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Hello all! Question for y'all about the best way to build a RR track anvil. I know these aren't the greatest, but I don't need the greatest, I have big anvils. I need a small one for small jobs. I plan on creating a double horn style. Here's my questions. 

I have a machine shop and can mill the track top and sides nicely square, but if I do that will I loose all the hardened surface? If I simply create a flat as wide or nearly as wide as the track itself I'd be loosing about 1/4" of material up top. 

Again, this won't be a heavy use anvil but I also don't want to loose what little rebound is there. I could weld a tool steel top but that's getting out of hand I think. 

Possibly leave the hardened top as the top rounded portion of the horn, and mill the rest flat?

Open to ideas! Overall I want about 12-16" long, and will have a sharp horn and long taper for small intricate work. 

I'll post progress once I get a plan and get started! 


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Yes, rails are induction hardened so it's extremely shallow. I'm sure there's also some work hardening during service but I use a vertical rail and it's plenty hard enough for hot work so I wouldn't worry about losing the small amount of induction hardened material. 


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How critical is a flat face to your needs? If it's important you might want to look for a block of square bar or thick plate and make the rail into bics. (horns) Before I  knew much about rail I made an anvil with a piece of plate welded on for a face, it was okay but got marked up over the years. 

Another option for a large flat face can be had by stacking rail like it's shipped. Two sections rail up touching flange to flange with a third laid flange up between them. This arrangement supports the "face" pretty solidly, there are too rails  on their webs directly under it and it's web and rail are directly supported on the other two flanges.

Anvils I've made this way, I torched a little over 1/4" from the two base flanges so I could weld them directly to the inverted rail of the center piece. You can weld the outer sides of the inverted rail to the outer webs with a stick welder and new sticks. 

I welded the inverted flange face to the rails along the outer sides. 

The trick to prevent warping it all into modern art is to skip weld alternating the beads so pull doesn't warp it. Ping the heck out of all the welds as they cool to relieve stress and minimize pulling! Rail is HIGH carbon low alloy steel an HAZ embrittlement is always a factor. Preheating to 400f is a good idea but ping lots it anyway.

Horns are easy, just extend one of the bottom rail sections beyond the face and shape as desired. The last one I made I extended both bottom rails, one to each end for a round horn and a square horn. I guess it turned out okay, the fellow I made it for is still using it. He wanted a full sized anvil and this one came in at about 165lbs. +/- It took well better than 3' of 115lb rail.

Anyway, it's a good way to make a bench anvil and have horn and flat face if that's what you need. Heat treating the face if you want hard is up to you. Remember it's not solid steel so is likely to have hard and soft spots. Getting a uniform quench on what's essentially a 3 webbed two thick section sort of beam is going to be problematical. I never even tried. Drawing a long slow temper in the oven after all that welding is probably a good idea though.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Alexander Weygers has instructions on making "conventional" anvils from RR rail including how to harden them; they are in "The Complete Modern Blacksmith"  along with how to make specialty dies for power hammers from rail.  

However I must quibble with "conventional"  as most anvils through out the world and throughout history are not London pattern anvils!

One trick for getting a flat face is to not use new rail but worn out rail, worn till the face is completely flat and as work hardened as it's going to get.

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Thanks for the great ideas! I am definitely tempted to make a big beast as I just always default to "bigger is better". However in this case i am trying to remember my purpose,  small for small jobs.

Frosty It is imperative for me to at least have a flat section, say 4-6" long. I think I will lightly mill a small flat, and leave the rest untouched. This is very old rail and is very hard and has great rebound on the original surface! 

ThomasPowers i did find a well worn and old piece which will require no more than 1/8th to flatten. 

Thinking of hinging the bottom of the rail/anvil to a very stout base so that I can tip it up on end and also be able to make use of the end of the rail, creating a fuller from the web, hot cut from bottom flange, etc as Stevens did. Again, small work primarily copper, brass etc for this little guy. Time to start torching!

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