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Tool steel anvil

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Hey guys.  I just wanted to pick your brains about anvil steel.  Any thoughts on a hardened A-2 or D-2 (50-53 Rc).  I am a toolmaker by trade and could build a nice anvil from leftover materials.  Just curious if anyone had tried before?  We usually harden to 58-62 Rc but could draw back to make less brittle.  Anvils are expensive so maybe I could build a nice one cheaper with my access to surface grinders and CNC Mills.  Just not sure about material.  Any input appreciated.  I won't take offense if you think this is a bone-head idea, LOL!

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My questions:

1) select a big  block of steel  (lets suppose 150 kg of steel) and by stock removal, carve an anvil out of it?

2) carve the different components of the anvil and then weld it together?

3) use a simple block of steel, weld to it an horn and an hardy hole?

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These are the anvils I built at home using scrap materials with a forge, hammers, an arc welder and angle grinders (No CNC mill, no surface grinder...I'll get there one day...)




Now I am building a stake anvil with a top plate hardenable steel. I am experimenting on building anvils at home and I always try a different method. I made several mistakes during my anvil building, if you decide that you really want to build an anvil by yourself, I am willing to tell you what not to do.


I followed the instructions from very knowledgeable people here in the forum and you may notice all welds full penetration welds...hours and hours welding, kg after kg of electrodes...

You may want to see this thread, get some ideas probably you can forge for some time with a simple block of steel, learn what you want to do in blacksmithing and only then build your own anvil. 


IFI contains many threads and questions  on "homemade anvils" make a search.

Youtube is also loaded with ideas on how to homemake an anvil, few of them good ideas, almost all of them lousy ideas, but when you look at these videos you learn, mostly what not to do. Take a look at Youtube using the following key words

"homemade diy anvil"

"rail anvil"


Good luck and show us the results



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Thanks Caotropheus!  You have some great homemade anvils there.  I think I could get my hands on some similar materials.  There is so much info to look at.  I may scavenge some scrap yards and see what I can find.  I will keep you posted.  Thank you so much.  It means a lot to me to have someone with real experience take time to help a new person out and share stories of failure and success. 

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Dear Benny,

Before you put hours and hours of work into building an anvil you have to ask yourself what you want and need an anvil to do.  If you just want to say, "I made an anvil," fine, that is your goal and it is worth your time, money, and effort.  If you want an anvil to learn black smithing it is just another tool like a hammer or tongs and you need to look at it like that rather than an end in itself. 

First, an anvil is a large mass to back up your blows to hot metal so that the force of the blows go into the hot metal.  Any large mass will accomplish that result, a large boulder, a piece of scrap, etc..  Second, you want a smooth surface so that any imperfections don't mar the back of the piece of metal you are working on.  So, you need a reasonably smooth area upon which to place the hot metal.  Third, it is a tool holder.  That is why there is a hardy hole, to hold various tools like cutters and fullers.  This is nice to have but you could use alternatives like vise.  Fourth, the anvil is a shaping tool in itself, that is what the edges and horn are for.  If you are not at a point in your skill and learning where you need them they may be only a nice to have feature. 

So, if I were starting out and didn't want to or be able to shell out the money for an anvil and had access to large enough pieces of scrap I would begin with a 100+ pound piece of reasonably hard steel and grind some of the edges to various small radius areas.  After I had progressed and wanted to acquire some hardy tools I would drill/cut and file out a hardy hole.  Then when I needed the various radius areas of a horn, and only then, would I fabricate a cone shaped horn as an add on feature.

There are some smiths who use the horn of an anvil often for bending or drawing out but I only use it occasionally.

Also, remember that the only thing you have in this life that you never get back is time.  If you want to spend that on building an anvil, fine.  That is your call.  If you would rather be spending your time hitting hot iron on an anvil then you may want to consider if the wisest use of your time is building a full anvil or if there is something similar that will serve your purposes for the immediate future.  The same is true for any tool.  Even if you have the skill to build it is that construction time worth it to you?  There is something satisfying about building your own tools but you have to decide if that is the end you want to accomplish.

Good luck which ever way you decide to go.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."    

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Roger that George.  I do believe I am getting a little to hung up on building or buying an anvil based on my replies.  I think I will start my Journey with a piece of hardened tool steel because it is what I have access to (some are pretty sizable).   We do Wire EDM work and waterjet work and end up with some large pieces of "scrap".   I need to learn the fundamentals before I start dropping huge coin on some frankenstein project.   Thank you for reeling me in.  My imagination runs a little wild sometimes.

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Think of that large piece of scrap as the center portion of the London pattern anvil, or the normal looking anvil before the London pattern anvil was developed.  Now think of how many times you saw a blacksmith use the center section of the anvil, which is most of the time.  

If you really need a horn, make it separate from a piece of scrap.  If you really need a hardie hole, make a portable hardie hole from a separate piece of scrap.  If you need a thin heel of anvil, make a striking anvil such as Brian Brazeal suggests. You then have one main anvil and three speciality anvils, each of which is designed for a specific purpose.    

It is not about what you have to work with, but how you work with what you have.  

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If you can work it properly I would go with D2 over A2. As mentioned an old worn out die would make a good anvil just as it sits. The London Pattern anvil is around 300 years old now and they have been working metal on anvils for over 3000 years. It's not the only style out there and depending on what you want to do on it other styles may be better! The London Pattern is sort of a Swiss army knife of anvils with lots of bells and whistles: heel, hardy hole, pritchel hole, face, cutting step, horn. *NOTHING* says they all need to be on the same block of steel and the anvil that tries to be all things generally is not the best of any of them.

For example I have a 469# Fisher that is great for heavy work, it also has 2 hardy holes---but large ones.  The heel is around 6" thick.  So sitting near it is a 91# Arm and Hammer with a heel about the thickness of one of my fingers.  I tend not to use the horn much---save that the Fisher's horn is great for drawing out heavy stock with a straight peen sledge.  When I need to bend a smooth curve I use something with a cylindrical shape not conical.

So what do you plan to forge with your anvil?

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Well the common thread in all of your answers is that an actual anvil is not necessary to start hammering steel!  I can come up with some hard tool steel blocks to get started.   Hardy hole tooling shouldn't be an issue, when I get to that point. 

I plan on steering more towards functional ag tools/parts with some personalization and maybe dabbling in blades.  Who knows where this road will end up.  

On 5/11/2020 at 8:20 AM, Glenn said:

If you really need a horn, make it separate from a piece of scrap.  If you really need a hardie hole, make a portable hardie hole from a separate piece of scrap.  If you need a thin heel of anvil, make a striking anvil such as Brian Brazeal suggests.

Thanks Glenn.  This helps in breaking the parts of the anvil into individual stations.  I am nowhere near the skill level to need all of that yet.

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Are you confusing the London Pattern Anvils with "actual anvils"?  Hate to burst your bubble but here is a style of anvil that has been in use most places of the world for over 3000 years: (On it's side so you can see it's mounting spike.)


Now this style of anvil has been in use about 300 years in a limited part of the world, (mainly the British Commonwealth).


So which one is an "actual anvil"?  The one used 10 times longer all over the world or the one used for 1/10 the time in a subset of the world?

Once you break out of mindset of what blacksmithing tools must be and get into the one of what they can be; you will find you are surrounded by usable tools!

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 I guess I should not have used the term "actual".   I understand I am an ignoramus and I have a lot to learn!  I guess I was trying to convey that I am realizing I do not need a manufactured anvil with a name on the side of it to start learning.  Anything can become an "actual" anvil if you use it for a back stop and apply force.  I grew up in the 80's and I guess Saturday morning cartoons influenced me as to what the shape of an anvil was (thanks Warner Bros).  I am sure my lack of knowledge will be annoying and painful and I ask that you please do exactly what you just did, and correct me with pictures and explanations.  I have grown thick skin over the years with old toolmakers, machinists, and engineers.  I am able to take criticism and I welcome it as long as it is relevant. 

I have attached a photo of my new "actual anvil".  I may engrave "ACTUAL ANVIL" in the side of it, LOL!!  This is a block we wire EDM'd a hardened A-2 punch out of.  The block is not large but it is something to start with.  Thanks Thomas and I hope to stay in touch with you.  Maybe someday I will be able to afford a London Pattern anvil! 




actual anvil.jpg

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Oh Yeah; turn that puppy up on end and start hammering stuff!   I would bevel/round the edges though to cut down on cold shuts in your work. Fasten  it down to kill the ring.

Remember that answers are not necessarily specific to one person; we're trying to change a mindset common to the USA and you were just the jumping off place.

With the tooling available to you; you can make individual pieces that replicate the various parts of the London Pattern anvil and they may work better as stand alone tools.  (Like a multi tool; handy in your pocket outside the shop; but in the shop individual tools shine!)

As for owning a London Pattern Anvil; fire up the TPAAAT and you should find one at a decent price sometime.  (Of course once you have the London Pattern, then the Southern German or Italian patterns or French patterns come to mind.)   Remember when someone prices an anvil outrageously high; good new anvils can still be bought!

Now design a makers stamp off that hole and tell folks you got over enthusiastic with the sledge when stamping your new ANVIL!

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You are going to fit right in here Benny, better than many new comers. Another thing to think about is designing a tool without knowing how to use it. We all do it, especially breaking into a new craft and loading up on bells and whistles is a hard habit to break.

Rather than a heel on an anvil I prefer an anvil bridge. Visualize a piece of channel iron flange down in the anvil's face so you can forge between different elements of a piece, say a fork. A couple clips to fit over the edges of the anvil and you're done, tool ready to go. 

I rarely use the horn on my anvils for anything but bottom fullers though I have to compensate for the conical shape by reversing direction every couple few blows or the work will forge into a curve. 

I do most of my forging on the face or over an edge but I've been at this a while. 

I vote YEA for your anvil touchmark. "Actual Anvil," Watch out for the competition though "Real Anvil" makes a heck of a product. B)

Frosty The Lucky.

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That might be a good policy to inherit with the wife!  My issue is that we moved to town a couple years ago.  I am trying to keep my eyes open for an abandoned building sight that I could lease or purchase so my "material" stays out of plain sight!  As of right now my brother lives on a farm not far away and allows me to come out and use his shop in exchange for labor in the fall and spring.  It is not a bad situation, but I do need to find my own space.    

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