Curtain Weight Anvil made in late 2007

I have to say that there are so many articles, books and ruminations about anvils that you are probably wondering what I have to say that would be new or of interest.

If you were to ask that guys that know me they would tell you that I have an opinion about everything and of course I am willing to share it. Anvils are no different. I own three at HHF, a Peter Wright – 142 Pdr, a Harbor Freight 110 Pdr (This is one of the steel cast ones before they started getting the ones with a welded plate on top) and my curtain weight anvil. I know what is a curtain weight anvil, we will get to it. I used my Russian HF anvil since 2000 and while it doesn’t see work everyday it was the anvil that I used at HHF when I worked on the weekends and afternoons. In fact it was better than my first anvil at work for about a year. I purchased a  NC Calvary 112 Pdr in 2001 at work, prior to that my anvil was a 50 lb ballast weight by the name of Fairbanks. It still serves today as a bench top anvil and I use is often for both hot and cold work.
Now I really enjoy using my Peter Wright anvil as it has a nice round and more slender horn than the wider one on the Russian. My NC at work is round but fatter than the PW, but it is fine for the work I do there. My curtain weight anvil I made in 2006 (I have 2007 in the photo caption – it’s a typo) and it weighs in at about 280 lbs. That’s a pretty solid block to be bouncing off of. It has an unconventional configuration that allows it to be used for some forming and bending between the tabs. It holds a block of wood that I use for dishing cups, pans, leaves and other such items. It serves me well.

So what does it mean – I like to tell those just starting out or thinking about purchasing a new or used anvil that an anvil doesn’t need to look like a London pattern anvil. Anvils can be made out of pretty much anything. The single most important thing is that they have flat surface large enough to work on and enough mass to make your work yield to your hammer blows.

Railroad Track, I have had two, ooopppps I forgot about them. I gave one away and I still have the other. I don’t use them much. My nephews both made leaves on one of my Christmas visits a few years ago. It worked just fine. I find that they ping a lot for the amount of work they do. I was talking to a Gentleman at a Blacksmith Guild of Virginia meeting in 2004 or 2005 and he explained to me that if I stood a piece of railroad track on its end it would yield much more resistance to my hammer blows and be so much more efficient as an anvil. I have forgotten his name and I am truly grateful for the information that he gave me, but I have to admit that after a half hour of mathematical formulas on the mass x velocity x surface x depth of the mass, etc. I was somewhat relieved when they called Iron in the Hat. The gist of what he was putting out to me was that my railroad track stood on it’s end securely anchored to the ground would yield the same resistance as a 300 Lb anvil over the 16 square inches of track face used for hammering. He convinced me and I have tried it and found that railroad track works better on end than right side up, with less ping to boot.

So my point here is that some Colonial anvils were flat and square with no horn. The used bickerns, fullers and other tools to manipulat the hot metal. Many Anvils in the early years certainly were no more than a larger mass of Iron to beat hotter Iron on.

“An Anvil doesn’t have to look like an Anvil as we know its shape today”. Engine blocks, any large mass of steel, preferably a tool steel, but any will do. Keep your metal hot and it will move! Today we have become somewhat lazy about keeping our work hot because the steel used in our anvils has improved so much that we can work the metal to a cooler temperature without much effect on the anvil face. It wasn’t always like that.

This is the Russian Anvil I purchased from HF – The hammer is a masons hammer – one of my favorites

So as you can see I actually use non conventional anvils as well as traditional anvils. I will post a picture of my ballast anvil when I get one. I still use it today and was using it today 23 August 2012 as a matter of fact. I made a support bracket for a sign post to dress it up a little at the same time.

Well there’s my rant on Anvils – I like I said I own and use an assortment of them. Naturally better steel makes for a better Anvil, but if you are just starting out or looking for something different, look around. The best tool in your shop is your Head!
See ya at the Forge!

Vince

PS. Curtain weights are used in theatres – it keeps them nice and tight.

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