read they are bottom rung though. Would that be a good entry level anvil? Another guy is selling all of these for $275 . Hotlink  to craigslist removed  Would it be worth keeping the large one and selling the others? Total noob here, just need some info so I don't start off making a mistake. 

Thanks, Patrick

Craigslist link removed because IFI does not get any funds from the sale of said item for advertising here

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Patrick how would YOU tell if an anvil was high carbon steel or not?  If you expect the seller to A know and B not mislead you, I can sell you a large bridge in Brooklyn for a very reasonable price indeed!  What you should look for is an anvil made by a reputable manufacturer and check it for delamination and softening of the face due to fire. It really helps if you can get a smith local to you to vet any anvil you are looking at; Not knowing where you are limits the folks who can volunteer.

I consider US$50 for a 18" piece of rail to be over priced by about a factor of 5 to 10; of course in the last year I gave a 5' section to a starting smith for free...

Not knowing where you at I can't tell if that collection of anvils is worth it or not.  There looks to be 1 "real" anvil in the lot the rest are ASOs and rail anvils.  What is the weight of the real anvil as that and location will control price given that we can see the condition. To me it's over priced.

$170 for a Vulcan a decent deal: Yes No Maybe depending on information you don't provide with SIZE, CONDITION and LOCATION being the most important.  Vulcan's are quiet anvils so they won't ring when tapped. They also have thin faces so any sign of someone grinding or milling the face to pretty it up is a sign to RUN AWAY!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Thomas, I am in SW Ohio. Cincinnati / Dayton area. The Vulcan has sold so I can't link, doesn't matter. I take from your answer that some anvils are carbon and some aren't. Are there any manufacturers that I should be keeping an eye out for?  Newbie here, what does ASO stand for? I guess my next step other than asking questions here and learning what I can from reading is to get with a local smith and ask for help. Preferably before I make a mistake with my wallet. Do you know of any resources for finding local smiths willing to mentor a noob?

Thanks,Patrick 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All steels are carbon steels, cast iron has much more carbon than a high carbon steel; please don't use the term till you understand it.

ASO is Anvil Shaped Object---generally a cast iron object that looks like an anvil and is sold as an anvil but is less usable as an anvil than a chunk of fork lift tine from the scrap yard.

So you attend the SOFA meetings in Troy?  I used to drive from Columbus OH for them...I spent 15 years in Columbus and averaged a great name brand anvil for *under* US$1 a pound every year.  Ohio is the happy hunting grounds for smithing stuff!   See the TPAAAT for how I did it.  Good Brands made in Ohio were: Trenton, Arm and Hammer, (not Vulcan! different anvil totally!) and Columbian.  First two in Columbus the other in Cleveland.  Other good brands include Hay Budden, Fisher, Peter Wright, Mousehole, Sodefors, and literally hundreds of others!  

Traditionally made anvils have a high carbon steel face forge welded onto a wrought iron body, later some forge welded to a mild steel body or even the entire top half of the anvil being forged from high carbon steel and welded to a mild base---sometimes even Arc welded..  Fishers had a different process that welded a high carbon steel face to cast iron in their patented process---they are quiet anvils and GREAT.  (Vulcans were similar but skimped on the high carbon steel and had more quality issues) Both are harder to repair if damaged than traditionally made anvils.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the info.

I assumed you knew I meant HCS when I said carbon steel. I guess this is the field you need to be very specific when using terms for steel. So a good anvil has a HCS hitting surface welded onto a cast iron body, is that correct? The thickness of the HCS varies and I assume you want a thicker HCS hitting surface or face?

I have a side business on Craigslist so I am used to driving all over the tri-state area picking things up. I will expand my search for those brands. I am on the SOFA website now, thanks for the info. I will try to get with some local guys and learn some more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You need to slow down, and reread what Thomas posted. 

Most anvils are not all high carbon steel. The only part that usually is, is the top plate on the anvil. The main body may be cast iron, cast steel, wrought iron, mild steel....with a tool steel plate welded to the top surface(s).  Some anvils are indeed all high carbon steel, but they are in the minority. Remember that when many of these were made, tool steel was expensive, so it was reserved for just the working surface. Today, good steels are less expensive so they get more use.

Read the posts in the ANVIL section, your questions have been answered a few times over there.

As to price/value. That gets down to what YOU can afford to pay, not what someone else can. Personally I pay $1 a pound ,others will gladly pay $5 a pound , and some even higher .....$10 a pound.  Value depends on location, maker, condition, size, and if it will work for you. A mint Vulcan would be a better buy than a (higher quality) Peter Wright with a delaminated, and softened top plate.  

I would suggest finding your closest scrapyard that sells to the public,and go see what you can scrounge up just to get started. Forklift forks make excellent anvils, and better than RR rail in my opinion. Even just a big chunk of steel will do fine for now. Just don't buy a big chunk of cast iron, only steel. Then ,while you are using an anvil that is the same as smiths are using in many countries around the world, you can educate yourself on the various London Pattern anvils that are out there, and what to look for when purchasing one. Lots of excellent work can, and is done, on non London Pattern anvils. London Pattern is the anvil shape we are most familiar with, yet that design is relatively new in the history of blacksmithing.

Now go add your location to your profile so it shows under your avatar. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the info.

I have to say, the tone I am receiving from this forum is not very welcoming. I assumed a young enthusiastic person interested in getting started with blacksmithing would be welcomed and encouraged, not talked down to like a child. You guys have great information, maybe don't start off by putting people down for lacking the wealth of knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

No one has the time to read through years of forum threads to find simple answers. Maybe put a pinned thread with basic information at the top of each topic so people don't ask the same questions over and over again.

That said, I appreciate the knowledge. I have thick skin, so I am not going anywhere unless you can't take constructive criticism. Other enthusiastic people may be put off and lose interest with your chosen teaching methods.

Going to update my profile, unless you guys would rather I just leave.

Thanks,

Patrick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Heliotropicmoth said:

Thanks for the info.

I have to say, the tone I am receiving from this forum is not very welcoming. I assumed a young enthusiastic person interested in getting started with blacksmithing would be welcomed and encouraged, not talked down to like a child. You guys have great information, maybe don't start off by putting people down for lacking the wealth of knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

No one has the time to read through years of forum threads to find simple answers. Maybe put a pinned thread with basic information at the top of each topic so people don't ask the same questions over and over again.

That said, I appreciate the knowledge. I have thick skin, so I am not going anywhere unless you can't take constructive criticism. Other enthusiastic people may be put off and lose interest with your chosen teaching methods.

Going to update my profile, unless you guys would rather I just leave.

Thanks,

Patrick

there is a great thread on here about 'how to talk to a curmudgeon' or some such,  and deals with a lot of what you mention here. I'd link to it but its a great chance to use the search function on top of the page. 'no-one' may not have the time to search forum threads, but that doesn't mean that 'everyone' has to stop and answer the same question 50 times for people who don't want to do the research. 

Show that you are willing to invest work and time (and mistakes) and you might find the reception a bit different.

 

I look forward to hearing about what anvil you do acquire!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Patrick, do a search for TPAAAT. It will explain how to find an anvil. AOS is a common acronym,  and there is a difference between forged, cast iron, and cast steel anvils.You must know the language and understand the terms used.

A hobby takes less time than a business. As you want to learn, you make time to do the research, and seek out the information you need to become better and better. You take the information to the anvil and make time to practice and improve. You take time to go to demos and blacksmith meetings, You make time to attend classes from those that are more experienced that you in the subject of interest.

No one is going to run you off. They will make suggestions that they feel will assist you or provide an answer to your question. They do not have the time to rewrite each answer to each question but they will take the time to make a reference. It is up to you to follow up and read the references make when YOU have the time. Take that information to the anvil and see if the reference was helpful, then come back and let us know what you found. We can then adjust or fine tune the answers to your next questions.

Blacksmithing is not a spectator sport. What you get out of it depends directly on what YOU put into it. The more you put into the craft the more you get back from the craft. It is much like life in that respect.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, I did a search for TPAAAT and all I can find is people talking about how they used TPAAAT to find their anvils. Forgive me, but I must be missing something. Is there an original article people area referencing? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TPAAAT is basically talking to people any where you go no matter if you think there is no chance they might know. You never know who might have an anvil sitting in the basement, in the garden, corner of the garage.

You have already started to learn about anvils and how they have been manufactured. The better educated you are the easier it is to recognize a bad anvil from a top quality one. When I first decided to give forging a try I thought an anvil was an anvil but upon starting to research realized how wrong this was. I obtained a copy of Richard Postmans Anvils in America (AIA) and what I paid for the book saved me from wasting money on a made in china ASO that were being sold at a local pawn shop that also sold cheap tools.

Even up here in Alaska there are anvils, no where near the number that are down in the Ohio area. The trick up here is finding one for sale and at a reasonable price.

As an example I was talking to the guy that does our aircraft seat upholstery for where I work and asked him if he knew anyone that might have an anvil. To my surprise he said "I have one, if its still there, from 20 or so years ago when my daughters had a horse!  I thought I could save some money by shoeing the horse myself but quickly realized it looked way easier than it is." It was a 80lb HayBudden, some chips in the edges but no delaminations or cracks (which I knew to look for from research and knowing how the anvil was made). I had my book with me so I was able to tell him how old it was and what to look for to determine if it had been damaged in the past showed him the ball bearing rebound test. We both learned something that day. He said an old friend of the family gave it to him when they got the horse so he didnt have any emotional attachment or money invested which is also why is was just sitting outside the shed overgrown by a shrub. I have found several others that are just sitting not being used and not for sale. The 2 largest are a 392 lb Sodefors just sitting outside and a 395 lb Kohlswa in a machine shop up on a display rack cause it "Looks Cool". My friend owns a lawncare business and he has shown me a couple in clients gardens that belonged to either a late husband or father/grand father. I could see the emotional attachment so didnt even ask if they were for sale. I told them what information I could determine by examining it if they didnt know already and they always really appreciate learning something more a bout their heirloom.

Be respectful, polite and leave your name and number and you might be surprised how quickly something shows up. Be ready with cash in hand!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, Frozenforge said:

TPAAAT is basically talking to people any where you go no matter if you think there is no chance they might know. You never know who might have an anvil sitting in the basement, in the garden, corner of the garage.

They might also know of someone else who has one. I was talking about my forging class to my Chiropractor when he mentions he knows an old farmer who is a client of his who has a few anvils. I was talking one day to the neighbor of one of my customers about some small things I had forged, when he mentions he has a friend who cleans out houses and scraps stuff who may have an anvil for sale. My big primary anvil came from the police officer who was taking the machining class at the tech school and got paired up with me to share the milling machine. He tells me he has one from his dads old business that I can have if I want.

 

The 1st two examples are two people removed. You just never know when you'll find someone who knows someone who has something smithing related.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, DSW said:

They might also know of someone else who has one. I was talking about my forging class to my Chiropractor when he mentions he knows an old farmer who is a client of his who has a few anvils. I was talking one day to the neighbor of one of my customers about some small things I had forged, when he mentions he has a friend who cleans out houses and scraps stuff who may have an anvil for sale. My big primary anvil came from the police officer who was taking the machining class at the tech school and got paired up with me to share the milling machine. He tells me he has one from his dads old business that I can have if I want.

 

The 1st two examples are two people removed. You just never know when you'll find someone who knows someone who has something smithing related.

Marcy's  step dad owns a bussiness that does house clean outs , he has found 3 fishers so far for the taking. An 1897 120# , a 40# and the 1860's 80# that I received for my bday.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well after losing the first post......

This may shed some light on the situation. Many of us in here remember a time long before computers when we had to go to libraries, and seek out others with the answers to the research we were doing. So it doesn't help when you say that you do not have time to read some posts on this forum. We encourage everyone who wants to learn this craft, but they have to be willing to listen, learn, and take the advice that we have. There are literally thousands of years of experience here that cannot be learned from a sticky. You may think that you are asking a simple question, but in reality there may be factors that you have not considered which create a myriad of possible answers that need to be distilled own to get to what is relevant to you. Even after doing this for decades you will still be learning about it.  For some it has become a great hobby, for others a rewarding business, but it takes time, and a lot of effort to make it so.

We do not know anything about you; work experience, skills, tools available, prior experience with metal, knowledge base, etc.. All of these can change the answers given to you. Never assume anything,because the right answers may not be given. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Patrick: Nobody's talking down to you, we're talking to you like an adult. We all make mistakes, we all have wrong preconceived notions. Believe me nobody is born knowing this stuff and learning is failure analysis. If you can't handle being told you're wrong you aren't going to like how hot steel tells you you're making a mistake. ESPECIALLY if you ignore folk telling you you're wrong and have to learn from your own mistakes.

Your call.

Frosty The Lucky.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

People have different circumstances around home especially when it comes to free time. Me, family of six, some with special needs. It's non stop around here from the time I get in from work till the time we make it to bed. If there is 30 minutes a day of peace and quiet here it's a rare day.

There will always be people who don't like a lazy question. What may be a lazy question for one person may not be for another. Some will voice there opinon and others will simply not comment at all. Some don't mind repeating things. When you're digging through junk you keep what is usefull and discard or shelve the rest. Same here.

Anyhow, finding an anivl:

I asked every person I knew and many I didn't about anivls for at least four months. People got tired of hearing me ask. All I found were dry wells. What I did find were heirlooms. My dad located one yesterday I was able to get for a good price. A week ago I saw and old acquaintance from my youth, who now owns a junk yard, he has six anvils ratholed at his house. I went by and looked at them when he was away and found two of them in useable condition. We haven't gotten together for the deal but it wont be long.

If things seem dry today and you're persistent then rain will surely fall.

Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, so I asked around and my father-in-laws, best friends widow has an "old large anvil" in the garage. I am going to look at it Saturday. I plan on checking the thickness of the face, checking the manufacturer, looking for any repairs or cracks and taking a hammer to listen to the sound, am I missing something important?  Any advice on what a good sound is? I have watched a few video's and have heard what I think is a good sound, but not sure because of the audio quality. Does the mount have anything to do with the sound? Not sure if the anvil is mounted still or just laying on the concrete. Does it matter much if it is sitting on the concrete? Should I bring some wood to sit it on? I have a nice piece of oak I could bring.

Thanks,

Patrick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of course the adage is that a good anvil "rings like a bell", but yes, the mount definitely affects the sound, a lot, and on bare concrete most high quality anvils will be pretty loud. Putting it on wood should dampen it, especially if it's a heavy anvil, but without a frame of reference it may not be that meaningful. And even if it's kind of flat that doesn't mean it's worthless. Anvils that are made from cheap cast bodies with thick tool-steel faces can have great rebound, but little to no ring. Hammer rebound is really the more important thing, but if it has a healthy ring, so much the better. Hopefully you'll need help identifying it and we'll get to see some pictures : )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the info.

I understand you never want to strike the anvil face with a hammer, just drop it from a specific height and see the rebound. From what I have read, 1/3 of the distance seems like a good rebound. I plan on doing that but I also read you can test the rebound with a steel ball bearing. Any advantage to one over the other or should I do both? I will bring my piece of Oak with me to set the anvil up on, in case it is laying on the ground.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't worry about taking the wood with you. Even on dirt it will tell you what you need to know.

The sound you are looking for is a solid one, it can be a be a ring like my Sodefors makes, or a dull thud that my Fisher makes. What you do not want to hear is a sound like a broken bat makes. If the top is delaminating it will take some of the blow, then hit the anvil body making an off sound. The anvil may ring in some spots, but not others indicating a top that has come loose in that area. If there are cracks in the body, or horn they will disrupt the resonance, and it won't make a nice solid sound.

Rebound is what matters. I don't look for a hammer to bounce a certain height, but more of a dribble like a basketball does. Many repeated bounces from a single drop instead of one or two. This is subjective, so a dropped bearing ball is more measurable. Dropped from 10" the rebound measured is the percentage or rebound. Over 50% (5") is pretty good-more the better.

Old anvils will more than likely have chipped edges, swayed tops, dented tops, and other damage from use. These are not deal killers. Edges can be dressed up into a nice radius which is better than sharp edges since they do not induce cold shuts into the work. Swayed tops help in straightening bent parts. Pictures posted here get you solid opinions ,and advice on the anvil.

If it is an anvil made in Sweden, especially a Sodefors, it really should be sent to someone like Frosty in Alaska. They do not work well in the lower 48, as it is just too warm for them. They get homesick for the frigid temps, and loose some of their enthusiasm for work....

There are many manufactures of anvils, but the more common ones here in the USA are Hay Budden, Fisher, Peter Wright, Mousehole, Vulcan, Trenton, many types of Farrier anvils NC/JHM/Cliff Carroll, TFS, etc.. You sometimes see a Sodefors, Kolwasa, Pendinghaus, 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note: to blacksmiths a "large anvil" is usually over 200 pounds with around 150 pounds being a good sized shop anvil and 100 pounds being a good sized travel anvil....

To the rest of the world a "large anvil" is anything over 50#  I got so tired of going to auctions with a "large anvil" advertised only to find it was under 100 pounds that I started calling the auctioneers and asking "how many people did it take to move it?"  only when they laughed and said "we used a tractor/forklift/front end loader/etc to move it would I then drive out for the auction.   Funny though, I got both my large anvils and most of my smaller ones using TPAAAT; better prices for sure!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a suggestion but if you are not electrically challenged like me, I would suggest that you take a few pictures, top, left side, right side, front, back etc. Post them on the anvil section of the forum and I'm sure that you will get plenty of knowledgeable replies regarding the condition of the piece. I am pretty new here myself, my first experience with this forum saved me making  an expensive mistake. After obtaining a little bit of knowledge by reading on the web and youtube videos, I realize what a debt I owe to this forum. I'm glad you are thick skinned, there aint too many of us left. forever politically incorrect Bud

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding what you see as being treated a little gruffly--

My business is heavily telephone related and in my youth, I always felt that people's tone implied they were annoyed and frustrated.  It took me a while to learn NOT to read tone into phone calls.  Sometimes it's just the way people communicate.

Now that the world has moved on, the same thing applies to posts.  Don't read an implied tone into them.  If someone is annoyed, they'll say so.  Usually very clearly.  Even if you get bit, let it roll off except for the lesson they are trying to get across--it's just the internet and that means you deal with all kinds.  Nothing worth getting wound up about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.