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Anvil pattern/style question

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I have been doing a lot of research on this site and trying to figure out what is the "most" recommended style of anvil for different uses.  So far I have found that a thin waist style london pattern is good for ornamental work and a thicker waist is better for heavy work.   It seems then that the colonial pattern would be really good for heavy work.    Would it be correct to assume that face size makes a difference as well?     Some research has shown weight makes a difference as well for the type of pattern and what you can do with it.  Is that correct?

My question is this what are the pros and cons of a german style anvil(two horn) vs a london pattern vs a colonial for various types of work? 

Examples of work:  plowshares/old farm equipment, tool making, ornamental gates, knives, coat hooks, etc.

Moderators, please remove if I have overstepped or in the wrong section, etc.  Please correct me as well, I think I might be just confusing myself with information overload. 

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There were a large number of different patterns of anvils made; some of them quite specialized like: cutler's anvils, chainmaker's anvils, coachbuilders anvils, etc. There even several specifically designed for plowshare work---both English/American and European.

Your question is overly broad, eg: tool making is it tiny delicate tools or will they need to be moved with forklifts and cranes?

Size makes a difference to a point.  Many general smiths used a shop anvil of around 150 pounds here in the USA with larger ones more typical of industrial smiths working larger items.  Of course Anvil Envy is rife in hobby blacksmiths. I can say I have done much more work on my 91 pound anvil than my 469 pound anvil; but I sure like having the extra large flat face for certain tasks.  (Of course back in the early SUV craze I was amazed at the number of folks I worked with that had to have Large 4WD V8 SUVs to go to the grocery store or pick up their kids.  We used a minivan for that and I used/use a 4 cylinder small pickup to move anvils and scrap metal and coal and go to work.)

I don't own any of the european styled anvils but I think the double horn, conical and sq taper would be real handy for a lot of tasks.  The large sweet spot would be nice too. But I've been forging 39 years on london Pattern anvils, got them cheap and they are good enough for me as a hobby smith.  Remember 1000 hours working on a US$100 anvil makes you a far better smith than 100 hours working on a $1000 anvil!

Colonial style anvils with their squat shape are good for heavy work but original colonial anvils tend to have thinner faces through wear and were forged from more pieces and so may be weaker at the weld lines.

Just getting started in MO  I would look for a typical London Pattern Anvil between 100#-165# in decent using condition and learn on it what you like/dislike/need!  You should be able to sell it later to fund the anvil you think would suit you better!   Was your first car a Lamborghini or a used "common" car or even a pickup?

And remember a chunk of steel will make a starter anvil but nothing replaces a decent postvise! 

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My first vehicle was a 15+ yr old 3/4t Chevy that my Dad bought new.  I still have the truck.   To answer your question on tools, I was thinking more along the lines of chisels or other smaller hand held tools, maybe even a hammer if I would take a notion to try it.

I am looking for a good postvise.  Recently, I purchased a very good machinist vice that will get me started.

Thanks for the info.  That has cleared up a lot of my confusion.


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The vise purchased  is an older 5" FPU or fpu/bison.  We have the 6" version of it in the farm's shop, and that would have been bought in the 1970s.  It has been well used from bending metal or trying to loosen or drive out stuck bolts. It is still in pretty good shape.


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Thomas pretty well summed it up. Around a 150# anvil will do anything you need from heavy to light. Even if you should decide to have three strikers working with you with heavy hammers.

As for differences. I prefer the rectangular heel on london pattern anvils. I do a lot of right angle bends and the right angle heel can't be beat for checking my angles. I use the off side of the heel to layout lengths on nearly all projects. It's easy to do this on a single horned anvil with parallel sides and "factory right angle corners. Lay out a length and mark it on the side in chalk. Consider doing multiple tapers, all the same length. You can do this on the tapered flat faced horn, but it's not near as convenient. Quite frankly, I have never had a need for a flat tapered heel. Thus for me it's redundant. Likewise I have no need for the other projections seen on most european anvils. They just get in my way for the little benefit they offer. This is my personal opinion, not the end all and be all. I have worked on both styles enough to be comfortable with each and to understand their differences.

As far as a medieval/colonial style square anvil. Well, first I rarely use the horn, but truly I couldn't be without it if for no reason than a place to hang my tongs when using my hammer and a hand tool. Beats dropping them on the ground. I spent a fair amount of time as a farrier so do understand the use of the horn. It has two primary functions. One is to edge bend flat stock and the other is to turn three dimensional type scroll endings. It has limited use as a fuller for drawing out. Finally, as small of a point as it may seem a square anvil of appropriate weight is just too wide for me to comfortably reach the off side. The off side edge is a primary work area for me. Also, they don't make new ones. I have only seen a few old swuare anvils and none of them had a flat face worth a darn. And the wear is rather random. This makes leveling your work no fun. And yes, leveling is done or should be done after nearly every heat, or cumulative error will get you in the end. I have never worked on this style of anvil, so these are just my random thoughts.

Oh, and a machinist vice has no use in my blacksmith shop. Anything I can do on one of those can be done on my post vice and the functions that are specific to a post vice are not available on a machinist vice. Thus it is redundant.

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