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Acquired and am restoring an old William Foster Stake Anvil or Bickern, looking for advice


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Hello everyone, this is my first time posting here. I'm very new to blacksmithing and am looking for some advice on fixing up this old stake anvil.

I just recently picked up this old William Foster stake anvil for $100! It was pretty rusted when I got it, I've been trying to clean it up. I soaked it in a vinegar/water solution and scrubbed away with a wire brush and a some coarse steel wool. I got most of the rust off, but now I've gotten through some of the patina down to bare metal in spots. I am hoping to keep as much patina as I can, but there is still rust in some of the deeper pits. I wanted to ask for everyone's advice on how to proceed. From what I've been able to figure out I know William Foster anvils were forged in the early to mid 1800's, and I don;t want to damage it. Which brings up my second question. The face is pretty pitted from the rust, should I sand it and make it a more usable tool again? Or should this be left alone as a collectors piece? I've attached some photos below of how it came to me, and how it's looking now.

Thanks in advance for your help!

-Russell

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2 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

Does it have a date stamp anywhere on it?  WF dated their anvils.

I saw that when looking around for info on them, I couldn't find one anywhere on it unfortunately. The makers mark and crown are pretty worn, maybe the date got lost in the rust somewhere?

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On the sides and bottoms a wire wheel wouldn't hurt but you mentioned you didn't want to take off too much of the patina. So wire wheel and coat it or just coat it. If you use it a light wipe of oil on the face is fine as any coating will come off in use. Just a light wipe of oil on the face after use if you won't be using it in a while. 

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Just my two cents, i don’t have room in the shop so I forge outside an most of my stuff is outside all the time, i just keep my blowers well oiled, vises stay greased and closed when I don’t use them to help keep water off the screws, and anvils just set there, swage block sets out to,

I wipe everything down with oil once in awhile to help shed rain water and help stop flash rust, the only thing I’ve kept in the dry is all my hammers and hand tools and I keep them in a steel job box, 

your stake anvil is really nice and usable shape! I’d like to find one like it sometime,  

it’s also pretty tough if you think about it? 
it’s been around over a hundred years and rust hasn’t effected its usability, so it’s probably gonna out live all of us and still be usable to the next several generations, personally I think more anvils are severely damaged from misuse than the weather and a little rust 

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PLEASE Do NOT grind on it at all. The face and horn will smooth out and shine up by working hot steel on it. Grinding is removing the useful life with every spark. Forget about the pits, they aren't bad and using it like an anvil will level it all out. Honest it will.

That's a SWEET score. Stick with us, do some reading through the sections, try stuff out and talk to us. We LOVE helping new folk further their addiction to the blacksmith's craft.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks everyone! I just gave it a decent one over with a brass wire wheel on my drill and oiled it up, I'll share an updated photo tomorrow. I don't know a lot but I do know I was lucky to get this. That's why I came here, I don't want to mess it up. I didn't realize that using it would really smooth it out!

-Russell

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You don't need to be THAT gentle with her Russell, she IS an anvil. If you have a right angle disk grinder a twisted wire cup brush will clean her right up without removing enough metal to notice 

Be aware any wire wheel is one of the most dangerous power tools in the shop. Safety glasses AND a full face shield are just the start. A leather apron is a good thing to keep wires that get slung off the brush from sticking in YOUR hide. Nobody and I mean N O B O D Y in the shop with you. 

That beautiful old lady will clean up in minutes. 

It's not a must though, just taking the soft rust off and finishing with BLO or my favorite carnuba paste wax will seal it up and leave you that nice dark red patina. If you use carnuba paste the anvil will need to be pretty warm fresh cup of coffee temp works about right. Wipe it on and wipe the excess off. EZ PZ. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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If you want to see more details engraved on the surface of the anvil, I suggest electrolysis, but by the end of the process, it will clean the patina. The surface of the anvil is pitted most probably because it was exposed to the elements for many years.

The experts have spoken and I totally agree with them, use the anvil as is, just wax/oil it to prevent rusting.

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Yeah, my anvil is is 240 years old, and heavily pitted when I got it about a year ago, and you can clearly see the spots I've been using the most. These spots all have flatter surfaces than the rest of the anvil. Using it cleans it up!

~Jobtiel

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