Introduction: Railway Iron Anvil

Picture of Railway Iron Anvil

Inspired by a few designs on here and elsewhere I decided to try and make an anvil using a bit of scrap iron I found on the farm. Even if it's practical application is limited it was still fun to make, and at worst I can dismantle it and I will have a couple of attractive doorstops!!

What you need

A scrap bit of railway iron, I would say at least 30 cm long to start with
Tek screws
Optional - tree trunk (and saw to cut shelf), mounting plate from scrap steel, small castor wheels


Grinder - I used a 125cm and 230 cm grinder to cut the horn
Die grinder or files to smooth cuts
oxy torch to cut curves, or find a mate who is happy to do it for you.
grinder flap discs - I used 40,60,80,120
Optional - welder

Step 1:

Picture of

This Instructable involves using angle grinders, oxy torches and welders and assumes that the reader can operate this equipment safely.

Get your bit of iron and roughly mark out your design, Then get an oxy torch and cut it to your liking. Personally, I have no idea how to use an oxy so asked someone who does to use their equipment to do it for me. I did initially also try and cut the curves progressively with a grinder which didn't look too bad but I decided to to get them tidied up with the oxy.

At this stage I had tried shaping the horn by using a grinder but it doesn't look that great.

Step 2:

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Next step is to just tidy up the oxy cuts which were pretty jagged. I used a die grinder to get rid of the worst of this but a hand file would work as well

Step 3:

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I decided that I didn't like the horn so used a cutting disc on both my angle grinders to re shape it.

I then decided to tidy up the top and ended up going a mad on the finish using the grinder flap discs - not sure how long it will last!! I started with 40 and went through to 120 grit.

One side of the horn has a sharp edge and the other is rounded

Step 4:

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I probably shouldn't have done this before I polished it up, but I decided to

1. Drill a hole in the anvil
2. Drill some mounting holes - in hindsight, bigger holes and using better bolts would have probably looked a lot better than tek screws.....

I then decided to take inspiration from another Instructable I found ( and a couple of others I found on the net to finish things off and provide a bit more flexibility.

I mounted the anvil in a tree trunk together with another bit of iron mounted vertically - the vertical iron is welded to a scrap of steel to provide more fixing points to the tree trunk. I then put wheels on the back so that it was portable around the shed when tipped backwards......

I found that the vertically mounted iron is much quieter when being hit.

Hope this is useful to someone.


DanielR34 made it! (author)2017-03-18

Great idea, thanks :)

rodgerbooth (author)2016-11-30

that's about the toughest metal I've ever cut. that's as good as its going to get lol tada

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-08-02

Don't "borrow" (steal) from an active section of track, sure way to
cause a derailment disaster. (A Federal crime in the US and Canada, and most countries.) And if you can carry a full length section of track, your name is Kal-El, and you're from Krypton...

If you buy sections of rail from scrap
dealers, you can (and SHOULD) get a receipt.

Used railway spikes are
available in bulk to small quantities from a few dealers on eBay, and
can be used if heated in a charcoal or wood fire, adding carbon to make
blades and tools...

dealers should indeed give receipts for things they sell!

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-08-02

Nice work. In order to get a larger flat surface, see a related Instructable on: ,
Another fine Instructable about anvil making. That one lets to know how to add a wider flat surface and then properly temper it to a hardness and anvil needs.

offgridder made it! (author)2015-11-21

Awesome. Great size for jewellery. Eats through a few grinding discs but well worth it!

omr0915 (author)2015-05-28

Please help me. Where could I find/ buy a piece of Railroad track?

noi1980 (author)omr09152015-08-18

На железной дороге)))) берёте ключ,пилу и вперёд)))

DJC2 (author)omr09152015-05-28

call round scrap yards, specialist scrap steel merchants and also check out farming mags/ websites.

Good luck

grannyjones (author)2015-06-17

A very nice size for jewelry making!

spazzylazzy98 made it! (author)2015-06-12

great idea

rwlarkins (author)2015-06-02

What a great Instructable. I have had a 16 inch (40mm) piece of RR rail for years and used it as an anvil numerous times and thought about cutting/grinding it into more of a traditional anvil shape. It looks excellent! Guess I better get out my torch and grinder.

al3may (author)2015-05-31

awesome job, I've been looking for a nice chunk of rail to do this. Great instructable.

Steelsmith1 (author)2015-05-31

Rails are made of a carbon steel that can be hardened. I had an inquiry about making chasing tools from mild steel. Mild steel is not the best material for that. If you look up Superquench in the internet you can get a formula that will make it fairly hard, but the tools will not be as good as other tools. Joining SOFA if you live in the Quad State Area is a good thing. Many people there can tell you how to make the tools, but overhead door spring steel is suitable for small chasing tools. Straighten, heat to dull red and cool slowly. cut to length and grind tools. If forged they should be heated again to a dull red and cooled slowly. Heat the front of the tool just hotter than where it loses magnetism and quench vertically in oil, then polish and heat to a dark blue or put in an oven or taster oven at 400 F. for an hour and turn off the oven and let them slowly cool. Polish and you will have good tools if they are properly shaped. SOFA members can show you just what to do.

KimC9 (author)2015-05-30

Well, my reply to someone below didn't transfer, but the gist of what I was trying to say is that you did a really nice job on the anvil!! Congrats!

Someone else was looking for rail pieces. You can often find them, and sometimes whole REAL anvils as well at farm/ranch auctions. I've seen 8 or so of them come up at auctions over the past few years here, in central Wyoming. Sometimes you can find already made tools, tongs pliers, scrolling forks, etc. at these auctions. A friend of mine went to an auction where he bought a whole box full of tools for me fo about 12 dollars. It was a steal! The tools when new would have cost 4 or 5 hundred dollars! You never know what you'll find at farm auctions. Sometimes things go for outrageously high prices and sometimes you'll be surprised by how little you spend for a whole pile of very useful used tools! Keep up the good work!

bigidea13 (author)2015-05-29

I think you have done a fantastic job on this. As someone who has also made one I can really appreciate the amount of work involved. I did not have access to a torch when I started mine but being bull headed as I am was determined and used only cut-off wheels and grinding wheel ( I have some bad ass ceramic based grinding wheel made by 3M). Nice job as well with mounting them to the stump. I had not considered mounting one upright like that. I like the way that it adds versatility to the set up. Nice job.

Dr_Stupid (author)2015-05-28

As an FYI this is generally only good for soft metals. An anvil generally must have a hardened work face to be practical. That doesn't mean this can't be used just that you'll spend more time beating the metal and reconditioning your anvil if you're going to work with it

mdeblasi1 (author)Dr_Stupid2015-05-28

Do you suppose you can heat harden your anvil face just like you'd heat harden any mild steel?
Or is it so massive that you'd spend a fortune in gas just getting it up to temperature.
Somehow I am thinking that only the surface needs to brought up to temperature, and if steel is not ductile that could happen, but if it is like copper, without a kiln it could never happen.
Let me know what you think, I am really interested in making myself some raising stakes for hollow forming

bigidea13 (author)mdeblasi12015-05-29

you absolutely can harden the work surface of the track. As you stated it would require a massive amount of gas to bring it to a non magnetic state. I would suggest the use of coal with a blower or bellows of some fashion. Heat the track to a non magnetic state and quench just the work surface leaving the base to cool naturally. While you can't control how hard the surface will be or how deep it will harden it while the heat left in the lower portion will help to keep it durable. Yes there are more scientific ways to do this but this is a homemade anvil we are talking about and backyard metallurgy. It will work, I have seen the results firsthand.

Steelsmith1 (author)mdeblasi12015-05-28

The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alex Weygers, a fine book, shows how to harden the face of a rail anvil and make one. It's reasonably priced at places like Amazon. It was written as 3 books around 1970 or so.

mdeblasi1 (author)Steelsmith12015-05-28

I'm new to the use of Steel, mostly I use copper silver and gold, but I'd like to make some of my own tools.
I've seen chasing tools made from steel rod, I thought it was mild steel, but maybe I misheard.
The steel was heated up to a particular color to anneal it,
it was ground into shape, then heated to another color and quenched in water immediately to harden it.
I wondered if that sort of thing would work for this application.
I'll look up the book,
I'm also considering joining the Southern Ohio Founders and Forgers Assn. (SOFA)

stihl88 (author)mdeblasi12015-05-28

Ive heard one way of achieving a hardened face on these railway anvils is to build up a layer of weld with a particular alloy "Arc/stick rod" to say 5mm thick then slowly grind it back to achieve a smooth surface .

neffk (author)stihl882015-05-28

You can weld on hard-facing rod. It takes a certain amount of time... BTW, you can't properly harden mild steel. There may be some way to case harden it but generally mild steel isn't used for applications where hardness is required.

peterc4 (author)2015-05-28

I made a little rail anvil. Its fantastic but it rings like crazy. Use hearing protection. Trust me.

bigidea13 (author)peterc42015-05-29

try placing a magnet on the side of the rail. It doesn't have to be super powerful. I have seen the round magnet from a speaker work well. Don't ask me to explain the physics behind it but it works.

Hogsbreath (author)2015-05-29

That is bad-ass....excluding the rail, how much do you think you spent for materials making it? the way, I just posted it to a bunch of prepper-type groups on Facebook.

DJC2 (author)Hogsbreath2015-05-29

thanks - in terms of costs I probably used the best part of a couple of cutting discs on my grinders, one 125mm and one 230mm and then the 4 sanding discs which are still useable plus a few tech screws. If I went out and bought everything new then probably about A$30?


raptor_demon (author)2015-05-29

thats pretty cool.

Quanah (author)2015-05-25

I've been wanting a piece of rail for years, where did you acquire yours?

randone (author)Quanah2015-05-28

I have found some in small sections while walking along the local tracks, only needing to walk for a couple miles to find a good amount of thing I was looking for, including a small, broken piece of rail (just over a foot long) discarded in a ditch with some tie plates that were bent up a bit too. I've been told by a former Union Pacific employee that the company doesn't really care as long as you aren't pulling up good rail to scrap or taking whole sections set aside for future repairs.

gonads81 (author)2015-05-28

what if you welded two pieces of railway track together then you would have a larger more sturdy anvil. You could either grind the joining tops square on one side each so they butt up or you could run a few beads of hard facing rods down the join and grind flat.

DJC2 (author)gonads812015-05-28

Great idea - any way to increase the surface area without compromising the mass of what you are hitting is the way to go. Might see if I can dig some more up.

Mickleblade (author)2015-05-27

there's always loads of rail just lying around, usually in long strips, don't think it's a good idea just to take though!

tnetcenter (author)Mickleblade2015-05-28

I bought a 49 lb chunk for around $14 - $15 at a local metal salvage yard. You don't need to steal it, buy it.

tnetcenter (author)2015-05-28

Here's a couple of pictures of an anvil I made for working on jewelry. It started as a 49 lb piece of rail. I had a welder friend flame cut it to shape and then I started grinding and polishing it. These pics were taken right after that initial grinding. I have since polished it up and refined the shape a bit more and it's in regular use.

tnetcenter (author)2015-05-28

You would've been better off mounting the anvil on top of the other vertical piece of rail. That would have given you much better mass under the anvil.

As far as hardening and annealing, that can be done, but it's not easy to heat up a large chuck of rail until it's red-hot and then air cool it to anneal or oil quench it to harden it.

Railroad track is already pretty hard stuff to start with. A friend wanted to machine the top flat on a rail anvil he made. After burning up several bits, he realized that to do what he was attempting to do would require annealing the anvil first. So he made a little alcove out of firebrick surrounding his anvil and then heated it up to cherry red and rather than quench it in water, he packed insulation around it and let it cool slowly. Did the machining, and then heated it up again and quenched in motor oil to re-harden it.

Best piece of rail to get is one that has been in service on a main line - it will be work hardened to the point that just grinding it down and polishing it will be a major task especially w/o annealing it.

neffk (author)2015-05-28

This is a nice combination setup. In general, despite its popularity and the attractive result you achieved, railroad track doesn't work very well for an anvil. The mass under the hammer blow isn't very much and the web flexes and makes your work bounce. The best use of a section of railroad track is to stand it on end and use as a post anvil---which you've kinda-sorta done. The post anvil would be much better if it were 2x longer. But who cares, right? I have a scrap-metal anvil myself. It's not the best but it gets me by.

Steelsmith1 (author)2015-05-28

I remember when my friend, GB made one of these 40 years ago. He was as tough a man as I ever knew. He cut the rail in two using a hacksaw and 2 blades; when it was most of the way through he broke it with a sledge. We cut the web with an oxy/acetylene torch and heated the end for the horn in my home built coal forge and we sledged it into the horn. on my anvil No angle grinder, he ground it on a hard stone grinder and made it near perfect, smoothed it with a belt sander I think. He did a beautiful job, sold it later, is a wonderful blacksmith today.

MichaelG9 (author)2015-05-28

The rail rings so loud because it is all hardened.

Hit it on the small end and it has more time to expel it's energy as the anvil is now really tall.

Quiet anvils use a softer cast iron for the base and core with a hardened steel surface, something like 1/2 to 1" thick.

dr_jing (author)2015-05-28

I love this! I inherited a short section of RR track with my home. I've used it as an anvil (as well as a fulcrum point, gate stop, etc.), but never thought to modify it into a more useful shape. Kudos! I will be doing this!

billandritsch (author)2015-05-28

Nice job. I found when I made mine I used my my portable belt sander to smooth the top, worked really well.

Bloodbeard (author)2015-05-28

Nice! Looks very professional. I'm inspired to cut and grind my railroad "anvil" now. I've just been using it for smaller pieces or for guests that want to try their hand and banging out some metal while I use my main anvil.

rien.brand (author)2015-05-28

Nice project, I go to make a copy, thanks for the idee!

DJC2 (author)2015-05-28

Thanks for all the comments - definitely best to procure some that has already made its way far from an actual railway line!! Definitely a commodity that gets bought and sold regularly here, especially amongst farmers.....expensive now, but not uncommon to see old farm sheds built out of the stuff....

Brock_M (author)2015-05-28

Awesome idea

Madman146 (author)2015-05-27

Wow, really nice for your next project you should do some metal working

The Rambler (author)2015-05-27

This is really great. I'd love to get some of this to get my own setup started.

charlesd.parker.33 (author)2015-05-26

In years past, I too made one of these, although I must say, your anvil is nicer looking than the one I made. Also, smaller rail from the size you used is sometimes available where mining was done. It also makes some nice stuff like this.

Rahdzhillaxxx (author)2015-05-26

Wow. Just wow.

Ticklebot (author)2015-05-25

Awesome. Totally going to do this.

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