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An anvil, maybe?

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I've been looking for a real anvil, but in the meantime I found this scrap today. Its 2"x6" by about 29", and I think its just mild carbon steel.:confused:What would you do with it to utilize it as an anvil? Stand it on end, on edge, cut and sandwich the pieces? Is it possible to harden part of it if it is mild steel? Thanks for the help!:)



Edited by dntfxr
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dntfxr, What you have there my friend is a nice 2x6x29 anvil! If I had it as an anvil I believe I would stand on end and use it that way. Would be wise to weld some pieces on it to keep it from falling over, smashed toes HURT! Or you could bolt it to a base plate of some type, OR you could weld a couple of pieces of angle, square tube, or the like perpendicular(sp, I'm sure:( ) to it which will form 'feet'. Good for you to look at something other than an ASO to use. There have been some that will miss out on forging time because of the attitude of "I don't have a 'real' anvil, so I can't do anything" boohoo poor me. You will do fine!

BTW, if you will go to the top of the page and click on 'User CP' in the green bar and edit your profile giving your location you might be surprised to find someone here within spittin' distance that has an anvil just waiting for you. Just a thought....

Edited by Thomas Dean
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I'd stand it on end and use it but being only 29" makes it a couple inches short for my height. I'd build it some sort of stand to boost it to between knuckle and wrist high. Perhaps stand it in a bucket of concrete with the top at the right height and let the concrete set up. It's serve the purpose of getting the weight up too.

Lots of options.

Good score.


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considering a lot of folks (myself included) started out with big lumps of rail track as ASO's that is a GREAT lump of steel. The spark test and ring test may help you guage its carbon content but even if its mild steel as long as you work your steel hot it'll stand a fair amount of work before it starts to mar up. It'd make a great anvil base for a JYH then :D

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That *is* an anvil; it's just not a london pattern anvil. Of course they were smithing about 2000 years before the london pattern was invented so ot is possible to do good work on something that is not the london pattern.

I'm on the stick it vertically in a bucket of concrete side and possible re-use in the furture too.

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Thanks for the replies! I was kinda leanin toward standing it on end. It definitely has more ring and rebound to it in that position-Alot better than the old rr track I used before. Is it worth it to try to harden the business end, or just work harden it a bit? I was thinking of mortising out a stump for a base and putting in a bit of silicone for good measure, then banding it. The concrete bucket would be less work, but would it not crack? Whatever I go with I'll post some pics when its all done.
Again, Thanks!

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Now I need to figure which direction I should go with a forge. Coal isn't common in these parts, propane is very convienient, but I'm kind of drawn to charcoal. In my subdivision it may be a bit much though? Whatever direction I go I'll probably make it myself. Any suggestions?

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Concrete will work fine, especially if you weld a little rebar to the immersed end.

I wouldn't try hardening it. If it's mild it's an exercise in futility, even with super quench. There's enough thermal mass it'd draw any hardness from mild before it was properly chilled.

I'd just radius the edges and use it as is. Believe me, I've used much worse to good effect.

Making charcoal is a pretty simple procedure but time consuming and possibly annoying for the neighbors. :mad:

there are two basic methods for making charcoal, Direct and indirect.

Direct means burning the wood for fuel and collecting the charcoal from the results.

Indirect means burning something else for heat and keeping the wood separate. This is much more efficient and consistent but more trouble.

The easiest method is direct conversion. Build a fire, rake the coals out as they form and extinguish them with a hose. Dry the charcoal and use it. Another version of this I've used is to rake the coals out and use them then but that was in the field and efficient fuel production wasn't a factor.

The easy indirect method is to find a 55 gl. drum with a removable lid, the kind with the locking ring. Replace the gasket with stove gasket and remove the 2" bung. This is your retort.

Pack it with wood no thicker than 3" in at least one dimension. For example a 2" x 12" x 32" board is fine but a 4" x 4" x 4" piece isn't. The reason for this rule of thumb is larger wood will not finish pyrolizing (converting to charcoal) before it starts consuming charcoal. 3" is the point of diminishing returns.

Using reasonably uniform wood is best too as small pieces will be consumed before the large ones are done.

Dry seasoned wood is best, just like wood heat. Hardwood makes longer lasting charcoal while softwood makes hotter charcoal. Either works just fine though different uses might call for one or the other.

For instance if you're doing general forging hardwood charcoal is a better fuel as it'll last longer for the time invested in making it. On the other hand if you plan on doing a lot of welding or casting, softwood charcoal is the better as it's hotter faster.

Pack the drum as tightly as possible. Place it on a fire and feed the fire till the drum STOPS smoking through the bung hole. Take it off the fire and close the bung hole with something that will prevent a free flow of air but will NOT seal the drum air tight.

If you seal the drum, say by putting the bung back in, air pressure will crush it as it cools. I like a tight wad of fiberglass insulation. The air won't flow but it will allow pressure to equalize.

After it's cool, a day or so, open it up and either use the drum for storage or clean it out and run another batch. Be very careful when opening the drum, there will probably be some remaining embers. A little fresh air and it'll start burning.

If you've wheeled the just opened drum into your garage I hope I don't have to explain what'll happen if it catches fire a couple hours later. :o

That's the easy retort method. There's a more efficient method that is of course more complex though not a great deal so.

This entails enclosing your retort drum (or whatever non-flamable container you come up with) in another non-flamable container. A 55gl drum in a 75gl. overpack (salvage drum) is a perfect small retort. You can also dig a trench and cover it with sheet metal and dirt.

Mount the retort so there's free space all round it with a larger space underneath it. You're air intake will need to be aimed under the retort and controllable. Replace the bung in the 55gl. drum with a 2"close nipple, a 2" 90* elbow, a 2" nipple long enough to clear the side of the drum, say 3-4" long, another 90* elbow and another short nipple.

This is to redirect the volatiles driven off by the heat under the retort in the intake air stream.

Load the space under the drum with wood, scrap, sticks and other stuff unsuitable for coaling. Light it and keep it fed till the smoke from the 2" pipe vent starts burning. Stop feeding the fire, it doesn't need any more fuel, the reaction is now self sustaining.

When it stops burning strongly from the vent pipe close the draft tightly. NOT air tight but tightly enough air can not flow and support combustion. You'll want to close the flue the same way. Again, I like wads of fiberglass insulation.

It'll take longer to cool because it's in an enclosed furnace but it's a good 20% more efficient than a simple retort.

You can find much more by Googling "charcoal making"


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An anvil, maybe? YUP! Dern tootin' nice one too!
Personally I would not weld anything to it at all, keep it the way it is.
You will get more out of it I think, if you just use it as is. There are many different ways it could be used.
It could be bolted into place with brackets to serve as an anvil with a power hammer, treadle hammer, etc.
Remove it from that and place it into some sort of stand vertically and you have a small anvil face with a lot of mass beneath the blows.
Place it into a sawhorse type of stand, on edge and you have more versatility with a long narrow face and a horizontal stake at each end.
Slap it down on a stout workbench and you have a long broad face to work on.
I would just leave like it is and see how many different uses I could get out of it with different stands and mounting methods.
Once you weld it to something its pretty much stuck. Dan:)

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Thanks for the tips guys. A little update- I did a spark test this morning on the 2x6 and compared it to a piece of RR track I use on the front of my garden tractor. From my untrained eye it doesent seem to have the carbon that the RR has .The 2x6 wieghs 103lb, but the RR track is only about 35 (guess). Well at least I have options. I took a few pics of my spark test, but the camera wasn't on a very fast shutter speed so I don't know if they'll show very much. I'll try to post them tonight.

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That piece of heavy plate will make a great anvil. Personally I would stand it on edge not on end. On end it will tend to vibrate more as you have noticed when you reported the ring.

In either case, I would definitely round the edges with radiuses (radii?) varying from 5/16" to 1/2" or larger. The nice thing about a block of mild steel is that if you do ding or wear it in one spot, you can easily just weld it up and grind it. This means you can be relaxed about learning and making mistakes.

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I figured I would post a few pictures of my temporary setup. I've been waiting all week for my mud to dry and finally fired it up today.The forge works great, actually better than I expected. The main difference between it and the original Lively is its a different bucket and my blower is a shopvac. I think it may be a little taller which helps it to turn 2x4 scraps into charcoal pretty quickly!:D I still need to cut the end notches out for longer stock. I just stuck my anvil in 2 wood clamps to play around and it worked ok for now. The last pic is a hardened steel bolt that I experimented with and had no trouble getting it glowing yellow. After I beat on it I heated it up again and quenched in cold water to get a feel for how brittle it would be. It snapped after a little tap- no big suprise! Anyway I figured I'd post a little update. Thanks to all for the suggestions, and to Mr. Lively for posting his forge design.:)

I need to make some tongs now!





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Next try using the clamps to make legs and stand it on end. You'll like forging a lot better standing up, unless you're asian.

Be VERY careful playing with high carbon steel like that. Until you know what you're doing you can hurt yourself or worse, someone else by incorrectly quenching HC steel. Stresses can cause it to shatter like a shrapnel grenade, sometimes hours or even days after the quench.

Stick to mild steel till you have a good handle on forging processes while reading ahead. By time you have basic forging practices down you'll be able to judge temperature better and be ready to try working tool steels.


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  • 1 year later...

i personally would cut it in half(with a band saw), and weld it back together with real big S.M.A.W electrodes. then weld a piece of tooled steel( from your local scrap yard) on to the face using the same kind of electrodes.bevel the steel< not the tooled steel, nd clean it up, so that there is no space between it. just a thought...

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