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I-beam isn’t great anvil material. As shown in the picture, there’s not enough thickness to use as a working face, and on its side, it will flex too much to be useful (and it will be LOUD).

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I got my hands on a 15inch piece of railroad track. I seen tons of picture of both horizontal and vertical position. Is this just a preferences? What do you guys recommend. 

Now that I got something acceptable to forge on is there a material you guys recommend? I thought of getting just some 2x12 and making a square stand and placing the railroad track in the center and having it a few inches above the wood. Maybe placing a a few inches of a solid block of wood under all the 2 ×12 and the track to help reach with a proper height. I seen a few anvil with 2x12 but I'm not sure if just having a bit of wood under the rail and covering the sides with 2x12 would be efficient or a waste of wood. 

Thanks for the help guys! 

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I recommend vertical. In the horizontal the 7/8” web flexes minutely and absorbed some of the energy intended to move steel. 

As to the stand I would go with somthing “L” shaped to that the flange side is braced and the end is supported but on has acces to the rest of the rail for forging

Further with the L shape stand a stake plate can be fabricated for top tools and fitted to the top of the L. 

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Thanks Charles for your feedback. I don't think I seen an "L" shape stand. I tried looking for one to get a better idea in what you were describing( I'm a visual learner) which seems to make sense but I don't think I could fabricate it without maybe a picture. Do you know where I can find one online or could you post a picture of it if isn't too much trouble please?  I'll double check the links that were posted earlier but I can't remember seen anything as you described. 

Is this what you were talking about? 

Screenshot_20180808-222035_Chrome.jpg

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Thank you so much! 

By having a plate underneath the rail does that have an advantage to it? Also the plate on the top part of the L. Is that for cosmetic? 

I found a place in town where they sell similar plates like that. Is there a certain material that is better to get? 

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I would rather use a mediocre anvil than risk my knuckles on that vertical rail. 

A low quality anvil will get dings from your missed blows and sink in the centre of the face where you work the most. So what? You paid ... how much? $15? 

Use your anvil on a sturdy stand to your heart content. In one year time take a picture and post the "before and after" for a laugh. It will be the measure of your activity. Once it is a squashed banana, look for a better one and hang that one as a trophy on the wall. 

What matters is what you make and how you make it. The anvil is just a place to do your hammering. 

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What's the risk? Unless your hand is somehow below the face of the anvil, your knuckles never come near the top of the rail while you're hammering.

What's risky is hammering on the face of the anvil when you've left a hot-cut or other tool in the hardy hole, because that sticks up above the work face, putting your fingers at risk.

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This shows the rail road track, the 2 pound hammer head and a piece of 1/2 inch round stock. Always be aware of where your hand is located in relation to any pinch points. When using the hammer your hand is the length of the hammer handle away from the rail road track.

image.png

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One of the advantages of the vertical rail is that there isn't enough face to allow you to work on the face with your hammer hand over any tooling...

Dozers, graders, front end loaders often have wear plates that have sq holes in them that make for an easy adjunct hardy hole.  

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As my hand is about a foot from the hammer head and the head is atleast and inch wider than the handle I don’t see, nor have I had an issue with my fingers coming in contact with anything I have used for an anvil, to include a heavily modified rail anvil mounted vertically.

as to placing the rail on top of the I-beam, with 15” of rail you will have to cut the rail down to 15” or less. If you don’t have the cutting and welding tools for that wood is easer to work with. 

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There are prolly many of us who started wirh rr track anvils. I did.

It never crossed my mind to stand it on end. i very crudely torched a horn,,, thing,, on the end and a sorta heel shape on the other.. It worked well enough to start me shoeing horses.

I heard of standing it on end just a few years ago at some forums, then facebook. I didn't pay much attention. Lol, that doesn't qualify me for much of a critique,,, but,,, there's that danged ole butt,,

Now, looking at the pics here and reading the posts, I agree, to an extent, with the reasons for placing it on end. But, when I look at the pics, I dont think I would go for an on end rr track anvil.

What strikes me first is the loss of flat surface for forging and particularly straightening iron. The sharp edges do make me a bit worried, even if radiused.  

And finally, if we call this a beginners anvil, say one with trainer wheels,, id rather train on something that far closer resembles a real anvil, horn, heel, and face.

I feel that working on a vertical anvil May tend to develop bad forging habits.

But at least there would be no argument as to horn left or right...  ;)

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Yup, you could. I picture myself, starting out, squatting down to get a good mark 1 eyeball view of the high spot, one hand over head holding the iron, and swinging the hammer in the horizontal,,, and wondering why gravity is being so difficult,,..  ;)

I do remember how hard it was learning hammer control with gravity working for me.

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Please remember that the London pattern anvil has been in use a bit over 200 years.  Meanwhile other, "block", anvils have been in use over 3000 years: Roman and viking and Japanese swords were forged on anvils that don't have a horn and heel like the London Pattern anvil.  So which is the "real" anvil: 200+ years or 3000+ years?

The London pattern anvil is sort of a "swiss army knife" of anvils as it has lots of features; but like many combination tools it does not excel at all of purposes it can be used for. (Look at the use of "striking anvils" and double horned European anvils that are becoming more popular in the USA.)

Here is an anvil based on one in the Roman Museum in Bath; but I have documented it to Viking times, high medieval, Renaissance, Camino Real, (One in the Camino Real Museum around exit 125 on I25 here in New Mexico, USA) and even French and Indian war---1700's.  I consider it a real anvil and use it as such along with my London Pattern anvils, my bridge anvil, my stake anvils, etc.

Y1Kanvil1.thumb.jpg.d1cd50ef6aa1cc52deb1c015b089f66d.jpg

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don't take me wrong, I have no problem with what you use as an anvil, and I would have no problem adapting to whatever you are using if I visited your shop. Besides, this is just a discussion, not one of those "this is the way" deals.

So my comments were just to add another viewpoint and all from my experiences in the here and now, not across time. I do know That I just cannot see any advantage to a rr track stood on end over one properly mounted and tricked out a bit with a horn and heel. there's that "properly mounted" deal again. Its the key to using any anvil. But this in no way is meant to mean "my way or the highway!"

I do know I've seen some very well modified rr track anvils with horn, heel, a full flat top and a hardy and pritchel hole. And, when well mounted to a stand/stump, were as good as any anvil i've ever seen/used. But they take time or money and tools that a new guy may not have. Well mounted is the key. From the pics here most of you vertical guys do have them well mounted!

23 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Please remember that the London pattern anvil has been in use a bit over 200 years. 

Thomas, I always enjoy your historical posts. They are well thought out and well written and pretty accurate. I always walk away with a good learning or something to think of.

So, in that context, just perhaps the addition of a horn, heel, hardy and pritchel are evolutionary steps in anvil history which is far more important than labeling it a swiss army multi-tool. Many times a tool of necessity has evolved into "tradition"  by the next generation or so.

I too have a square block that gets much use,,, with a shank and fits my hardy hole. One for my anvil and one for my treadle hammer. And I turn most of my scrolls either over the edge and without the horn. But once the finial is complete, and the first bit, I use my scrolling wrenches and forks in my post vice excusively. So there is good arguement that a horn and heel are not a necessity.

As for the square being used well into the past, there is no doubt. And, as you stated, for swords globally. 

However, lets look at architectural iron and its history. I'm pretty sure that anvils with horns were used back to the gothic era, 9th century. European architectural iron of that era is just too complex for a square anvil as was used by weaponsmiths. But as i stated above, perhaps not a necessity. Yet, there are some 3 dimensional leaves and finials that just are so easy over the horn!

Beyond the Gothic era, I think architectural iron in europe was pretty slim. Nor was there much during the roman and greek eras. I've seen very complex looking iron from "early india", but have no clue to its age.

I'm sure you will ask for sources as is correct. I have a polish smithing book that verifies this and some books from museums in Prague when I studied "Architectural History for the Blacksmith" for a month with Vaclav Jarosh in '87. He was a demonstrator at Flag in '86. Alas, my library is not avalable. Hopefully in a few months that will change. His class consisted of a day in Prague seeing iron from an art history period, starting with Gothic, then a demo where he made a representative detail and the necessary tooling. Then it was our turn to "tool up" and forge the detail. We did this from Gothic to Contemporary.

I'm always interested in this and if you have sources, please let me know.

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Just because they used a horn does not mean it had to be on the shop anvil; many stake anvils show up in the illustrations of early smithies and so having an "adjunct horn" works even better than have one on the main anvil in my experience.

I even constructed one to go along with my block anvil:

RRHammerstakeanvil.jpg.2853ad18695e60cd128fa0a71616492c.jpg

The evolutionary path of anvils does not seem to be a simple progression rather an ever increasing series of branches; I know smiths still using rocks for instance.

I will try to dig up some sources this weekend; I'm at work now and can't afford the time.

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