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Anvils in America - THE anvil book.

Blacksmithing and metalworking questions answered.

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Anvils in America, THE book about anvils

Waving US Flag U.S. Independence Day, July 4th 2001

Article by Jock Dempsey
Video by Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson - July 4th, 2001
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Anvil Shoot at 1999 Spring Fling, BGOP
AnvilCAM Streaming Video
Anvil Shooting has been a part of American Independence Day celebrations since the founding of the United States.

Today, only blacksmiths carry on this old tradition. It is OUR fireworks display. It is a symbol of the ideals and freedom that exists in few other places the way it does here.

Blacksmiths! Keeping our traditions alive.

Photo (c) 1999 by Jock Dempsey -
Anvil Shoot Setup
The setup here is well practiced. The heavy plate under the "base" anvil keeps it steady and prevents it from being buried in soft ground. The "fuse" is an angle iron ramp that is securely held in place. Both anvils are old wrought iron types that are unlikely to fracture due to brittleness. A small measured quantity of black powder is used for the charge and the fuse.

anvilfire! NEWS Volume 12 - Page 8, Spring Fling, April 1999

Photo (c) 1999 by Jock Dempsey -
Preparing to light the fuse
Once Setup and the all clear is given the fuse is lit.
Photo (c) 1999 by Jock Dempsey -
Fuse Burning
Black Powder makes a great cloud of white smoke! On this setup a small piece of fuse leads to the black powder to assure sufficient time to get a safe distance away.
Photo (c) 1999 by Jock Dempsey -
Anvil Shoot at Spring Fling, BGOP

We tried to photograph the shoot three times this day. The explosion makes you flinch even when you know its coming. Paw-Paw expecting the anvil to fly high in the sky jerked his video camera up nearly vertical the first time!. Since we were looking through the lens each time it was difficult to know the peak height. It turned out to be 20 to 25 feet on this day and we both caught it perfectly on the third try!

Photo (c) 2001 by Randall Guess -
Anvil Shoot at the South Eastern Regional Blacksmiths Conference, Madison GA, 2001
IN Spite of anvil shooting being a long standing blacksmithing tradition the shoot above in Madison resulted in a controversy that took years to settle. ABANA (the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America) has had long standing rules that outlawed shoots at ABANA sponsored events. For more information see our NEWS coverage anvilfire! NEWS Vol. 30 page 8.

Ironically, the first anvil shoot I attended was at the 1982 ABANA conference at Cedar Lakes, West Virginia.

NOTICE! These are NOT instructions on how to perform an anvil shoot. Any activity using explosives is inherently dangerous and should only be carried out by trained personnel. Use of pyrotechnics may be regulated in your locality and be illegal. Do not attempt this at home!

SAFETY UPDATE - On Saturday June 4th 2011 Tim Ryan and others were injured at the Farmington Missouri U.S. Championship Anvil Shooting competition. There was an early ignition of the gun powder when Tim lit the fuse with his cigar. It is reported that Tim lost a thumb and members of the Discovery Chanell film crew had minor burns. The injured parties were air lifted to the nearest hospital. Luckily there were no fatalities. The competition winner in the traditional category launched his anvil 202 feet.

Tim Ryam is well known in the blacksmithing community as an auctioneer and for his anvil shoots. He is featured in our news article linked above.

Competition shooting for height is a lot different than celebratory anvil shooting. Celebratory shoots only lift the anvil between a foot and 20 feet or so. Competition shoots launch a 100 pound anvil well over 100 feet using 1 pound of black powder. While both have many of the same hazzards the amount of powder and the distance are much greater in competition shoots.

Shooters claim that anvils always go straight up and come down within in a few feet of where they are launched. In fact they have occassionally been known to strike the base anvil on landing. But this is not the same as shooting a cannon and many things can go awry. Theoreticaly the anvil can go almost as far sideways as it is expected to go vertical.

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