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How many anvils do you actually need ?

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I have a fairly redundant question. How many anvils do you actually need ?

The reason for asking is simple. I'm fairly spoiled in the anvil (or anvil-like-objects) departement. 

Mostly using my skoda anvil (there's a thread https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/57774-anvil-from-the-railway-workshop/  on that one). There's a huge block of D2 (1.2379) from a press; 200 pounds; surface area 5 inch x 15 inch; hardened to the high 60'ies HRC.  Nice 'n flat; and perfect to hammer on. I had a Vulcan (110 pounds); which I used when I needed a pritchel or hardy hole; but I took pity on someone and gave it away. Looking at Alec Steeles youtube videos; I made myself a low striking anvil from mild steel with some holes in it to serve as swage block. I have  a couple of train axles cut off in various lengths; they make a wonderful anvil if struck on the flats; and a good ring horn when struck on the rounds. there's a couple dozen meter of heavy railway track; which I tend to give away as beginner anvils.  

All of the above - yes all - were either given to me or traded for a couple beers. So I never bought any anvil at all (neither new nor used). 

in a moment of boredom; I find myself surfing the web searching for second hand anvils... then I realized that I don't actually need one... so there's my question ... how many anvils does one need ? and what's the attraction to searching/ buying anvils ?

greetz; bart


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I only "need" one, but I have 3 for convenience. My main shop anvil, a second for if I have someone else at the forge or just for production to use a hardy, and one setup for a demo/ travelling anvil. Not to mention the several potential anvils I have around the shop. 

I still keep my eyes and ears open looking for more. I might find one better or bigger for a good price, or just find one at a great deal to pass on to someone else. 

If you were teaching blacksmithing to students you would need more anvils. I guess your question depends on what your doing. 

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Well I need one in either shop for general forging => 2

1 in my main shop for heavy work  => +1

1 heeless anvil in my "away" shop for heavy work  => +1

I need 1 per every 2 students in a class which I usually limit to 6 students => +3 (though I bring a mix of heights so usually +4 travel anvils)

An anvil for Y1K smithing + a stake anvil for a bickern => +2

A loaner anvil for special students getting started. => +1

So it looks like I need 10  and will have 11 when I finish off the current stake anvil...

Sort of like grinders for knifemakers---you need 1 but having more makes things faster and easier.

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I have two: a 148 lb. Mousehole (AKA The Undisputed King of Anvils) which has my treadle hammer attached and a striking anvil/portable hole that I welded up myself from various pieces of scrap. The latter has a number of accessories that fit the hardy hole (dishing form, raising stake, guillotine tool, drifting saddle, etc), and I also have a chunk of railroad track that can be rested on top in a number of different configurations. I have yet to exhaust the possibilities of these two tools, but I wouldn't say no to a 300+ lb. double-horn anvil of some variety.

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There are tool users, and tool collectors.  At the end of the day, a tool user can probably do about anything on one anvil.  A tool collector can find a reason to continue to acquire anvils for the rest of their life.   I own three, one inherited from my grandfather - born 1886, a genuine blacksmith, (actually he worked the coal mines maintaining mining equipment), (112# Peter Wright) one I found at a yard sale, too good a deal to pass (100# Fisher Eagle), and one my wife bought me for my 50th birthday (150# Emerson). 

Over the years I've been both, age is making me more of a "collector". 

How many do I need? All of them and none of them.  But, there is something esoteric about an anvil that rings (resonates, pun intended) with man like very few other objects.  Every culture, every person, every age (above infant) will immediately recognize and be drawn to them, regardless of size or style.  I would suggest that they are as ubiquitous as the cross as a symbol.  The anvil is the work bench on which every other item on earth that is manufactured, is manufactured.  To quote Moxon, ".... by the hammer and hand, all the trades do stand."  In reality without the anvil, the hammer would have little to do.

I love this question, because it is the root of why "ironwork" by an individual as a hobby, or a professional's livelihood survives today, and will likely always survive.



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8 hours ago, BartW said:

how many anvils does one need ? and what's the attraction to searching/ buying anvils ?

If you don't forge by hand you don't need an anvil, if you make shoeing nails, you need just one very small one, Strange question. Do you believe it is wrong to have more than one anvil? How about owning more than one car? Multiple houses? 

There is such thing as anvil manufacturers who make excellent new anvils every day. i bet they love anvil tragics. 

Oh ... and I have 5 anvils and use all of them at different times depending of what I do. Also 3 vehicles and 9 houses. :P

1 hour ago, hheneg said:

At the end of the day, a tool user can probably do about anything on one anvil.

Not really. Can you do everything with one hammer? Walk everywhere with one pair of shoes? :)

I must have ... uh hum ... about 25 hammers? And I don't have that many really, some 30 tongs etc etc. 

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Yes, sounds funny and I get your debe debe ... however the original question sounds too much like grandma telling you that you can only drive one car and only live in one house and only fit in one suit ... and only use one anvil (sic).  There is an implied judgement in it.

Does anyone want to answer the other part of the op post ... "What is the attraction in buying anvils" ?

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I'd say one anvil is all you need. However need is relative. I have my 255 Trenton for my shop anvil. My 184 Peter Wright is a second shop anvil located at the other end of my table. Its portable and handy to tweak my work when fitting. It also serves as an anvil when o have someone work with me. Then I have two 124#, one for travel, the other  because I couldn't pass up the price. I've had up to six. Two were stolen. I truly miss my enders farrier anvil. It was my first and I just couldn't use it up. When I transitioned to blacksmith, it grew a coat of dust. Then I rediscovered many uses for its unique horn shape. It is missed. 

I do far fewer classes now then in the past, and more one off teachings now. 

Um not a collector, so can't add to that. Enough stuff just wanders into my shop, so no need to look.  ;)

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If you only have one anvil, it will do almost everything you need. If you have two anvils, one anvil will do something a little different than the other anvil. 

The actual number of anvils is secondary to what each anvil can do differently from the rest. As you grow in blacksmithing you will find that there are certain anvils (shape and sizes) that lend themselves to certain projects. An anvil for hobbyist blacksmith is different from an anvil for architectural blacksmithing, which is different still from the anvil a farrier uses. 

Think of those poor folks that struggled for centuries before the London pattern and double horn anvils were invented. They not only managed but turned out some excellent work that is still admired today.    

An anvil can make life easier but will not make you better blacksmith. Only you can make you a better blacksmith.  Use what you have to accomplish what you need to do.

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I do about 90% of hand work on my 252# Hay Budden. I also have a 51# small Hay Budden, that is PERFECT (for me) for hand forging an integral bolster at the front of a knife, while also forging the butt. its right at 3" wide, forge both across the face, leaves little grind/clean up work.  Plus the smaller horn has come in handy too.


I also have a 125?-ish# Columbian that has a hardy hole that fits a few of the tools I have... too lazy to make the adapter for the larger anvil I guess...

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6 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Well perhaps 1 of each major brand in small, medium and large sizes?  ...

I wonder if there is such an organisation as ATA ... Anvil Tragic Anonymous :P 

Hum ... perhaps need to clarify what a "tragic" is? Well ... a sort of obsessed person in a pathetic way or seen that way by others ... (my definition) :)

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