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Advice on a used "American" (?) anvil


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Hi everyone!

My brother and I are just getting started in blacksmithing and bladesmithing, and we're in the process of looking for our first anvil. After initial searching of Craigslist and several local flea markets didn't turn up any good leads, I got impatient and almost decided to go with a new TFS 100 lb double-horn, but then I checked CL again and found an ad for an 188 lb "AMERICAN brand, or Swedish" anvil. The seller is asking $625 for the anvil which works out to $3.3 / lb. I asked him to send me some additional photos, which he did, and these are attached. The ID markings aren't really possible to make out, but I can see the "1 8 8" stamped on the side. In his email to me, the seller said 

There are no clear markings on the anvil that prove it is an "American" anvil, but based on process of elimination, characteristics, descriptions in the book "Anvils in America", and having sold about 130-140 anvils the past 6 years . . . it is the best guess I have for now. Thanks!

If it is indeed an "American" anvil, I presume this refers to "American Wrought" anvils which appear to be along the lines of Fishers in terms of construction, and thus would be a solid choice.

I asked him over the phone about the rebound and he said it was "really good", but I plan to test it with a steel ball if I decide to go inspect the anvil in person. His photos show there are some dings on the face and on the top of the horn, but my biggest concern is what appears to be a significant dip in the face, primarily over the base of the anvil. I guess my question is, would this degree of dip in the face, along with the dings present, be a reason to pass on this anvil and look elsewhere?

I would like to finish by saying "Thank you!" to everyone on IFI for the huge wealth of information you've all shared here--I've learned a ton about anvils in general and what to look for in a used one by reading this forum.

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I'm anything but an anvil expert but that appears to have a lot of swayback plus some damage on the step which implies questionable use.  At that price, I would tend to think you could do better, especially in your general part of the world.  It's an easy call when you already have an anvil to beat on but my call is that you could do better if you have some patience.  I suspect that not too far down the road you'll start battling that swayback and be wishing you had waited around for a better beater block.

But...it's just my wild opinion and not much more.

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I'd buy it.  The sway in the face is okay and won't have a negative impact on your work.  It actually comes in handy for straightening long pieces.

The damage to the step is from cutting, which is what the step is there for.  No big deal.

Overall, the edges look good and it's a nice size for general work.  You'd get a lot of product off of an anvil like that, and you can always sell it in a year or two and recoup your investment.

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That's a pretty nice anvil, its not a trenton since the weight is on the side. Its not a swedish one either. May be one of the other American brands like a Hay Budden or an Arm and hammer. If the rebound is good I wouldn't worry about anything else, The sway won't be a problem as mentioned above.

All in all it appears to be a good anvil for whatever you could wish to do. The prices for decent anvils keeps going up driven by Ebay so you might have a hard time finding a cheaper one.

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I would pass, and for these reasons.

You are just getting started, so unless you have a bunch of disposable cash laying around why drop so much on one tool?  For $625 you could outfit an entire smithy. I see too many new smiths that think that they NEED a London pattern anvil to do blacksmithing, not so. That design is only around 200 years old, and smithing goes back faaaaaaar longer than that. I would suggest just getting a big chunk of scrap steel, a big forklift tine, or other suitable mass to use as an anvil for now. Scrap is way down, and you can get a 200# chunk for $50 in most places today. That leaves you $575 to build a forge, hammers, tongs, vise, etc...  Do not get tool blind, it can cost you $$$. Also check into community colleges in the area to see if they have a blacksmith program like mine did. Buy books. Joiin a local smithing group. Get forging.

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Post a picture of the bottom!   It's a forged anvil not cast like most swedish anvils in the USA; the handling holes along the lowere edge of the feet are pretty distinctive IIRC and anvils in america could probably narrow down the maker pretty tight. (my copy is at home).

$3 seems high to me; but since folks WANT to pay more money (why they are using the higher cost methods of finding an anvil...)

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Ledges on the feet and CWT weight markings are typical of Peter Wright.  

If the weight is around 188 then  the middle digit won't work: (188-112) - 8= 68  not a multiple of 28   So if it does weight around 188 then it would be an American weight stamped anvil.

So weigh it and show us a picture of the bottom---is their a handling hole in it?  Is there an indentation in a particular shape? (Hourglass is generally HB or early german made Trentons; caplets are indicative of Arm and Hammer and laterTrentons)

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Thank you everyone for your replies! Good to know that sway is not as big a deal as I thought.

I've read other threads recommending scrap steel for a starter anvil, but was wondering what would be done for a hardy (an additional piece of round scrap could substitute for a horn I think)? The savings would definitely be nice, I may check with some local places to see if they would be willing to sell some tool steel scrap for a good price. I guess I could use the ball-drop test to check rebound to verify whether the scrap is suitable for forging on?

I will ask the seller if he has a photo of the bottom of the anvil and if he knows the actual weight to help narrow down the ID.

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54 minutes ago, J_B said:

, but was wondering what would be done for a hardy (an additional piece of round scrap could substitute for a horn I think)? .

Build a "portable hole" to use as your hardy hole.

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A vise will hold a hardy nicely. I have several with different sized shanks on them, so my post vise gets used for the ones that don't fit the anvil.

As to the horn, I don't use mine much. Curls are done on the top of the anvil instead of the horn. The horn comes in handy for opening loops, and as a large bottom fuller, but it isn't necessary. The Vikings didn't have horns on their anvils, nor smiths over 200+ years ago, and they did beautiful work. A bicks can be used for horn work.

 

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Thanks for the advice on hardies--I have a bench vise that may or may not be mounted sturdily enough for hammering, but I do have access to a welder so I could make a portable hole (thanks for the photos DSW!).

The seller sent me a couple photos showing the bottom of the anvil, though I think I'm leaning toward finding some scrap to start with while I conduct a more patient search. Do they help narrow down the manufacturer?

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