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chaddey99

best anvil for a beginner

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I'm just getting started in blacksmithing, particularly knife making. I'm also 17 and limited to tools and funds. that being said, I cant afford actual nice anvils that are super expensive. also I know not to use the cheap cast iron ones. so what are my best options? would a section of railroad track work best for me? or I did find one steel anvil I can afford but its only 2o lbs. is that to small or would that be good? please no one jump on my case and respond like I'm stupid, I would just appreciate any friendly advice and input. thanks

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I agree with you that a cheap new cast anvil is not particularly good but if you can buy one, it surely beats a railroad track. There only problem is that they are soft and will mark when you miss, so don't miss and hit the hot steel only. 

And I don't agree that you buy your first anvil for the rest of your life. I have 5 and will probably buy some more.

If you search this forum you will find hundreds of post that address your question, from forklift tines to vertical railroads, lumps of steel from the scrapyard and the occasional suggestion of a rock (dismiss as a joke of course) 

Most people get on the quest of buying an anvil and eventually find one after a more or less long time. And that is fine, but anvil is not all you need. You need a forge, a few hammers, tongs, safety gear, vice (s) punches, chisels etc. All achievable with little money if you have the time to look and ask around. 

Best of luck and let us know what you find :)

 

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37 minutes ago, chaddey99 said:

I'm just getting started in blacksmithing, particularly knife making. I'm also 17 and limited to tools and funds. that being said, I cant afford actual nice anvils that are super expensive. also I know not to use the cheap cast iron ones. so what are my best options? would a section of railroad track work best for me? or I did find one steel anvil I can afford but its only 2o lbs. is that to small or would that be good? please no one jump on my case and respond like I'm stupid, I would just appreciate any friendly advice and input. thanks

OK, first of all you will find that many of us here on IFI have underwear older than you, so it will be hard to dictate how we answer your posts.

Second welcome to the forum and the world of blacksmithing. Not knowing where you are located it will be hard to give advice about where you may find help locating stuff you may need, you might put your general location in your profile.

There are blacksmithing groups all over the world, find one close to you and join up. If you scroll down to the bottom of the home page, there is a list of many of them. By joining you will have many folks who will help you out.

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When you are just beggining, you are not going to be working large sections of steel so you don't need a huge contempory London pattern anvil. Any decent lump of steel will do, what ever you can find, it needs only be as big as your hammer and it will get you started. Scrounge, scavange something and save your cash for gear you can't improvise or better gear later when a good offer turns up. Blacksmiths and Bladesmiths the world over make a living using lumps of steel, axle shafts, hammer heads and yes even rocks! A fair few of us here used home made, improvised anvils. I have two counter ballance weights, from the biggest vertical lift bridge in the world c1934. Not great, but they work and will do untill I find something better.

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1st priority is that it has a flat spot at least the size of your hammer face. 2nd priority is that is has a good amount of mass under that flat spot. High-carbon steel that doesn't dent easily and gives better rebound is just icing on the cake. Forget the horn and hardy for now. I use my vise a lot more than my horn or my hardy hole, so you might as well save up for more tools with that money. So what is the best flat spot with the most mass made out of the best material that you can afford? Try the scrapyard. YOU tell us what your best choice is.

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Welcome aboard Chaddey glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the Iforge gang live within visiting distance.

We'll try not to jump on you, you seem a nice fellow. The Irondragon guy says he has underwear older than you but he didn't say he's been wearing that pair that long. :wacko:

I don't know about RR rail down under but in the USA rail is darned high quality steel and makes a fine anvil, certainly better than the Chinese cast iron junk. Remember it's NOT the anvil, forge, hammers or shop that does the work, it's the blacksmith. You don't need to spend a lot of money, a piece of: rail, broken axle, piece of shaft, piece of plate, well, you get the idea virtually ANYTHING you beat hot steel on IS an anvil. What you want is a surface a little larger than your hammer and the deeper under the hammer the better. A piece of RR rail on end if many times more effective than the same piece laid on it's side. Same for a piece of steel shafting or broken axle. I'm a BIG fan of broken truck axles mounted flange up.

For hammers, anything with a smooth face will work fine. No, don't hunt down a BIG heavy one, 2lbs. and under is better to learn with I highly recommend a 32 oz. Drill hammer, they're heavy enough to good work and not so heavy they'll tire you out quickly or make your mistakes permanent so fast you don't realize it. The shorter handle and modest weight makes them much easier to control and in the beginning learning hammer control is what it's ALL about. 

If you learn basic blacksmithing to a good level of proficiency then learning to make blades is just a matter of getting to  know a different piece of steel and how it heat treats. Forging the shape of a knife isn't much different than forging leaves.

You'll be fine just don't get in a hurry, the craft has been around a few thousand years it isn't going anywhere without you. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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The different radii and the fact that this anvil is mild steel, in my opinion makes this the best. But really, if you can mount anything solid it will work well as anvil anvil.

Let us know how you get on with it all!

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Yes Frosty, not a big fan of ordinary railroad track regardless of steel quality. May as well forge on a church bell :) A cheap 40K chnese cast anvil may sound anathema to someone who has a PW but can be a godsend for most beginners. It will not last, will not be the best, but you can work on them and get started for little money. And if the heel brakes off, you can have a laugh about it.

Having said that, there was a scrapyard nearby that had a pile of Crane rail chopped in 2 meter pieces. Man that stuff was HUGE! That would have made a few hundred of little anvils for beginners and not so beginners. The 'head' of the rail was easy 4" diameter ... Unfortunately they closed overnight and all the stuff has disappeared, probably in some furnace somewhere. :( 

 

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As Thomas implied, reach or counterbalance fork time makes an excellent anvil if you can get hold of it! We have 22 reach trucks at work and 5 CBs and its still rare as hens teeth because they prefer to repair it. The wheels are good quality though and once they reach the end of their preformed lives they are usually chucked (at least by ASDA/Walmart)

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And my local scrapyard has several forklift tines in it; I have 2 at home and so don't need to stock up.  Most places I've talked with here in the USA won't use repaired tines due to liability issues.

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3 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

And my local scrapyard has several forklift tines in it; I have 2 at home and so don't need to stock up.  Most places I've talked with here in the USA won't use repaired tines due to liability issues.

Here in the UK we don't have the same 'See it, Sue it' culture but its definitely on it's way. Which means free good steel for me!

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On May 29, 2017 at 0:18 AM, Frosty said:

Better than what?

I meant to say that the sledgehammer head can be used as an anvil.

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Marc: I've used Chinese ASOs, I even have one I was given maybe 18 years ago. I made a rail anvil and it was far better even at about 1/2 the weight. The State shop ASO was 55kg. The one I'd bought in desperation earlier was 50kg. I don't know what the one out by the Connex weighs and nobody's  taken it home since it was left here. 

I'll take rail any time unless maybe for the hardy hole. Maybe you get better Chinese cast iron, gray iron wouldn't make a BAD anvil, my swage block is gray iron and you can hammer on it just fine.

Colo: Sedge hammer heads are a viable option but not necessarily better than the other options named. We only know what you say, not what you mean. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Sure they are not great. I had one, not chinese but made in Argentina. Slowly the surface became filled with marks and there was so many that they sort of blended in and flattened out. The edges mushroomed like an old sledge hammer and the square horn sort of bended down a bit. It was funny yet somehow I managed to make stuff on it until I found a kohlswa that cost me about 10 times more. 

i am still kicking myself for not buying a few meters of that monstrous crane rail. At the price they sell anvils here, i could make $1000 out of 2m of rail.  

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You're right. Sledgehammers are good anvil substitutes since they are strong enough to forge most things. Or you can go f or a London-pattern anvil.

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I'ld go with anything flat that can take abuse. I've worn out, broken, and abused a number of bench vises over the years. There is a big huge one at work that I thoroughly flogged today cold straightening some rods. It just needs to get you by. Someday an anvil will come your way, til then, make do.

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Some of the huge old chipping vises can take a lot of abuse and some very high dollar vises new and old were not made from cast iron and so can take a lot of abuse---though abusing something that costs more to replace than my first couple of cars together did is not a good idea in my book...

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I'm new to this forum and not as experienced as many here, but of like to share about my cast iron anvil. I was limited in funds when I went to purchase mine. I couldn't find a steel one in my price range so I got a cast iron 200lb from grizzly tools (Chinese). After a very short time I noticed dents and dings that I felt would make it useless in a short time. I was at the time taking a basic welding class and had access to the metal shop at the community college. First I milled the face flat again, then using an oxy-acetylene rosebud and a water hose i heated a1 1/2" area to bright to orange and quenched with the hose. With the anvil being a huge heat sink that was all i could do at a time. I went over all the surface with overlapping heats with the intent to create a white cast face. That appearently did the trick at least for the light work I do. I now have about a 1/4" hard face. Id like to hear from the collective experience on this forum

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I'd be worried about the brittleness of white cast iron.  

However the larger issue is that I time after time have read about people telling that they couldn't afford a real anvil and that they then went and paid several times the cost of buying a large chunk of scrap steel that makes a perfectly good anvil as it stands.  My local scrapyard charges 20 UScents a pound and one time I was there they had a bunch of 72 pound 4" x 8" x 8" chunks as well as a 4' x4' x8" piece (and a 40000 pound piece of naval gun barrel)

The london pattern anvil dates back about 200 years the cube/rectangular solid anvil dates back over 2000 years so what does a real anvil look like???

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At the time I was more limited by lack of knowledge (ignorance). i hadn't seen any forums or blacksmith organizations, only books. I didn't know what the box was to think outside of. Yes, i expect the white cast is brittle but not like glass. I have put some small dents in it, but no cracks or chips. My thought in posting was both for feedback and for anyone who like myself who went the same route. Thanks for the input

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