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Rectangular holes in my anvil?

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Hi there,


First post after introduction.

if you didn't read there, I am completely new to forging, never had done anything in these regards. 

So I started with buying an Anvil (always wanted one, even independently from blacksmithing not bad to have),

In Ethiopia, there is a place where you get a lot of used and old stuff, sometimes you can make a deal, sometimes that's anyway the only place where you can find something at all. 

So I bought this Anvil. not sure how heavy, my assumption would be something like 30 kg? (yes, sorry, I am metric)

Can't see any mark/brand but I assume that somebody brought this one a few decades ago from Europe. 

Looked pretty plain and has pretty sharp corners. I learned already that I should probably get some radii on but that's a different topic.


my first question is about the holes:

- I have 2 rectangular holes in there.

- Why would they do that? what could be the logic behind it?

- I'll probably anyway not get any hardy tools in Ethiopia so i'll probably have to make them myself, I guess I will have to make the shaft rectangular as well?! Or is the sliding left and right not so much of an issue, making the shafts rectangular would otherwise not allow me to use the tools in different directions.

- I guess I would use the one with more material below as a hardy hole but what do I use the second hole for? I guess from the position it is maybe still for having some kind of "holding clamp" ?!


I know there was  a thread where somebody had 2 rectangular holes as well but there is pretty little info there and given it is 13 years old, I thought I can open another one.






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That is very odd as most American and European anvils have a square hole for the hardy hole and then may have one or two round pritchel holes for punching. What are the dimensions, (metric is ok)?

Does the anvil ring when tapped?  (TING! rather than thwap). 

I own a large anvil with two square hardy holes, one at either end of the face; but it was specially made to be used as the "anvil" for a Blacker power hammer and so designed for use of a lot of tooling with it. 

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If I were to may the hardy tools, I would try to make the square with 6mm holes offset vertically on opposite sides and large shoulders. Then you could make a shim block with a spring pin in the side. That way you can use the tool in both orientations by switching the shim around.

Those are odd dimensions, it will make life interesting...


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Very nice to see - your hardy hole is 1 1/4 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. Normally you do indeed have 1 1/4 hardy tools or 3/4 tools for the smaller anvils. I recommend purchasing 3/4 inch hardies or making your own and filling the rest of the hole with a blind piece resting on the entire anvil face. In the photo you see some hardies that I made afterwards for my two mobile labels of 70 and 60 kilo anvils with a 3/4 hardy hole.


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Hey Hans,


9 hours ago, Hans Richter said:

[...] and filling the rest of the hole with a blind piece resting on the entire anvil face. [...]

Not exactly sure what you mean here. i was also thinking of a blind piece with a shoulder but then i thought, such shoulder would probanly be in the way of the tool.


now Goods brought me to the following idea (although i think he meant something else.)

the blind block could have a pin on the side and the shanks could all get a small hole to take the pin in each (or actually 2) of the sides. 

(had a pic but the phone does not let me upload, maybe later via PC)



could you explain your idea a bit more, i dont fully get it i think. i imagine the idea to be similar with what i thought above just instead a blindblock with pin you would have a small spring to push the tool unto one end of the rectangular hole.

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Yep, that’s what I was thinking. (Bigger shoulder injury the tool, you will need to bridge the gap.) The bolster idea with a partial shank to make up the fill the rectangular space would work well also. Lots of ways to make it work. You just need to find what works for you.

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My suggestion: Take the plain piece of square stock and cut it on top a slight distance and forge out  to make a T shape. Drop it in the rectangular hardy hole to make it a square hardy hole for all hardy tools that don't overlap on the sides.  Trim the T to allow overlapping sides room to fit flush with the face.

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Shoulder injury made perfect sense to me David.  

I'm thinking a V shaped spacer the right width to fill the dead space of the rectangular hole. Cut the stock the width necessary for the hole or bottom tool and long enough the V holds it in place with springieness.  Make it long enough you can tap it up and out from the bottom. 

If you need different widths V spacers you could make a rack with holds them by their size. Different colors for different holes of course.

Frosty The Lucky.

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My vise spacer is a bunch of pieces of 3/32" x 1" x 2" threaded on a piece of 1/4" round rod with a ring on one end and a 90 bent on the other. I match up the thickness of what I'm putting in the vise, usually the one on my cutoff band saw, with strips on the spacer and they even the force on the vise jaws. The unused spacers can get in the way but I found one of my welding magnets keeps them out of the way. 

The magnet isn't a good solution, saw cuttings, filings and slag stick to the spacers now. Not that it hurts the spacer but it's gritty and splintery to handle. I ended up drilling another 1/4" hole in the strips and pin the unused ones together to keep them out of the way. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Hi There,



Thanks, Yes, I guess there should be a biggers shoulders. But then you are indeed limited with any solutions that are not flush with the anvil surface (e.g. Thomas' solution, see below). At the end, we are still talking about a rather thin spacer block.

Something like this? Looks like a neat solution as a concept. but if I think about that this is only 9mm thick and then you want to trim those 9mm, you won't end up with a wide shoulder. What would you recommend as a shoulder for a 1'' hole anyway?




OK, I just started to write that I don't fully understand it, as I was imagining a Wedge. Such a wedge would certainly not leave a flush surface on top. 


But now I read again, and I think I get what you mean. You would have a V bended out of a strip of metal, maybe the 1'' wide and it would enter into the whole and like you said being kept in place through it's spring function. 

Again, we talk about 9 mm widths, would have to be pretty thin... You think that will work. We kind of get to sheet-metal thickness if we want to bend with some shape to have a spring.


Cool. So far, I feel your solution is indeed the simplest. 


So apart from the hardie hole, what about clamping down stock.

Typical hold-down holes won't work well in a rectangular hole I suppose. (or would it actually work as they would also be canted inside?)

What about the following idea. Rather well fitting (with rectangular shank) cylindrical post, over which I can slide a holder (or different types) and tap them tight. 


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For my spacers for sq hardy holes, I tend to use angle iron with the corner sawn down about 1/2" and the tabs been out at 90 deg. Most of my tooling does not have issues with there being tabs out from the hardy hole. 

Now for tooling that definitely was made for a smaller hardy hole say 3/4" instead of 1" I like to use square tubing and saw the corners down a bit farther and bend them out as tabs and have the tooling resting on the tabs instead of the anvil face. How far the tabs go would be based on how much overhang your tooling has in that situation.

On my large anvil(s) with the 1.5" hardy holes I have 1 section of square tubing with the corners sawn and the tabs bent out and have nested a second piece of tubing in it with no tabs to get a 1" hardy hole.  I tried a double nest with tabs and didn't like the tool on tab on tab on anvil, too much bounce.

Funny last night I was dressing an angle iron spacer so it would fit a 7/8"? hardy hole.  Filing it with a farrier's rasp; coarse side. The spacer had been made for a true 1" hardy hole anvil; but I was wanting to use the slightly smaller one...  (I was wanting to use my  smaller "lifting ring" dishing forms when working on the flowers.)

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Not sure how well that hold down will work. I have seen some big hold downs made to work in a hardy hole, but with you rectangular holes that would he some big stock to work. If you search around a bit there are a couple examples of hold downs that were made with pipe clamps that might work well in this case. Of course, you could always make a chain hold down. (I used mine a lot before a beginner destroyed the chain with a bad miss hit. Haven’t bothered to fix it yet.)

Lots of options,


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That hold fast could work but not with the tapered shaft, that will really limit it's depth range. A straight shaft and it'll work anywhere from laying flat on the anvil until it reaches the top. Yes?

The piece that slips over the shaft needs to be drilled a little larger than the shaft with both ends rounded SLIGHTLY, you want it to wedge but not cut into the shaft. 

The bend from the horizontal arm to the foot doesn't need to be nearly that long. You do want a hold fast to reach down into a part of over obstacles but not nearly that much. 

You might be able to make a more "standard?" hold fast with a piece of rectangular bar that can tip back and forth in the hardy hole so it can cock under pressure. A little spring in the arm to hold pressure on the shaft cocked in the hardy hole = hold fast.

Just don't put a whole lot of effort into making one untill you know if it'll work. Make what I call a "proof of concept" piece to see if it works before putting a lot of work into a permanent tool.

 Frosty The Lucky.

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So, plenty Ideas for the hardy hole, I am sure I'm going to figure something out, when I actually get to make some tools.

The hold down, I also have the feeling it should work. I also already thought the taper needs to be out or  only on the very bottom.

2 hours ago, Frosty said:

The bend from the horizontal arm to the foot doesn't need to be nearly that long. You do want a hold fast to reach down into a part of over obstacles but not nearly that much. 

Of course, makes much more sense, (when I get rid of the taper).

2 hours ago, Frosty said:

You might be able to make a more "standard?" hold fast with a piece of rectangular bar that can tip back and forth in the hardy hole so it can cock under pressure. A little spring in the arm to hold pressure on the shaft cocked in the hardy hole = hold fast!

If I understand you right, it is not so very different. you would still make the bar get round, because you still might want some little left-right movement of the arm, The Ring would fit tight but nicely movable for up-down adjustments and the spring would be added (maybe directly as the piece holding the stock) to hold the pressure. When you put it on, you would still would probably give it a light tap with the hammer to "put it in position" I suppose?  Did I get you right?
What do you mean with this being "more standard"?


I am so happy I found this forum. I am away from the Family in Addis Ababa, where I have a consulting job for 1.5 weeks  (which finally finishes today) and as I anyway don't have much to do otherwise, I spent many hours in that last week. Read through Weyger's Modern Blacksmith and also the FAO books are really nice Thomas. Just a bit annoying that I can't find a downloadable version of the first and third book. They are extremely practically oriented. For me the interest is majorly in making things you can actually use on the land. And while I can do a lot with my Electrodes, Grinder and small drill press, I see more and more for what forging will be the better choice, not even to mention that I can be fully self-sufficient once I have the equipment and accumulated a proper mass of metal I can work on. 
Being rather rural with our farm, it is also about being in piece with the community around us. At the end we are the foreigners taking their land here, and it is bigger than most of them have. I can imagine there will be quite some repairs coming up in the future on donkey carts and tools. 
For us in the farm I am a specially interested in strong Garden tools. The land here has a lot of red clay, it rains a few month here, in which time you will have heavy weight loam-lumps  on your shoes and in the dry season the ground is hard like stone. 

So, learned a lot these days about different forges. As I had a Breakdrum laying around I first thought that would be the choice but the JABOD is of course the one to go for. Was then reading a about blowers, while ultimately I want a full manual (but comfortable solution, I think a bigger bellows one day), I think I am going to try it with a smaller 12V DC Fan, that I'll hookup to a small solar system. As it reads, for Charcoal, this should be sufficient. Charcoal is what I will go for. I think Ethiopia is the 2nd biggest producer in the world. Everybody cooks on Charcoal, it is all from Eucalyptus. 

And there is soo much to learn, especially I have to get more into the different metal types, into it's identification. Scrap is not necessarily suuper cheap. There are no real scrap-yards. As you know all scrap is for other people raw material and I guess in AFrica that comes naturally. If you know your shit you can make good deals. That might be in the place where I bought the anvil, vice and hammers  or in the 2nd hand metal supply where you usually pay by KG, and probably not much differentiated between carbon- or mild steel. 



Back also to the Anvil, Thomas, you were asking how the Anvil sounds. I assume that was in order to see if it is Cast Iron or not, right? So I assume mine would not be cast, right?

I also in all that reading was not really tumbling over much of info on how much anvils and Vices will take. Obviously you would use for bigger work bigger anvils and vices but what exactly would that mean. If that is (shame, still didn't weigh it, sent it straight home, so its on the road, while I fly tomorrow) let's say a 60lb anvil, what would you NOT ANYMORE work on such? (Same question for the vice) 

Then there are also the sharp edges of the Anvil. If I got it right, I should give them some round edges, best in different radii. Do I use the Angle Grinder for that?
Didn't research for that one yet I have to say (it just came as one of the many questions in my mind as it is fitting here) ,  so if that is easy to find just tell me to search myself but maybe somebody has a quick answer or link ready


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If you are going to grind on the anvil you should be able to do a spark test to determine it's carbon content to a degree.  Works best if you can compare it with known materials---say a 5160 automotive spring, (even a broken one will work for this!) and an old file from a good manufacturer.

Most cast steel anvils have an almost unbearably loud ring when not fastened down and struck.

The problem with making stuff for your local conditions; is that you need a book written with your local conditions in mind. Why I suggested the FAO book(s); although I know Africa has a wide range of environments in it.   I have a book I like; "Country Blacksmithing" by Charles McRaven which is great when I lived in Arkansas as he wrote it just north of there in a similar area. However it's not so good here in New Mexico where I live now as the land is different and the needs are different.  Now I am looking through "Southwestern Colonial Ironwork: The Spanish Blacksmithing Tradition from Texas to California" to see what historically was used out here.

Are you working on improving the soil?   The earth out here around my house can be used to make adobe blocks with and all the old houses were built from earth blocks. Since I want to plant some food plants and trees by my house; I am making a compost heap of straw, organic kitchen remains, old horse manure, brush clippings---no seeds yet; etc and trying to keep it wet to allow it to rot. I will till that into the surface of the earth to make it less like a block and more like garden soil. Since it's easier to pile stuff up than dig it down I have old railroad ties/sleepers around the compost heap. I'm about to add another set on top of the first and pile the compost deeper.. When it rots down I will use a pickaxe to mix it in with the soil and then add another layer on top and I can think about planting---I may get the trees planted this winter.

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Depends on what equipment you have and how much your time is worth and how hard the edge of the anvil is.  Most of mine came with the edges rounded from previous generations of smiths.

My soil generally has a lot of sand/dust in it; great to build on as it's rated for direct concrete pour, same as the subsoil in most places.  What it doesn't have is organic matter.  I had a real old school cowboy once visit to pick up a post vise and he said the nearby desert had been over grazed and any topsoil around had been blown away leaving an armored surface of small pebbles.  He didn't think it would restore itself naturally for centuries.  Our lot is not quite as bad.  Funny is that lower by the river is a great farming area for growing chili peppers, hay, melons in the very sandy soil.  Of course EVERYTHING has to be irrigated. Our next door neighbor just replaced his pump.  Run by a dedicated diesel engine and with an 8" diameter water flow coming from it.  Heard it running all night long as he tried to save his alfalfa fields.

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There are old videos of blacksmiths in various 3rd. world locations and one of the things you can expect to see in most of them are customers bringing scrap metal to trade for work. Lots of scrap for a modest tool. Coming up with steel will probably be less a problem than you imagine. Like you say scrap is an important resource, it's there it's just been picked up already so you trade for it. 

Learning the basics to a level of proficiency will let you teach yourself how to make things you've never seen or made. All tools don't have to be high/medium carbon steel but including a little won't hurt any tool. Yes?

If your'e going to be a mobile blacksmith then a JABOD is as permanent a forge as you really want, a trench forge is good almost anywhere and has been used since humans started hammering on metal. The JABOD is based on a trench forge and there is archaeological evidence of them as far back as worked metal. A smelter is similar in shape as the JABOD but vertical and enclosed think chimney shape.

If you're setting up as a village smith then build a masonry forge at a comfortable height and while you're trading work for scrap put the word out you need charcoal as well. Barter barter barter, it's not like folk are going to hand you a credit card you know. ;) 

The village kids will line up for an opportunity to pump your bellows whatever you decide to use. If you're permanently located I like a barrel bellows for smooth steady air supply and cheap.

It's basically a barrel floating open end downward in a drum of water. One flap valve to prevent air escaping the drum another to prevent it sucking fire back into the tuyere, hose, etc. The same valve system as a regular bellows. With the bellows barrel floating in the drum of water gravity will force it down but the air inside is keeping it afloat so it forces air out the only available path, The hose to your fire. When the barrel gets close to sinking you lift it back up with a lever, the flap valve to the hose to the fire closes and the big flap valve that covers the air intake opens. The barrel lifts you let off the lever and air flows. Need more air? Toss a couple rocks on the barrel so it sinks faster.

You can use a 5 gal bucket or virtually anything that's relatively air tight on top and float it in a pond, water trough, etc. Heck if you live near the ocean, the tidal flow can drive your air. 

Air blast is easy.

 Frosty The Lucky.


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