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I Forge Iron
Charles R. Stevens

A collection of improvised anvils

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I recently picked up a piece of what looks to be wear plate; 50 pounds with two square 1" holes in it; cost me US$10 at the scrapyard.  A bit light for a striking anvil but heck-for-tough!

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You don't want to make dice out of rolled stock. Everyone knows that the die is cast.

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I had some 4" cubes I picked up and put round price stickers on them for pips; but those dice were dangerous to roll!   Nice anvil stock for a simple cube on a spike anvil.  Shipping to here would be a bit of a pain though.

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Not sure if this is the right spot since I'm soliciting advice instead of showing off my improvised anvil...

In my intro post I showed a huge counterweight that'll be my big anvil, but I'm working on covering the spectrum of configurations for non-London-pattern anvils.  This is, in part, to have some items that I can take with me to show to friends and some students I mentor on a local robotics team, as well as having something more portable than the 387 lb Chunk-O-Steel.  

I've sunk a sledge head in to the end of a log (which works surprisingly well- especially when the log doesn't jump away).  I just got some banding around the ends of the log today, but the picture below is before I did that.  Planned improvements are a wider, heavier base so the whole thing doesn't move when struck, and a bar that goes through the eye to retain the head (the wedges seem to let go the moment a side load is applied to the 'anvil').

 

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Now I'm working on my second piece, which is where I need some advice.  At first, I thought the rail that I had picked up from the scrapyard was train rail, but when I look through all the references for rail dimensions it doesn't seem to match.  Closest thing I can find is crane rail, which is still off by a little.  In order to clean up the flame-cut end, I had to slice a bit of it off.  Here's some pictures of the cross-section:

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I had this piece cut long knowing that the general guidance is to stand a rail on end to maximize the mass below the hammer.  I have a 16.25" Diameter, 1.75" steel disc that appears to be waste from a flange making operation (the piercing cut starts on the inside and goes out to the circumerence).  My plan was to stand the rail on end like so:

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...and weld it to the base.  I'd add a couple posts 120 degrees from this and some connecting struts to stiffen everything up and make a table/portable hole surface a little below the struck face of the anvil.  Is affixing the rail to the plate like this a good idea, or should I cut some off and attach it to an L-shaped stump as others have?  I'd picked this config just so I could roll it around like a heavy barrel, and given the masses involved I'm not too worried about it moving in use.  

Conversely, given that the web is so much thicker than standard rail, should I instead slice off a chunk to use in it's normal orientation?  I don't exactly relish the thought of cutting it again, my 4x6 bandsaw has, ahem, *issues* finishing the job (not enough throat depth, and this thing's too xxxxxx heavy to manipulate), but I can manage between it and the grinders.cutting.thumb.jpg.9938b6340b7e5124dd3b5b019ed52946.jpg.

 

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HojPoj, How heavy is the hammer head?

This is the anvil used in Nepal

anvil 33.jpg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmTHEmol9k0

 

I thought on taking a heavy hammer head (like a 8 kg or 10 kg) to make the main body of an anvil, take a bit of round stock,  rivet this stock into the hammer eye and by stock removal, shape a horn out of it...Fun project for a couple of guys with sledge hammers.

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HojPoj: If you tip the rail base away from the motor on your band saw you can cut farther. (That would be to the left in the pic shown.) You can't lay it on it's side or the teeth will hit the induction hardened face directly and blunt. It still may not go all the way but it'll be close enough to snap it the rest of the way with a hammer.

I'd weld it to the plate as shown though probably centered. However it sounds like you have a bunch of ideas for handy add ons so centered may not work. 

Ditto IFD&C let the hammer head into the block more deeply, you might not even need to band it down. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for the responses, all.  

 

Caotropheus, the sledge head's just a standard 8-pounder, can't say I've ever laid eyes on anything heavier in my neck of the woods (aside from a 10-pounder at the local hardware store). 

I'll sink the head a little deeper, but will leave the bottom part of the eye proud so as to have something to bear against for a retainer strap/bracket.  Changing the depth too much at this point would also affect the overall height, so the bottom mods would also have to accommodate the change.

Frosty, I'd cut the rail in the bandsaw that way specifically to avoid the hardened section. You can see in the picture of the slice (the one with the tape measure) where the bandsaw cut stopped.  I was actually going to rotate it clockwise a bit to get an extra 3/4" or so of cut before grinding through the hardened areas and flipping it to finish the saw cut.  Unfortunately soon after that picture was taken it started to rain, so I had to tear it all down and put things away.  Given that this rail section feels like it's well in excess of 100 lbs, I didn't want to have to set it up in the saw again... getting everything in place and leveled was a MAJOR pain.  When I had time again I went at it with the grinders around the rest of the section, and once I realized I didn't have another 7-inch cutoff disc on hand to finish the cut, I decided to try the fracture method.  Took a few VERY solid swings to crack it off, and you can see the fracture area in the photo of the slice.  Unfortunately fracture mechanics drive towards 45 degree breaks, so both pieces came away with both a divot and a lump that have to be dealt with. 

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I filled the divot on the big rail as best I could with a lot of preheat and my cruddy 110V flux core welder and ground everything flat.  I'm still deciding what to do with the slice- may end up as a bolster plate or the portable hole top, or give it to some kid in need of a striking surface (non-optimal though it may be).  Couldn't be any worse than the sledghammer head, though I should probably test the veracity of that statement.  Here's a photo of the flame-cut side.  Turns out the guy at the scrapyard didn't realize that the nozzle on the cutting torch got swapped to a smaller size, so he had a heck of a time trying to get it severed from the larger rail... which is fairly evident here: 

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Even for as thick as the rail is, I didn't want to affix it to the base plate without some additional bracing.  In mechanical design that ends up being a pretty basic column, both with bending modes and a tendency to ring in a way that sucks out some of the hammer energy.  By adding additional stiffening at irregular points along the column you can get rid of some of the harmonics and quiet down the structure when hit.  It's part of the reason securing train rail to an L-shaped stump works reasonably well- it at least eliminates some of the freedom of motion laterally.  They'd probably work even better if additional attachments could be added along the head of the rail, or barring that- just under the head into the webbing.

Other handy add-ons notwithstanding, getting the rail near the edge of the base also makes it a little more accessible and allows working within the optimal height range.  Having 1 foot on/1 foot off  the baseplate would make things a little awkward.

Next step?  Get access to a beefy welder that can get reasonable penetration in this thickness of material.  No amount of preheat was going to allow my 110V flux-core rig to do the job (believe me, I tried <_<).

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There may be an appreciable difference between the Lincoln and a Harbor Freight unit along with the challenge of the different alloys (I'm pretty sure the 1.75" base is mild, whereas the rail must be somewhere higher in carbon content). My first attempts cracked right away, but I'll experiment a bit with the offcut and see if I can get it to stay.

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With higher carbon steels you want to anneal the welds afterwards if they will be getting any shock. If you have someone with an arc welder use some 7018.

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I got stands built for my improvised anvils. Two snowplow "blade savers" and a sledge hammer head mounted at a height for an 8 year old kid.

 

 

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Here are my anvils.. The bottom one made from scrap metal i got from work.  The two on top we actually make at work (work with cast iron). The round one used to be inside a old stove..

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20181118_104906.thumb.jpg.4d21f4f188858e48655df2759c867c2e.jpg

My Railroad track anvil.  It was a learning experience and i went through a lot of mistakes learning to work with the steel.  It taught me a ton.  It was quenched and tempered twice to straw and the horn and heel to dark blue or a little above. 

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This was v1.0.  All was good.  But something happenend on the day that i was heat treating it.  After the quench was done it looked great but i literally had to run and didnt have time to temper. It imploded on itself.   The horn cracked.  Wife put a bandaid on it..  and then i cut it off..

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So for 5 bucks at the scrap yard i got another piece $$   torched the top off of the new rail.

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Popped the drift through it and shaped / normalized then welded it (full weld all the way through) to the old one. I Heated it again and ran the drift through the hardy after the welding was done and annealed the whole thing.    After that it was just some grinding on the welds to level it out.

 i grabbed some big rods and filled in between the two lower supports. Cleaned it up a bit and tossed it in a makeshift forge i made out of some 18x18 stones and  two 1 inch forge burners that seem to work really well.  Didn't take long to make it 1500+ degrees and had to be careful not to overheat..  quenched and temper to straw twice on the grill.  I wrapped it in a foil envelope on the bottom to even the grill heat out.  The straw coloring was uniform so i was ok with it.  Then i tempered the horn farther to lower the risk of cracking it off.

Happy i did it this way. I learned so much.  Id never recommend going this route though.

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41 minutes ago, Kandar said:

Happy i did it this way. I learned so much.  Id never recommend going this route though.

That is true of so many things in life!

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When emergencies happen; setting the kitchen oven at a low tempering temp that you can abandon the piece in for a while can help; or in a major crisis; putting it back in the turned off forge and letting it anneal while you are gone will save it for another hardening run.  Quenched but untempered high carbon steel is a catastrophic failure waiting to happen.

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Yeah the big forge would have been great but I did not build a forge for the anvil prior to that point.  Just used a really good fire.  It actually turned dark blue sitting next to it.Snapchat-1673557527.thumb.jpg.bd1787b90671f972e23de60457c13da7.jpg

Thats it before i cut the horn off and welded a whole new rail on top of it.  

Turns out it was for the best.  Being two rails thick and having the whole center webbing area full of steel makes a very solid anvil compared to what it was prior.  

Beyond the point of this pic i made a forge to heat treat it in.  The fire was good though.  All cherry.

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We often get in to big of a hurry especialy with big chunks of steel. Some times that long soak in a charcoal fire is just the ticket to get things preheated all the way threw. I think of it as roasting marshmallows. Done right and it’s a sweet toasty brown on the outside and the marshmallow just slides off because the inside is all hot and gooey. Not dissimilar with steel. 

 

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