November 15, 2022

Homemade anvil | A Concise Guide

What is a good beginner anvil?

A good beginner anvil is a better version made out of iron and steel. It might be more complicated than some users would expect, coming in a specific size and shape. You cannot use a wooden workbench to hammer away your metal but an anvil that is strong and sturdy. 

It lasts a long time. Good beginner anvil follows the rule of thumb, which says your anvil should be at least 50 times heavier than what you are striking with. When using a 1kg hammer to forge blades, you need at least a 50 kg anvil.

It is customizable. Make it heavier if it is too light by making the base heavier. Attach it to a tree stump, a drum of sand with plywood on top, or a block made from heavy timber. Ensure it is secure enough to prevent falling anvil from hurting your toe.

How to make your anvil

  1. Find a good piece of railroad track scrap.
  2. Shape the railroad track roughly into an anvil shape. An anvil shape is the same as a horn on one end and a square on the other end. Soften the metal with fire for easy cutting and shaping. A torch is easy to manipulate and saves a lot of time.
  3. Make a flat surface on the top of the anvil where the section of the truck leaf spring. Remove the temper from the steel to make it flat. The process is called annealing. 
  4. Cook it in a forge until it gets red hot, then take it from the heat and bury it in a big pile of ashes, removing the stress from the steel, making it bend and not spring back.
  5. Allow the spring section to cool, and weld the square, forward end to the base of the horn. Weld it solidly. Due to the curve, the spring will be higher than the top of the track.
  6. Flatten the spring section to the top of the track using clamps. Spot weld it in several places, remove your clamps, and weld the two pieces together.  After welding,  cut the end of the spring section off about 4inches from the rear end of the track.
  7. Drill holes, a square one, called a hardy hole, and a round one, known as the pritchel hole. 
  8. Create a hardy hole. Drill a round, hardy hole measuring approximately 5/8inches. Tighten a bolt and nut through the overhang with the bolt on top, and weld the nut in place. Weld your tools to the head of different bolts.
  9. To finish, fill a large metal bin with water until the top and keep a hose nearby. Build a big pile of leaves, twigs, sticks, and larger pieces of wood near the can full of water. Light it and put your new anvil in it. Let it sit and cook for 30 minutes.
  10. Wear gloves and use a crowbar or large tongs to lift the anvil off the fire and drop it in the water. 
  11. The water begins to boil once you drop the anvil inside the can. Keep adding water to the can if it boils over. Cool the anvil quickly to reintroduce the stresses inside of the steel. The anvil face will be hardened flat, instead of curved. Start your projects.

What do I need to make an anvil

  • A section of a railroad track
  • Truck leaf spring
  • Torch
  • Crowbar
  • Tongs
  • Clamps
  • Gloves
  • Water and water hose
  • Drill
  • Bolts and nuts

What steel to make an anvil

Anvils are cast steel that has been heated treated by either flame or electric induction (Industrialheating.com). Affordable anvils are made of cast iron and low-quality steel but should be avoided for serious use as they deform and lack rebound when struck.

Harder metals have a face rebound, which makes them a better choice for anvil materials. Forged tool steel anvils are effective under this category, but many blacksmiths also have cast iron and wrought iron anvils with a welded steel face on top.

The anvil has a good steel size, and if you give it a solid stand, it may work softer than you may end up with later. That is why any large, solid block of steelworks is a better alternative to the anvil. You can transform it into a makeshift anvil at home. High-carbon steel makes an anvil. 

DIY anvil for knife making

Use cast anvils for amateur knife makers since they are for small-scale work rather than professional work (Soulceramics.com). Note that they are less durable than forged anvils and have a shorter lifespan. For professional knife making, you would want an anvil around 100-200 lbs heavy. For small-scale purposes, amateurs, and hobbyists, anything less than 100 will do, depending on your situation.

The anvil’s weight signifies its durability, longevity, and stability. Lighter anvils back then were used for knife making, since knives are small and light objects are easier to work on.

How to harden railroad rail for anvil

  • Get a large, metal trash can and fill it almost to the top with water.
  • Build a big pile of leaves, twigs, sticks, and larger pieces of wood, to burn hotly for about thirty minutes. 
  • Light it and put your new anvil in it. Make the fire hot and let the anvil cook for half an hour.
  • Wearing gloves and using a crowbar, or digging bar, lift the anvil and drop it in the water. The water will begin to boil and continue to boil. Keep a hose nearby, and keep adding water if it boils over. That reintroduces the stresses inside of the steel. The anvil face will be hardened flat, instead of curved, as it originally was. Rail anvils work well hardened. That surface is suitable for the size of stock that can be accommodated on them. If you are going to work heavier stock, reinforce the web with some heavier plate, as this is the weak point on the rail anvil.

Price of an anvil

An anvil ranges from $70 up to 2575.

Cheap anvil alternative

Alternatively, you can use any large, solid steel block, which you can transform into an anvil at home.

David D. Hughes
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