WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from July 8 - 15, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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I am located in arkansas and Merl the link you posted could not be found for some reason and i am sorry to contradict you but what i need will have to be very delicate as I intend to use it for other purposes than a true vanbrace
   Brady - Wednesday, 07/09/08 00:43:09 EDT

Joe: You have an Arm & Hammer brand from the Columbus Anvil and Forging Company. Many consider it to have been the premier composite-bodied anvil made in the U.S. With a 3 3/4" face width should be 100-130 pounds per Anvils in America page 263. Value depends much on condition. If near mint, then perhaps up to $4 pound. If used and abused, perhaps $1.50-$2.00 pound. You can use a bathroom scale to weigh it.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 07/09/08 08:22:31 EDT

Anvil Weight by Dimensions: Joe, This is very difficult unless you have a complete catalog of the anvils made by the specific manufacturer AND they were cast anvils. Old forged anvils were basically made by hand and while they had nearly the same proportions there were differences that would make it difficult to determine the exact weight. So these were usually weighed and marked their exact weight.

The anvil you have is a later (modern) forged anvil made by Columbus ANvil and Forging Company. If the LENGTH is 24" then it sounds rather small. A catalog listing in Anvils in America p.263 says they made three weights that had a 3-3/4" wide face. The second dimension is the face length.

3-3/4 x 14 = 100 to 110
3-3/4 x 14.5 = 110 to 120
3-3/4 x 15 = 120 to 130

All three of these had a 1" hardy hole.

This is a good make of anvil but a lot of other things besides weight determine the price.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/09/08 08:29:30 EDT

Brady, The link Bruce gave was good the site has just changed. Drop the "forums" and use www.armourarchive.org
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/09/08 08:31:32 EDT

Hello. I'm about to install some railing for a client which requires me to drill into granite slab steps. I'd like to drill a one and a half inch hole to receive the posts but don't want to damage the granite or spend hours at this task. Any ideas? Thanks!
   Mark - Wednesday, 07/09/08 09:29:17 EDT

yea, that would be rivets..LOL Thanks Do you know where I can obtain that book?
   D Ramos - Wednesday, 07/09/08 09:50:50 EDT

Guru and all, thanks for the info - it's very helpful. I've also learned that there is a 3 digit number stamped on the lower part and it's "124". I read a separate site that stated this code was a determination of weight: formula equals: "First Digit" x 112 lbs, "Second Digit" x 28 lbs, "Third Digit" represents remaining lbs. I thought I'd share this here if it's helpful. Though, seems like the 172 lbs it totals from my "124" stamping doesn't jive with the table provided above in your post - and you are the Guru so I'd believe you. Anyway, thought I'd share.
   Joe - Wednesday, 07/09/08 10:21:35 EDT

I've been away for a while and wondering how the new power hammer is coming along. Do you have an update?
   mikes - Wednesday, 07/09/08 10:42:00 EDT

NEW Hammer: Mike, since our flurry trying to make if for the hammer in there has been little progress other than some updates in the design. We have also moved all the parts out then back in then out and back IN the shop again. . . I've also moved two flat bed loads of tools and steel since then. . . Still trying to get it done this summer.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/09/08 11:29:19 EDT

Anvil Weight: Joe, that is incorrect. Only ENGLISH anvils used the English Hundredweight (also known as the stone) system. American anvils and some other import anvils used pounds. See our FAQ on anvil weight. Your anvil is probably 124 pounds.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/09/08 12:11:54 EDT

Rivets D Ramos, see our iForge article #83 on rivets.

Rivets can be bought but have been made by hand much longer and it is very common for various craftsfolk to make their own. The methods have not changed since the Bronze Age.

Commercial rivets can be used on one sided hand riveted work with either the finished commercial head out OR in depending on the look you want. You can also re-head the standard rivet. This is the easiest method if you have a lot of rivets to make.

The books I listed (2) are both available from ArtisanIdeas.com (as noted at the bottom of the reviews).
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/09/08 12:27:05 EDT

Mark, This job calls for a core drilling machine, equipped with a diamond tipped core bit, in the shape of a pipe or a very long hole saw. The machine must be leveled on the step to be drilled, and fed water through a garden hose or garden sprayer attached to the machine. If you rent such a machine, be sure to get the vaccum attachment with it or you will spend hours per hole. Granite is not easy to drill. I question your use of a 1 1/2" hole as it indicates the use of 3/4" posts. For 1" posts use a 2" hole if you are setting the posts with hydraulic cement(expainsion cement). If you are using epoxy or lead, then a tighter fit is suitable. If in the process of drilling granite, the bit stops cutting and seems dull, drill a hole through a concrete block, to expose fresh diamond(sharpen then bit).
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 12:27:42 EDT

Drilling holes in granite,
My first thought was "hire the job out to a mason"... Not as smartalec a reply as it might seem.
   JimG - Wednesday, 07/09/08 13:20:36 EDT

JimG, you are right, some masons are equipped for this, as are some plumbers, some electricians, and some blacksmiths. Mark seemed like the kind of guy who wanted to do it himself, so I gave him enough information to do so. Mark, If you are in New Enland, I will drill the holes for you for $100 per hole, plus travel time and expenses. Which is one reason you may want to rent a core drill and do it yourself.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 15:01:43 EDT

I was thinking of it more from the standpoint of being liable for hooping up a clients granite steps. I live in a part of the world where we do need to be able to do most things ourselves and not rely on specialists. But then our steps tend to be concrete instead of granite. Infact the only granite steps I know of are on the post office, and they have a chunk missing from where in the past someone drilled a hole to mount a handrail. Which is why I said it wasn't as smartalec as it seemed.
   JimG - Wednesday, 07/09/08 16:29:53 EDT

JimG, Like I said, you are right, It is a difficult task, with potential to mess up. Where I do most of my work, most steps are either granite, bluestone, or exotic wood like ipe, brazilion cherry, red wood, or mahogany. When I make rails, I install them, with great care. Also not trying to be a smart alec
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 16:50:39 EDT

With all due respect to smithly self-reliance, etc., I would not touch those granite steps unless I was fully insured and the client knew that disaster was a distinct possibility. Drilling that close to the edge of a piece of stone is a good way to tell if God loves you.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 07/09/08 17:22:08 EDT

Brady, I think you may have me confused with someone else. I don't recall providing a link for you, although I do know of a master armor maker here in Wisconsin. I'm not sure how to get a hold of him but I could try to find him if you like.
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/09/08 18:06:39 EDT

Not to continue beating what should be a dead horse, but core drilling is a grinding process with no impact whatsoever. Holes sould not be drilled close to the edge of a piece of stone or concrete or brick for that matter. I have drilled hundreds of holes in all types of masonry, and have yet to have any problems, in fact, core drillng is but one of many services I offer. Some of the work I do Is very difficult, and sometimes when a difficult job gets agravating, I have to remind myself of my shop mantra, "If this was easy, everybody would be doing it." When I buy a box full of bronze (with my client's money) and start cutting it, I am also taking a big risk. So I work slowly and carefully, double, tripple and quadruple check every thing, and calmly do the work. As I understood it, this site is a blacksmiths and metalworkers reference. If I ask a question here, I hope for as complete an answer or multiple answers as possible. If I answer a Question here, It is because it is a subject with which I have intimate familarity. If you guys don't want me to answer any questions, please tell me in plain language. I am not that good at infering things.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 19:04:29 EDT

Excellent discussion--and I am very grateful. In my area, for some unknown reason, granite slab steps are all the rage right now and everyone is doing it. So, I suspect this issue will become more the norm than the exception in the future. Like most of you fellow smiths out there, I need to be as self-sufficient as I can and this site has (on many occasions) really helped me out. John, if I lived in your area there is no doubt you'd be getting a call from me! I will attempt to find a local outfit that does this sort of thing, if not I'll rent the equipment and get the job done. Again, thanks for all the valuable input, it's much appreciated!
   - Mark - Wednesday, 07/09/08 19:15:35 EDT

I'm in the design phase of a job that will have rock covered steps.
Fortunately its early in the project and I'll be able to have the stone mason make the holes for my railing. If it was not so I would be tempted to call John and see if he'd fly out to California to cut the holes for me, but I can also see the need to do it yourself. Just my $0.02.

   blackbart - Wednesday, 07/09/08 19:25:21 EDT

JimG- You may already know this but if you (like me) are in a part of the country where there is frequent rain or snow that puddles then turns to ice, watch out for water getting onto your holes and blowing the stone apart when the ice expands. This can happen even if the hole drilling goes ok. To reduce this risk use the right epoxy, grout with hydraulic cement, and be sure the clients know that there is some risk no matter what. Good luck!
   Judson Yaggy - Wednesday, 07/09/08 19:26:00 EDT

Oops- sorry should have said "Mark" in the above post.
   Judson Yaggy - Wednesday, 07/09/08 19:27:22 EDT

Still beating the dead horse.
John Christiansen, are you saying that a hammer drill may NOT be used to make holes in Granite?
I have two rather large granite field stones that I wanted to encorperate into my garden gate pillers. This will require some hole drilling but, I had figured I could use my hammer drill for the job. No?
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/09/08 22:11:44 EDT

guru do u know a good place to learn armorsmithing or swordsmithing?
   - Roguetrooper - Wednesday, 07/09/08 22:14:18 EDT

or if anyone else know you can answer too
   - Roguetrooper - Wednesday, 07/09/08 22:17:49 EDT

Merl, I am not saying it can't be done, just that I don't do it. A good stone mason should be able to pick a spot on each stone where it would be safe to use a hammer drill. Alternatively you can buy an adapter for your large size hammer drill and use a core bit, with someone pouring water for you. Plan on half a day or more for two holes.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 23:00:10 EDT

Merl, sorry, meant to say with your hammer drill set on drill only mode.
   John Christiansen - Wednesday, 07/09/08 23:14:43 EDT

John as far as I'm concerned keep answering. It's nice to know how things are done, how they should be done, and what it costs to do things right. And if we all want to stay in business knowing that it is worth a $100 a hole, that needs to be figured into pricing every bit as much as a proper paint job needs to be.
   JimG - Wednesday, 07/09/08 23:17:00 EDT

I am saying what I said and absolutely nothing more and I will stand by it and defend to the death your right to say any thing you damn well please. Communication requires dialogue.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 07/09/08 23:36:40 EDT

Armour Smithing / Swordsmithing: Roguetrooper, See our FAQ on Swordmaking, particularly the resources list. It has a list of books that will take you from the beginning in metalworking to armour and swordsmithing. Start with the books. A good instructor's time in these fields is worth $100.hour or more. The books are cheap education in comparison and you will need them as references. If you find an instructor they are going to point you to many of the same books.

We also have a couple articles on our Armoury page and some in our NEWS.

Also see armourarchive.org.

   - guru - Thursday, 07/10/08 00:26:12 EDT

Hammer Drill vs. Core Drill: There are tools for every job, some better than others. A big air powered hammer drill is a wonderful tool and will drill through almost anything. It will also turn a nice cut granite stairway to rubble destroying the all the mortar joints in the time it takes to drill one hole. . . But if you have a big rock in a field or river bed they are a great tool.

Core drills use steady relatively low pressure, there is no vibration and they have excellent control. They can be used to safely create holes a lot closer to edges than using impact drills. The holes are also easy to precisely locate, will be perfectly round and as square as the machine is setup. They are the right tool for making holes in ANY finished masonry.

When it comes to hiring specialists to do such work remember, "You cannot beat a man at his own game." If you think a specialist is too expensive then go out and buy the same equipment he has and spend the time learning to use it. You will almost always lose economically as well as having none of the experience of the pro.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/10/08 00:42:46 EDT

I'm just happy to hear that you can expose new diamond on the bits by running thenm through a cement block. One of the most useful tid bits I've picked up in a while. Stuff like that is why I read here. I've already saved loads of time and money by reading what EVERYONE here has to say. Thanks again.
   Robert Cutting - Thursday, 07/10/08 01:15:02 EDT

I have been blundering around this site for a while and still don't know where everything is, or how to use it to the fullest. But I hope this is the correct place to post this question.

I was reading up on the "Generation X Sword Making" page (I think this is the Gurus's work)

I took the reading to heart and believe that working on a wooden sword then moving to an Aluminium Wallhanger would be the best course action to archive what I want at the moment.

Now my problem is that [Diagram of Knife Parts] is not there. So combined with all the jargon and directions, I am pretty lost without the diagrams.

Could someone help me with this problem?

My aploigies if this post is out of place.
   Marlon - Thursday, 07/10/08 03:48:51 EDT

Knife Parts: Marlon, Sorry the article is not complete. . . My plan was to work through all the alternative practice lessons and do photo step by step articles as well as diagrams. However, any of the knife making books recommended have plenty of photos and diagrams.

The knife parts for this article are:

Blade with tang
Guard (simple flat about as thick as blade)
Grip (two slabs with a groove to fit the tang)
Pommel ("butt cap" fits end of tang)

The tang should have a good radius as noted, then taper to a straight section that is almost square to fit through the pommel.

The grip is made from two pieces and glued together. It should have clean square ends that fit the guard and pommel as well a fitting snuggly on the tang (no wobble in any direction). The rectangular hole can be made by cutting all the groove in one piece that 2/3 of the thickness. The fact that the hole is tapered to fit the tang means that it can be shortened by sanding (on a flat surface) until it is snug fitting against the guard and the tang. The guard should fit just snug enough to hold itself on while closing the gap at the guard.

For a wood blade the pommel end of tang should be rectangular with proportions of 1:2.5 or 1:3. A tapered slit can be cut in the short direction and a wedge fitted.

The hole in the pommel is made the same as the guard, by drilling and filing (or chiseling with a small mortise chisel). The pommel should be a very snug fit on the tang and there be no shoulder to stop its travel other than the grip. On final assembly the pommel is pressed tight against the guard and wedged or riveted (if metal).

Pommels can also be cross pined (a hole drilled in assemble and a pin or dowel pressed in and the ends upset (riveted).

My plan for the wood sword/knife was to make the pieces of fine hardwood and have it dry assembled and wedged so that it could be disassembled.

The aluminum wall hanger is made exactly the same way except the guard and pommel is metal. They can be aluminum or brass for color. The grip could be any fine grained wood then stained. Or it could be walnut, ebony. . . Final is assembly is with epoxy and the end of the tang riveted (or pinned).

In both cases the guard has its final fit and finish at the pommel made after assembly IF there is not a step/shoulder.

The point of both these exercises is to learn and practice skills with files and scrapers to FIT all the parts. The fits of the guard are identical to the real thing. The fits on the wall hangers are exactly the real thing.

Making all the parts fit smoothly with no ugly gaps is one of the most difficult things to learn in making swords and knives. If you can see a gap it is too much. Even though modern makers silver solder the guard to the blade and bed all the rest together with epoxy it is NOT to be used as fill. The solder joint should be invisible except on VERY close inspection and slight compression of the wood should close the other joints.

Many makers never forge a blade. It is all done with grinders and files. Even when a blade IS forged there is a huge amount of grinding and filing to be done. All this is part of the fitting and finishing business. If you can do it well, paying close attention to detail in the wood and wall hanger projects, then you are on your way.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/10/08 10:48:00 EDT

Thanks a ton.I understand now.

One more question: The wooden blade, should it be comparable in thickness to the metal counterpart, or is it to be made thicker because it is wood?
   Marlon - Thursday, 07/10/08 12:57:24 EDT

Marlon, In this case you are making a model, not a practice sword which would have to be much heavier.

Note that some wood models are one piece. A simple sculpture. If you are new to using tools this is another way to practice. You can "get wild" and make unusual designs then paint it to get a feel for the real thing. This teaches sculptural skills but not the fit-up skills particular to knife making.

Also note that there are many other ways that swords and knives are handled. The classic Japanese sword grip is held on by a single removable pin so that the entirety can be changed for different occasions (practice, battle, fancy dress).
   - guru - Thursday, 07/10/08 15:39:11 EDT

We have a Hay Budden (serial #A3475) 194 lb anvil. Can anyone tell us more about it and what it is worth? (when it was made, 1915 perhaps?) We also have a 15
   - Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 19:16:47 EDT

We have a Hay Budden (serial #A3475) 194 lb anvil. Can anyone tell us more about it and what it is worth? (when it was made, 1915 perhaps?) We also have a 15" x 15" swage block with 9 holes in it. How do we tell where any identifying marks are on it, can anyone tell us about this and what it is worth? Thank you!
   - Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 19:17:34 EDT

We have a Hay Budden (serial #A3475) 194 lb anvil. Can anyone tell us more about it and what it is worth? (when it was made, 1915 perhaps?) We also have a 15" x 15" swage block with 9 holes in it. How do we tell where any identifying marks are on it, can anyone tell us about this and what it is worth? Thank you!
   Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 19:18:39 EDT

omg!! it said it didn't go thru! Sorry!!!
   Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 19:21:36 EDT


One of the guys who has a copy of AIA will have to tell you theyear of manufacture. Other than that, I can tell you it was made in Brooklyn, NY, H-B's are considered one of the more desirable composite anvils, and that its worth is dependent entirely upon condition. In premium condition, about $4/lb on a good day, unless it is one of the rarer farrier's, chainmaker's, or plowmaker's models, in which case it could go much higher. In clapped-out condition, trashed face, torch cuts, gouged-up horn, edges thrashed, etc, it could be worth no more than $1/lb to a person who needed just any sort of anvil. If it was thraqshed, I'd give you nothing for it, as I would only want an anvil in eminently usable condition.

Swage blocks are very rarely marked, and the value is again dependent on condition, plus dependent on utility. Some swage blocks are great designs, many are mediocre, and plenty are almost useless because the designer wasn't a working smith or even a decent patternmaker. Given that it has nine holes in it, I would guess it is an older one, and therefore more likely to be a usable design, therefore I'd hazard a guess that it would be worth at least a buck and a half a pound to the right person. Possibly much more. Swage blocks haven't got the "collectible" cachet that anvils do, nor do they make good garden ornaments, so mostly they're still viewed as working tools.
   vicopper - Thursday, 07/10/08 21:57:00 EDT

If You aremaking a relatively small hole, about an inch, in a large rock far from the edges You will probably be OK with the hammer drill - if it will drill the rock. I have a really big old hammer drill, a 2 1/2" Millwalkee [presently needs repair - again] that uses carbide core drills. This is a hand held tool and I would definatly not try to make a hole near the edge of anything with it, especially something finished and expensive. The diamond core drill machines are like a portable drill press, and will make a hole as true as the setup.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 07/10/08 21:59:45 EDT

I bought a 127 pound peter wright anvil. Over all its in pretty good condition except for a small chunk on the front off the face. Could it be welded up or something, also what is the best way to smooth the edges.
   Matt Tessiers - Thursday, 07/10/08 22:32:04 EDT

According to Postman's book, your H-B dates from 1918 plus or minus two years.
Our alpha guru has developed a website: www.swageblocks.com
There are lots of photos and drawings showing swage block patterns made over the years. You might find yours and perhaps even the name of the manufacturer.
   - Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 22:34:00 EDT

Sorry Chip, I placed your name in the wrong place on the last post.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 07/10/08 22:46:10 EDT


You're best advised to leave that missing chunk alone and work around it. Mostly, blacksmiths use the far edge of the anvil more than the near edge, so it shouldn't present much of a problem. I recommend a 4-1/2" angle grinder with a 220 grit flap disc for easing the edges. Use it gently and remove only as much as necessary to smooth out nicks and get a decent radius to prevent cold shuts in inside corners. YOu can also use it to buff up the face a bit, since it won't remove too much and screw up a perfectly decent anvil.

Again, do not weld on the face or edges of that anvil if you want it to remain a useful anvil.
   vicopper - Thursday, 07/10/08 23:03:07 EDT

Thank you for your info! I have been on that site and the swage block is similar to the industrial block shown there.
   Chip - Thursday, 07/10/08 23:18:59 EDT

Block ID: Unless a block is currently in production or one of the few found in catalogs with a brand name they are almost impossible to identify who made them. Every surface of a block was considered a working surface and to cast a logo into one would reduce its usefulness. Foundries, who generally made things for other people were not in the habit of putting their own name on a product. So if the seller was not specific AND willing to pay for the pattern cost then no ID was put on. . . A great number of blocks were also made for large hardware chains who sold wholesale to other sellers who would not want their source identified. . .

Blocks were made in thousands of different foundries including overseas. They often copied other's patterns or general layout so that they cannot be identified by pattern either.

So, there are many reasons that most blocks do not have makers marks or are impossible to identify who made them.
   - guru - Friday, 07/11/08 09:23:11 EDT

Having used a vacuum base core drill to cut holes thru concreat floors I knew that wouldn't work on rough stone but, I didn't know if the hammer drill would work on granite at all. I saw somthing on the web somewere that an artist was using an Oxy-Gasoline (yes gasoline ) lance to carve the surface and even bore holes thru some very large black granite boulders. A little extream for what I had in mind but, a very cool proses.
   - merl - Friday, 07/11/08 13:02:38 EDT

Quick question that I should probably already know the answer to but here it goes anyway: I have a set of stone cutting chisels for soapstone sculpture. It was given to me years before I got into metal. I've used them a few times, but abandoned them since... metal doesn't crumble away and wreck weeks of work with a stray hit. Anyway, it is feasible to either use the chisels as-is for hot metal work or treatable to cater to my smithing needs?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/11/08 13:16:10 EDT

Nip, These are usually good steel so should be convertible to whatever you want. However, I would not put thin edges on them like hot work steel.
   - guru - Friday, 07/11/08 13:58:09 EDT

Merl, One place they still use fuel lances to quarry blocks of granite is on Crotch Island in Maine. When they are going full bore you can hear the roar across the harbor in Stonington. There is an old quarry you can walk through there which has a box cut labeled as being done with a lance. It leaves a remarkably smooth surface. John Christiansen, Thanks for posting the info on core drilling.
   - SGensh - Friday, 07/11/08 14:53:23 EDT

how do you clean/condition an anvil?
   Chip - Friday, 07/11/08 15:02:20 EDT

Chip, Dust it off and use it. Hammering hot iron on the face removes rust, paint and polishes the surface.

If the anvil is heavily rusted or pitted then you might want to take a portable belt sander to the face and horn (or do it by hand). Mushroomed edges and horn tips should be dressed with a hand held grinder. Sharp edges and corner chips should be radiused to prevent marring the work.

Generally you want to leave tight smooth rust on the body. It protects the anvil from rusting and if the anvil is old is an indication of age.

If you want the anvil to look pretty you can give it a thin coat of paint. Do not paint the working surfaces. Note however that sides often get used for hammering and scale falling on the feet will set thick paint on fire.

If the anvil is not going to be used on a regular basis the bare surfaces should be oiled between uses to reduce rusting.
   - guru - Friday, 07/11/08 15:38:32 EDT

Okay, I was planning on using them as-is anyway.

BTW, I almost fell off my chair with laughter "dust it off and use it"
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/11/08 16:12:48 EDT

Who made the anvils that are labeled only with USA in large raised letters on the side and are they any good. Thank you.
   Robert Cutting - Friday, 07/11/08 17:36:50 EDT

Robert Cutting: I've heard they are being cast in AL somewhere. Typically seen at flea markets and low-end tool retailers. Cast iron. Have a friend who bought one for a shop anvil. Heel broke off almost immediately. On quality, slightly better than using a concrete floor. Even the 110-lb Russian anvil sold by Harbor Freight retail stores are better.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 07/11/08 17:56:06 EDT

Yep, "USA" anvils are CI doorstops. PPW had one and was trying to bolt on a steel plate top. . . He didn't have a real drill press to do the job so it was sold half completed.
   - guru - Friday, 07/11/08 19:25:38 EDT

Oh well, I'll eventually find a good deal on something useable. Thanks again.
   Robert Cutting - Saturday, 07/12/08 00:05:07 EDT

They also make good stage props.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/12/08 10:00:05 EDT

On the USA anvils it is a bit of a shame they won't make the effort to cast them out of better quality steel as there definitely seems to be a continuing demand for small to medium weight anvils in the U.S.

But then it comes down to what the market will bear as to cost.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 07/12/08 10:24:09 EDT

ASO: let me share something I learned recently. I bought a TFS Blacksmith 100# anvil. Nice ring, good rebound, generally a nice anvil. Then I was encouraged to call the TFS office and ask what it was made of. Heat Treated Ductile Iron!!! Now, I am NOT pleased that it is not cast steel but I have no big complaints about how the anvil performs. However, for $5.50 per pound, I really expected better than ductile iron. Live and learn.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 07/12/08 11:57:00 EDT

QC, NC-Tool anvils are the same. I think their current literature says different or is now fuzzy about material but that is what they are or were.

The TFS anvil I got to use and see demos on at Bill Epps years ago was TOUGH. One demo making a Russian Rose had cold iron being forged very thin with hard blows. Not a mark was made. I do not know if the material has changed but it seemed to be a good anvil.

On farriers anvils Bill Pieh of Centaur Forge used to say that they were considered a consumable by farriers. Too much beating cold steel on them. . . On the other hand I have not seen a lot of worn out farrier's anvils on the market which would prove Bill's point.

So while I have your attention. . There are a couple folks selling cast H13 anvils. I thought H13 was a wrought product. Is it really castable in anvil size chunks or is this just some close casting alloy that they are representing as H13 because folks know the alloy?
   - guru - Saturday, 07/12/08 14:09:27 EDT

Guru, H13 is a heat resisting hot die steel. It has about 5% chromium, 1.5% Moly, 1% Vanadium and .40% Carbon. Very tough stuff used for forging dies, roller dies, etc. Generally it is air hardening with low distortion. Yes, it is castable and would make a great anvil but EXPENSIVE! The cost of alloys is going through the roof which is driving steel costs up, too.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 07/12/08 15:04:06 EDT

I know that Jymm Hoffman has gotten a few of his colonial style anvils cast in H13, and RatHole Forge says they use an alloy "very similar" to H13. The Nimba's are 8640, which has slightly less chrome, but is also somewhat similar.

So it is definitely possible to cast H13 and similar alloys into anvils.
When any new cast anvil is expensive, I wonder if its really that much more to use an alloy like H13. The actual material cost is not the biggest part of a foundry expense anymore.
   - Ries - Saturday, 07/12/08 16:46:21 EDT

Wrought & Cast tool steels: When You buy bar stock, of course it is wrought. There are foundries that cast many of the common tool steels for the tool & die & machine building industry. A roll forming machine builder I worked for had roll blanks cast from D2, they probably were 400-500#. Delray is a foundry that casts a lot of tool steel for automotive tooling, an anvil would be no big deal for them to cast.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 07/12/08 22:46:45 EDT

Castings, All types: The problem is that the small custom foundry is gone, entirely. During the day of the captive foundry and small custom foundries you could walk into the shop one morning with a block of wood with couple shapes cut into it or a hole drilled and pickup a rough casting that afternoon. The "sand crab" or mold maker would take your draftless pattern and rattle it around in the sand, replace the hole with a core from a core box on hand and you would have your casting with the next pour. This same talented fellow could take a broken gear, use it as a pattern and give you a blank that needed minor machining the next day.

So you need 100 anvils or swage blocks cast this year. . The few foundries that are left are going to want a production pattern (actually a mold system) to their specifications. Then you will wait and wait and when they are run you will have to take ALL the castings at once. Often they will insist that you take the rejects as well as the good castings. You are too small a customer to refuse. . .

A generation ago you could leave a loose pattern at a foundry and they would make the mold and cast it at their leisure. But it WOULD get cast and at a reasonable cost. If you were a decent pattern maker you would get a decent product. Those days are gone in the U.S. Foundries are too expensive to run and can only afford high production jobs or jobs designed to fit seamlessly into their production methods.

There ARE a few foundries around that will do some custom work but they are far and few between. I would love to find one in Virginia or North Carolina. I have some nice swage block patterns I would love to have cast and would make even better ones IF I thought there was possibility of having them cast. But I cannot afford to make complicated mold boxes or pay to have a hundred or more cast at a time.

I know folks that would love to be in the anvil manufacturing business and can afford significant quantities but cannot afford $10,000 patterns or dealing with foundries that will only run a large quantity of castings.

The few folks getting low production castings made work in or have close ties to a local foundry. This will always be available to SOMEONE. But it is not to me. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 07/13/08 05:15:25 EDT

For a while anvils cast in Mexico were being sold in the U.S. I heard they were cast out of scrap steel and likely about the same quality as rebar.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 07/13/08 08:14:48 EDT

Regarding custom casting, there may be one of interest in Chattanooga. I was Googling “induction melting” and came across an article in a trade magazine for the Acheson foundry. See:

From that article:
Today Acheson Foundry has 30 employees. It is primarily a short-run jobbing operation specializing in producing prototypes and more complex castings involving core work. It also produces castings for historic battlefield equipment, such as parts for the cannons displayed at many of national and state parks and historic sites commemorating Civil War and Revolutionary War events. Similarly, it produces castings for many steam railroads operating around the country, including Chattanooga’s Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
“We have many talented pattern people around this town and they are able to build patterns from old drawings or simply from sample parts.” Randy Rigsby noted. “When I see many of the antique castings that come in to be recreated, I often am amazed by the skillful work of the early foundrymen. Our industry has a great heritage that we at Acheson Foundry are working to continue.

Checking in the MacRae’s Blue Book, they appear to be still in business:
511 W 38th St
Chattanooga, TN , 37410-1320
Phone: 423-266-4863
FAX: 423-266-1087

Products Description:
Manufactures gray iron castings; steel foundry: Foundry burners, Core drying ovens, Foundry crucibles, Foundry converters, Casting machines, Sizing or embossing presses, Foundry mold machine, Foundry dies and tooling, Foundry machines and equipment and supplies, Foundry machines and equipment, Foundry blowers, Foundry supplies, V process castings, Castings

I have no connection with the company, and I do not know what steel alloys they pour.
   Bob Johnson - Sunday, 07/13/08 13:08:42 EDT

Ken, parts for nuclear subs are made of steel made from scrap. The majority of the steel made in the US is made from melted scrap. Electric Arc Furnaces melt the scrap and the metal is purified, slagged, degassed, re-alloyed continuous-cast and rolled into a variety of shapes. Iron is made in blast furnaces that are extremely expensive to build and operate and require a lot of coke, limestone and iron ore. The EPA makes sure they are carefully permitted and constantly watched. EAF melt shops recycle more metal than you can imagine. And they make it clean and fast. Not cheap, though.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 07/13/08 13:22:57 EDT

Jock, your casting post reminded me of the hell I went through when I was attempting to get a big aluminum anvil cast for me. I still never got that one done.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 07/13/08 14:21:37 EDT

I'll have to try Acheson Foundry. I was hoping to find some place within affordable driving range. .

Foundries in general are getting to where it will be cheaper to build a multi-piece fabricated anvil in low production rather than having them cast. While having heavy plate torched up is pricey it gets cheaper when you nest the parts and buy the whole plate. It does not take a large number of anvils to use up a four or five foot by eight or ten foot plate.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/13/08 23:02:27 EDT

Am wondering if it might not be possible to cast just the top (to just under the horn) of an anvil out of a decent quality steel and then have the base made out of a lesser quality. Then arc weld them together. It was basically what Trenton was doing at the end. Difference is the base would be higher on the anvil body.

Also, I suspect, such an anvil may be feasible if it offered in only one size, such as 145 pounds, with a 1" hardy and 1/2" pritchel. Under 150 pounds you can ship ground service, such as UPS.

For those not aware of it, you can ship some ground services, such as UPS, without boxing up for a non-packaged surcharge, current $8 as I recall. Label can be affixed to top and then covered with clear tape. Have sent and received a couple of anvils this way. One received was completely wrapped in duct tape.

Target market is the beginner or low-user.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 07/14/08 11:42:47 EDT

I'm back;

Re: Swordmaking, didn't specify if you wanted a website or a location to hands on learn; but swordforum.com has a bladesmiths forum and The American Bladesmiths Society has a school that teaches bladesmithing, it's in Southern AR, USA.

I guess I'm not a fussy smith as I have never cleaned up the sides of an anvil, and I've owned a few, more than a bit of wirebrushing to show the stampings. As for the face, "dust and use" pretty well covers it for me.

   Thomas P - Monday, 07/14/08 11:49:42 EDT

Anvil Manufacturing: Ken, The problem with the smaller anvils is that some operations, facing, broaching and heat treating all cost about the same on a 100 pound anvil as on a 300 to 500 pound anvil. Per mold costs (some foundries seperate mold making/handling as a seperate charge) are also nearly the same. So you might have $200 in these per/unit regardless of size. So with $1/pound steel a 100 pound anvil COSTS (at the factory) $300 and a 200 pound anvil only $400 and a 400 pound anvil only $600. Add transportation and markup and you have the selling price.

Peddinghaus stopped making their quite popular small anvils (lots of jewelers and small shops bought them) because even at $8/pound they were not profitable.

So you have folks like Euroanvils, Peddinghaus, Rathole Forge and Nimba making large anvils because there is not enough profit in small anvils. The farrier anvil makers keep theirs small because that is the biggest share of their market and folks will pay the price (very few hobby farriers).
   - guru - Monday, 07/14/08 12:08:37 EDT

Anvil Sides: The British anvil blueprints I have show 2" of the far side (assuming everyone is right handed) machine finished (indicating a machining allowance in the pattern). The WWII German style anvil had a sloping portion of the far side and it was also finished. We have a flat backed anvil in our German anvil article that will or its side (or back) providing very nice curved surfaces possibly for armour work.

I am surprised that this last design was not more popular as it provides great utility without the funkiness of a multi-purpose tool. Note that it can also sit on either side the feet and top edges providing stable support.
   - guru - Monday, 07/14/08 12:29:55 EDT

NEED YOUR HELP,what is the best way to fasten an anvil to a stump so it won't tumble an fall injuring someone(mainly me)
   - cecil - Monday, 07/14/08 15:47:41 EDT

Quenchcrack: Interesting if true. Too bad you are a metallurgist and couldn't be blissfully happy with the anvil. It is an interesting commentary that one can be happy with the performance but unhappy with the material choice (yeah, I might have the same reaction at first).

If as you state it has "Nice ring, good rebound, generally a nice anvil" and you "have no big complaints about how the anvil performs" why do you care??

Analysis, specifications and numbers are great when trying to make a decision about an unknown product, but when you have the product before you and are thoroughly convinced that it is suitability for it’s intended purpose i.e. sufficiently hard, does not dent, does not chip and has a good rebound, I would not care what it’s made from. Seems like they may be on to something. I went to the Ductile. Org website and was quite surprised at the properties they are achieving with this material. Personally, if it performs well, I wouldn’t care if it was made of oatmeal mush!
   - grant - Monday, 07/14/08 16:19:47 EDT

Anvil Tie down: Cecil, There are a hundred ways. See our iForge article on anvil stands. My personal preference is two wood blocks fitted between the feet so that the anvil can be easily removed from the stand but will not fall off.

The stoutest attachment short of drill and bolting is two angled straps, one across the front of the anvil under the horn, another under the heel, each with studs or bolts attached to brackets on the side of the stand. Nuts on the bolts are tightened to but the straps down on the anvil.

This stout method is commonly seen but is way overkill in my opinion. If the stand tips over and the anvil stays attached, who cares?

Attaching an anvil to the stand snuggly helps to reduce ring if that is your goal. The current method is to use silicon caulk. Cover the top of the stand, bed the anvil into the silicon, wait overnight for it to set, trim the excess and you are done. The anvil we be nearly as good as welded to the stand. Most folks have a couple clamps just in case the glue joint fails.

Various clamps have been used over the years. Peter Wright provided a narrow flat on the edge of the feet for this purpose. A single bolt front and back on the center line of the anvil presses down on an angle iron shaped clamp that rests on the stand and on the foot of the anvil. This system works well with the silicon deadening.

A common "country" method is to just pound in a couple hand forged spikes and bend them over the legs. This is fairly permanent but does not quell noise. It only takes three or four spikes. I do not like this rough method because the spikes are difficult to remove and thus the anvil as well. I like portability.

One of the fancier stands on the linked article looks like it has four RR-spikes holding the anvil down. Actually these are bolts made from RR-spikes and have a nut on them under the stand.

The RIGHT way is MY way (grin) but there is no real wrong way. Everyone has a favorite method.

   - guru - Monday, 07/14/08 17:08:06 EDT

I had 2 anvils cast about 6 years ago from 4340. The patterns were mounted on cope and drag plates and I paid close to $5.00 a pound for the raw castings. That was the best price I could get with shopping around to 3 foundries. The castings then had to be machined and heat treated, trucked from foundry to machine shop to my shop.
I have since found a cheaper foundry but with increased material costs, I recently paid about the same price per pound for a little 100 lb colonial style anvil that I had cast for a local museum.
The price could probably go down A LITTLE if set up for high volume moulding, but alloy steel castings are EXPENSIVE.
I had wondered how TFS could produce anvils in North America for the prices they do.
   - JNewman - Monday, 07/14/08 18:03:04 EDT

Grant, yeah, I know. My head says no but my heart says yes. I'm going in for spinal fusion next week on the L4 and L5 vertebrae. If it works, I should be out of pain and ready to forge in 6-8 weeks. If it doesn't, I may have a bunch of blacksmith stuff for sale, including a new anvil.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 07/14/08 19:09:07 EDT

Anvil Quality: QC, Consider this, for hundreds of years anvils were made by hand forge welding scrap wrought iron (and who knows what else) and then had a primitive pieced together steel face welded onto THAT. Many folks still use these ancient tools. Surprisingly there are few old anvils broken in two, but there ARE some. The cause is usually what looks like very bad welds. I have had several of the "broken horn" anvils and the "Yankee Sappers" story is a myth. I know the guy that started the myth over 15 years ago and it was his THEORY. But on examining these old anvils and knowing the horn was just stuck on as a big rough butt weld full of inclusions it is no surprise that many broke.

So which would you rather have? A modern ductile iron casting or a primitive scrap iron amalgamation?

One note on the "scrap iron" used. Peter Wright advertised heavily that theirs was pure new wrought NOT scrap. However, I think this explains why you see far more severely sway backed Peter Wrights than old Mouseholes in as bad a condition. The Peter Wrights were grade A dead soft wrought while Mouseholes may have had significant steel content in the bodies.

John, It is not just TFS but also NC-Tool and I suspect others. The Russian imports could possibly be ductile.
   - guru - Monday, 07/14/08 21:32:12 EDT

QC-- Bon voyage! Godspeed! As one who has lived with a herniated L4-L5 disk (and other squozen probs in the area) since 1983, I deeply sympathize and wish you great success with the operation. My sister (we got short-shrifted in the cartilege department) had the operation several years ago and is doing fine....
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 07/14/08 21:52:17 EDT

QC: Good luck with the back opeation. My cousin's son is supposed to get a bad disk replaced with a used one this fall, I didn't know they could do that.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 07/14/08 22:11:27 EDT

Quenchcrack, Praying that all goes well with the fusion.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 07/14/08 22:26:43 EDT

QC: Best of luck to you!

Re: The head and heart thing. Yeah, I can relate. Then I try to figger out why I care. My wife has a "flawless" diamond! Really comes down to "under what power microscope" doesn't it?
   - grant - Monday, 07/14/08 22:32:20 EDT

QC, I hope for all the best on your trip!
Maybe the fusion will solve the head/heart dilemma and you'll come home to work on an anvil you know and love.
I've a dead flat Hay Budden and a swayback Peter Wright, they both work great for certain things.
   blackbart - Monday, 07/14/08 23:21:33 EDT

Grateful..to Guru & helpers.

7 years since I first discovered your website. I'm amazed to see the daily commitment & dedication. You've helped me from beginner to professional. I kid you not when I say that your advise as paid off in a huge way. I raise my hammer to you.

I've been teaching for a few years and giving many public demos at a number of historic sites. Every now & then people ask me about "scale". I forget some of the details. Is it iron oxide or carbon oxide? Is it the chemical reaction of air forming carbon due to the high heat/water/iron mix? How does it form?

I can't seem to find the answers anywhere.

   Louis - Tuesday, 07/15/08 01:07:36 EDT

Q.C. Best of luck to you on the surgery and God Speed on the recovery. Give yourself time to heal. I had my L4-5 and S1 fused after falling off a ladder. Other than the 20 pound weight lift limit and a bit of nerve tingle, I'm doing well. Instead of selling off equipment, my wife was sympathetic to my buying a power hammer, and I have acquired several lifting devices to get around the weight lift limit. I do find I am better off working at a higher height than I used to so I don’t have to bend over; bigger casters on the layout-weld table and a new and higher anvil stand for example.
   Bob Johnson - Tuesday, 07/15/08 01:19:00 EDT

Louis, scale is IRON oxide. Except that it forms at a higher temperature, it is similar to common rust. The carbon in the steel that is oxidized is often given off as Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide but in VERY small quantities. Iron has three common oxidation states and will form FeO, Fe2O3 and Fe3O4 but they are all called iron oxide.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 07/15/08 08:12:51 EDT

To all, thank you for your good wishes. I will probably be out of touch all next week but God willing, I will be able to sit a the computer shortly thereafter. As for the anvil, yeah, I know the Ductile iron is probably far more serviceable than wrought with a steel face. I am not yet convinced that the Russian anvils are ductile iron. When I drilled the hole for chemistry analysis, the chips came off in curls. As I recall, cast iron tends to form short chips.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 07/15/08 08:24:26 EDT

Scale. . should have had that one in the glossary. Tis now. Its the obvious that is easy to overlook.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/15/08 09:25:44 EDT

QC-- Be patient and cut yourself a lot of slack. What surgeons call minor usually is not, I have found. Muscles and tendons can take a lonnnnnng time to heal, especially after a certain age. And following the physical therapy regimen is totally important.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 07/15/08 09:56:55 EDT

QC- Ditto what Miles said. I had a partial knee replacement last month and it is slow & easy for me. I dont seem to heal as quick as I did 20 years ago either. :) Good luck.
   Brian C - Tuesday, 07/15/08 11:14:06 EDT

QuenchCrack; ask the Dr what you can do during your healing time so the rest of your body doesn't "slack-off" too. A lot easier to come back if everything's not gone to pot as well.

You may want to look into yoga as an ongoing help for your spine too, *after* you heal of course. Hunt down someone who can work with you on what changes to the classical positions may be required.

Scale: I'm saving quite a bit of my scale to use as ore for a bloomery and as a polishing compound for medieval items, though powdered roman tile is mentioned by Theophilus, I'll try terracotta pots for that.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/15/08 11:34:56 EDT

...and I agree with Miles about the physical therapy part. My PT took care of the muscle in the left leg while not in use. If I didn't have that, the leg wouldn't be able to handle my weight once I got on it. Plus, my PT was a cutie! Hope QC doesn't get a big hairy burly man for his PT.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 07/15/08 11:36:37 EDT


As Thomas says, yoga is good. My experience is with tai chi. In 1984, I was teaching at Haystack in Maine, and Mary Greene was taking another craft class. At our first all-student meeting, she said that she would be teaching the form every morning at 7:00AM before breakfast, and then she performed the Yang Short Form as developed by Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching. That got me hooked and got me started. I completed learning the form with other teachers when I returned home. It normally takes 7 to 8 minutes to run through the form. I use it for health and body toning. There are also associated exercises and postures called chi kung (qi gong).

Miles and I keep telling each other we are 29 and holding.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/15/08 12:49:55 EDT

Those excersizes should come with a "MADE IN CHINA" label.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 07/15/08 13:56:36 EDT

At one point, a tai chi student said, "This feels foreign." The teacher responded, "It IS foreign!"
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/15/08 14:28:24 EDT

Iron oxides:
QC, I can see four types of iron oxides, but maybe two of them are the same.
1) Rust
2) Scale
3) The common black color (same as scale?)
4) And then there's often a thin, reddish, coating on parts of a piece that shows up very soon after the piece cools. It doesn't look like rust, but maybe it's not fully finished?

And how about a 5th - Temper colors? Isn't that some kind of oxide? Is it the thickness that changes color with temperature?

   - Marc - Tuesday, 07/15/08 14:38:43 EDT

Marc: As I understand it, the "temper" colors are caused by the thickness of the oxide.

That reddish forge oxide only happens when you are using a nice low red (propper) finnishing heat.
   - grant - Tuesday, 07/15/08 14:52:35 EDT

do you know how to foge spurs? or where i can find a good tutorial?
thanks a lot
   cassio - Tuesday, 07/15/08 15:23:09 EDT

Iron Oxides: At 600C and 1 atmosphere pressure of O2 for 100 minutes, it is reported that the scale is composed of two layers; an inner layer of FeO equal in weight to an outer Fe3O4 layer. At 1000C for 25 minutes, a three layer scale is composed of 95% FeO, 1% Fe3O4, and less than 1% Fe2O3. Below 570C, FeO is unstable and if any is formed above this temperature it decomposes at room temperature to Fe3O4 + Fe. Below about 400C, some results indicate that the scale may consis mostly of Fe3O4 and some Fe2O3. Know you know the rest of the story....
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 07/15/08 15:33:29 EDT


My thoughts will be with you next week.

I'd read somewhere that the reddish forge oxide was caused be scale being reduced to small particles of iron, when then instantly rusted to Fe2O3. Maybe it's actually FeO that decomposes. At least it makes sense to me that the Fe would form in very small particles, and that they would rust very quickly.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 07/15/08 17:00:49 EDT

Quench, my thoughts and wishes will be with you. Follow the doc's orders and the rehab will be quicker. Good luck.
   ptree - Tuesday, 07/15/08 18:47:28 EDT

Sorry to interupt things I just had a quick question. The bituminous coal I am using burns down to one hudge blob of clinkers that wad up and make a hudge nest right by the twerer. This happens every time I forge and makes it difficuld to give the fire air. It is also quite difficult to forge weld in. Do you think I need a different grade of coal or is this natral? THANKS EVERYONE
   - John L. - Tuesday, 07/15/08 20:23:21 EDT

John L.
It is natural, but if you need a better grade of coal depends on how quickly the clinker forms. I notice you say it's "difficult" to forgeweld, not impossible. Without seeing the set up you might have fire management problems.
   JimG - Tuesday, 07/15/08 20:51:15 EDT

A good but out of print book is "How to Make Bits and Spurs" by Robert M. Hall, 1985.

How-to-videos and dvd's run into money but are worth it in the long run, if you are serious about spur making.

For a California style emphasis: www.ranch2arena.com
This website is run by Jeremiah Watt, and he used to sell a video titled, "Cowboy Bit and Spur Making." It may still be available, and it is excellent. Phone 559-935-2172.

For a Texas style emphasis: www.prosaddles.com/instructionalvideos.html Bruce Cheaney has two spur making videos available.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/15/08 21:43:57 EDT

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