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I am certainly prejudiced against bad tools, and a cheap cast iron anvil is just that. I am also prejudiced against a xxxx who Popo’s good advice wile masquerading as an expert.

You obviously have never tried forging on an ASO nor have you tried forging on a rail set vertically. I suspect you haven’t used a sledge hammer head, or a block of scrap steel either. 

Now my advice comes from practical experience, I have used cast iron junk, I have used rail, I have used solid blocks, sledge hammer heads and even my two farrier pattern anvils. I know that Jerry can get testy faster than I, but his advice comes from the same school of practical experience, as dose Glenn’s, Johns and Thommas.

Not once have you said you tried an ASO and a vertically mounted rail, but you sure believe you know better than people who have put in the time to ask hot steel what it thinks. 

Ps, only amateurs worry about dinging sharp edges, experienced Smiths dress anvils like they do their hammers.

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1 hour ago, Marc1 said:

when the new person has already purchased the said cheap anvil. 

This is the only part of your post that I (kind of) agree with, but if (and only if) said beginner is on an extremely limited budget and is unable to get a free or low-cost chunk of track or other scrap steel.

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Been teaching smithing to new folks since around the early 80's and ALL my beginner's projects could be taught using the end of a chunk of rail and in fact several of them would be easier on it than a regular anvil if you dress one end of the flange to a nice rounded edge.

I guess Marc is trying to say that the folks down under have issues with what folks here in the USA seem to be able to do with few problems.  Hard for me to believe; but I'm willing to take him at his word unless other people with experience down there contradict him.  His experiences seem to certainly contradict mine.

I saw an 18# sledge hammer at the fleamarket today for US$10; would have picked it up for a beginner's anvil but there was a bit of cracking along the edges of the face.  Unusual size though; I've seen a lot of 16's and some 20's but a commercial 18, I think this is my first.

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The OP stated he has already purchased an ASO.

He was told to ditch it and build a makeshift pseudo anvil.

I say, forge on the ASO, and beat it out of shape. By the time it becomes useless, you will have gained some experience and will have the urge to buy a proper anvil. 

A RR on end is not the answer in my opinion. It requires more hammer control and presents some danger to a beginner. 

An adult conversation is based on mutual respect. I can say I disagree with you and even that you are giving bad advice without adding abuse and insults. 

The OP does not  have the the benefit of a teacher and is not working in a classroom. 


I worked on a soft anvil delivered by the manufacturer without heat treatment by mistake back in the sixties. By the time the rep came back to replaced it I had worked on it for a month. Sure it was a bit of a pain and I used the other's anvil when possible, but I did used it for commercial work. I wouldn't be able to do the same on a hammer head or RR on end. The anvil was retrieved and replaced. After 40 hours a week it looked rather sad. A beginner doing hobby work on it would be able to use it for a year or more. 


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I have noted here that marc has remained quite respectful and calm, while others have not.

I agree with the concept that rail on end is not superior to an aso that has already been purchased.

I learned on a piece of railway line (horizontal) that had been crudely shaped into an anvil, never did the web noticeably distort, nor as a beginner did it matter if it had.

One thing that hasnt been mentioned is the rail poundage.

35lb rail would be completely unsuited to the task.

Anything under 100lb would be quite useless as the ball (top) of the rail is too small.

I have forged a lot on replica viking anvils and on rail on end as well as on a sledgehammer head and in my opinion the ONLY similarity is a smaller face.

The rail was awkward to say the least. The viking anvil far superior to either of the other two.

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Commercial work is done with commercial tools, because they work, and are designed for heavier duty and commercial use.

A beginner uses what is available, and what is suggested by those that may or may not know what they are talking about. The beginner may or may not have the ability to see beyond the length of his arm. With help, encouragement and experience, he can start putting different pieces of knowledge together and make some interesting decisions. They may or may not actually work, but that is called research and development, and proof of concepts.  

Those different pieces of knowledge show up on a regular basis on IForgeIron. Small things like putting a piece of garden hose on the wire bail of a bucket so carrying the bucket does not hurt the hand, and cut into your fingers. The beginner things gloves, then heavier gloves. The experienced bucket carrier figures out a why to make it less painful. 

The reason I suggest to have two of something so you can compare in real time and actually see the difference between the two. 

We sometimes get lost in the details. Does a rail road track flex, yes. Can you measure the flex with a 12 inch ruler, maybe. Does flex really matter if your first project is an S hook, I doubt it. Theory is good, application is better.

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Thanks for the all feedback and explanations that has been offered. I'm still sticking to the L shaped stand and using the railroad track both horizontal and vertical. Was planning on putting a 10 inch piece of horizontal rail on top of the "L" and placing a 25 inch on the bottom of the "L' vertically. I actually got a 35inch piece of railroad track and a 15inch from my buddy. I was gonna have both option just to see what feels better as obviously I have no experience forging. And possibly making a horn on the horizontal piece as well.


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4 hours ago, JHCC said:

The OP specifically said that the rail was 15” long. 

Not really the point. You can have 15" of 25lb (per ft) rail....

But now we have the photos so it makes more sense..

No way that learner smith will ever distort that web.

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I've been following this thread wondering if I want to jump in here or not.  I've never used RR track or a Viking anvil.  I did however use an ASO as a first anvil so here's my experience with it. 

My ASO was one of those old anvils sold by stores back in the 1900's that had a seam running down the horn and body but not on the face.  The face was beat up pretty badly, but it was free to use.  You can't beat free! The face would dent, but not like one of those HF anvils, so it was somewhat hardish.....at least harder than mild steel.  I was able to use the hardy and pritchel hole and horn so I did get some experience understanding the London pattern and any advantages it might offer.  I even made a holdfast for the pritchel hole that worked.  This ASO was maybe 75 lbs soaking wet and moved around a lot even when you tried to secured it.  It worked, but left me wondering how well a larger steel faced anvil would be.  It wasn't until I got my Trenton that I realized the stark difference.  It was like night and day.  When I stepped up to the new Trenton I had some experience with the horn, hardy, and pritchel.   So in that aspect the ASO was helpful.  Other than that I feel the ASO really limited my endurance time because it lacked rebound and moved around a lot because it lacked weight.  I was losing a lot of each hammer strike to the anvil moving and the softish face so things took longer and I got more tired making them.

So, IMHO, rather it be an ASO or a RR track, or a solid chunk of hard steel, there will be disadvantages to all of them but all of them will work to move hot steel.  Kind of how the short stubby handled screw driver will work, but a nicer longer handled screw driver works noticeably better.  I think a decent anvil is like the longer handled screw driver, it just makes forging easier.  My advice to the beginner would be to avoid ASO's, RR tracks, and improvised anvils if you can and buy even a beat-up / damaged "real" anvil with a decent face.  If money is an issue, then you must decide which improvised anvil system will deliver the best results and go with it. 

We'll never know, but I wonder if you could travel back in time and offer a nice sized London pattern anvil to Viking or Medevil blacksmith if he would have pushed his anvil into the corner of the smithy or not?  Would he have seen any really great advantage to the horn, much larger size, and the hardy/pritchel holes?  We'll never know.  Interesting to think about though.

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