Ever wanted to make a spoon ring, or other fun metalworking project, and found that you really needed something to hammer on? Something with a nice conical shape, doesn't need to be big... but it needs to be sturdy and smooth. A jeweler's anvil would sure be nice to have! But they don't grow on trees*...
I had that same problem. I did not have a jeweler's anvil. What I did have was plenty of second hand shops nearby, and when I visited them, I kept seeing old cobber's lasts there. They were often as cheap as 5 euros! Surely it must be possible to customise one into the shape I wanted?
Reader, I bought one. And I turned it into exactly the anvil I wanted. And it was easy and fun and you can do it, too!
* and for safety reasons, that might actually be for the best
Step 1: In Which the Last Comes First
First of all, you'll need a cobbler's last, also known as a shoemaker's last. They can often be bought for very little money. It doesn't have to be fancy, or any specific type. Just get yourself a last.
In the pictures, you'll see mine. It was made in Tegelen and the brand is De Globe. But that doesn't matter.
- Angle grinder with cutting disk and grinding disk
- Power file or if you don't have one, angle grinder with flap disk
- Hearing protection
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Sturdy gloves
- Dust mask
This project took me a couple of hours at most. It can certainly be done in a day.
Step 2: In Which Wheels Start Spinning
The first tool you'll need is your trusty angle grinder, equipped with a cutting disk (the thin one). Make sure the last is firmly placed in your vise, with the largest 'foot' on top and horizontal.
And wear your safety gear. Don't forget the dust mask or you'll be tasting and smelling iron for two days.
Start by marking two lines, as shown, that will eventually become the rough shape of your new anvil. Once you are happy with the lines, cut deeper. Tilt your angle grinder towards the center of the 'foot' so you'll be cutting diagonally; down and outward, not straight down. This brings you closer to the right shape and you'll need to cut less! Win-win, as they say.
Step 3: In Which More Sparks Fly
Once you have cut off both 'side flaps' of the foot, it's time to remove the cutting disk from the angle grinder and swap it for a grinding disc (the thicker kind where you use the side of the disc, not the edge). Use that to grind down the top edges of your newly formed pointy shape.
You want the shape to be more or less a hexagon if you look at it from a nose-to-nose position. Because eventually you'll want to end up with a circle, and a hexagon is not at all a bad step on the way there.
If you can get closer to that round shape while using the angle grinder, so much the better. You'll be saving yourself time on the next step.
Step 4: In Which the Power File Is Your Friend
Now it's time for the power file to finish things up! You're aiming for a round conical shape, so remove everything that isn't that.
A nice trick is to slide the hole in your cutting disk (sans angle grinder) around the pointy shape, and look at it head on so it's easier to see what needs to be removed still.
Keep at it until the whole 'beak' feels round and smooth. This took me no more than an hour and a half or so.
Step 5: In Which Things Come to a Pointy End
When is your anvil finished? When YOU feel that it is. This is your tool to use, you get to decide what it looks like.
Are you done? Congratulations! Now secure your anvil in a vise (or use a clamp or any other method), grab a nice spoon or fork and try it out. Go make some noise, and create something nice. Have fun!