Introduction: Railway Line Anvil

Picture of Railway Line Anvil

This Instructable describes how I made a small anvil for light forging work. It is made from a lump of railway line standing on end, welded to a plate of steel and firmly mounted to a hardwood stump.

Step 1: Technological Ingredients

Picture of Technological Ingredients

Tools required:

Something to abrade steel with, I used a file and an angle grinder

A welder of some variety. I used a basic stick welder, though a MIG would have been easier to use.

Wood butchering equipment. I used a chainsaw and a hatchet but there are many other tools that could work

Drill - electric or otherwise

Heavy hammer

File card

Ring spanner

Chipping hammer

Personal Protective Equipment

Welding mask with correct filter glass - wear this when welding, obviously.

Protective clothing - Wear tough, close fitting, non flammable clothing when working with hot, heavy, sharp or fast moving things.

Protective footwear - This should be strong and non-flammable so they stop your feet being crushed and burned as badly.

Safety Glasses - May as well wear these the whole time, it's amazing how often stuff bounces off them.

Ear muffs - or other hearing protection. Wear when using loud tools.


A lump of railway line or other heavy steel section. Finding this can be difficult if you don't want to spend too much cash but scrap metal dealers are a possibility. Looking around railway tracks may be dangerous and illegal depending on where you live.

A piece of heavy steel plate. This spreads the impact loads over a larger area of the wooden stand, increasing the effectiveness of the anvil somewhat. It also makes it easier to mount. I used a railway fish plate which is convenient because it already has mounting holes.

Step 2: Prepare the Parts

Picture of Prepare the Parts

Since I was using recycled steel I needed to remove the surface rust in order to achieve a reasonable weld. I used a chipping hammer and wire brush to remove the loose stuff, then the angle grinder to get back to bare metal. I marked an outline of the rail section onto the plate with a marker to show me what area to concentrate on.

On the end of the railway line to be welded I ground a heavy chamfer to aid weld penetration. When the parts were ground clean I test fitted them, removing more steel where necessary to get a close fit.

Step 3: Tack and Weld

Picture of Tack and Weld

With the parts fitted together, I attached the earth clamp of my welder to a cleaned patch of the rail and tack welded the parts together. I then used the chipping hammer to remove the weld slag and checked that everything was still well fitted. When I was happy with it I proceeded to stitch weld the parts together fully.

Welding stuff this heavy properly would probably require more power than can be supplied by a basic 240v AC single phase stick welder. In this application however, the strength of the weld is not particularly crucial. I didn't have any electrodes other than these quite small ones on hand, so I invented the trick you see here in the second picture. It worked well enough for me, but I'm not a welder.

Step 4: Stumping

Picture of Stumping

To work properly, the anvil needs to be mounted on something heavy and resilient. Other criteria might include availability and theoretical portability as was the case for me. I used a section of a Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) log into which I cut a step. To do this I mostly used a chainsaw, and fine tuned the fit to the anvil with a hatchet.

WARNING: Chainsaws are really really dangerous and like to bite. Don't chop any limbs off or anything please.

Other combinations of concrete, steel and timber would also work well as an anvil stand. A good mounting will increase the effectiveness of the anvil and reduce noise.

I used some small pieces of steel plate and coach screws to attach the rail to the upright section of the stump. I also hammered steel spikes through the holes in the fish plate and bent them over.

Behind the new anvil on the top of the stump, I cut a notch and hammered in a small piece of light gauge rail. This provides more useful edges and surfaces on which to hit things.

I have not used this anvil extensively yet and I'm sure it will be modified later on. It does however seem to be pretty useful, and is good value for the effort required to make it.

Step 5: New Ideas

Picture of New Ideas

Well I've used this anvil a bit now and its limitations have caught up with me. The pictures below show a possible design, again using railway line. Ignore the shape of the horn, I'm still getting used to this CAD software. If you can't make sense of it, it's two sections of rail, on end, with the upper flanges together. This gives me a very well supported forging face of aout 70x80mm, just from the ends of the upper flanges. The brown parts would be welded on to give addtional area for straightening and bending. These would not stand up to heavy blows but would not really need to.

This design was derived from discussions on the Anvilfire discussion forum, with input from a number of members including the Anvilfire Guru. See the archived messages here, click on June 1 - 7, 2007 log.

Would halving the length of the upright sections reduce performance considerably? the second picture has tentative dimensions.
Any other comments?

I added another drawing showing a second possibilty, involving a single upright section with a continuous face/horn piece welded on. Which is better?

I decidd to go with the heavier option. No photos of construction unfortunately. The parts were cut using an oxygen/acetylene cutting torch and partially finished with an angle grinder. Welding was done with a MIG welder. My future holds quite a few more hours with an angle grinder.


blacksmithboy (author)2017-10-06

I'm got a piece from the scrap yard

2 stroke (author)2010-06-21

where did you get the rail way piece from

Decriment (author)2 stroke 2011-07-28

Railroad track prolly... You should totally get a cutting torch and cut through a track near you. Just don't get caught by the po-po. And always remember to wear a helmet. SAFETY FIRST!

720545 (author)Decriment2017-05-04

You can generally find spare parts just lying around train tracks. No need to possibly cause a derailment

curvy77 (author)Decriment2011-12-03

if u do that make sure its an abandoned railway.

curvy77 (author)2011-12-03

lol nice anvil man. much better than mine. all i had to begin with was a few stumps and some bricks.......bricks werent smart (lol) and the stump only worked when it didnt fall over.

otterstedt (author)2011-07-28

Rails work great as anvil! I build a simpler Version some 30 years ago. And I still use it ;-)

RangerJ (author)otterstedt2011-10-20

I like it. It is very similiar to the one I have on this site. Rails do make good anvils.

RangerJ (author)2011-10-20


rimar2000 (author)2011-08-04

Good instructable, thanks for sharing. I am doing something similar, but I have no cutting torch, I must to pay the work.

Blaaken (author)2009-10-22

i think it would be awesome if someone actuallyposted lke a series on here about smithying, i'm 15 and want to learn but my parens don't reall want me learning that. but yeah, so  like if you posted one on making a forge, one on an anvil, also i don't thnk you made a part for bending the metal. but like so you could say how to make a forge, a quelching tank, exactly what type of hammers to use, and stufflike that so you could make a whole series of nstructables about only smithing!


Decriment (author)Blaaken2011-07-28

A quenching tank is self-explanatory lad. Find a container that your work could fit in and fill it with either oil or water depending on what you're doing, done. And if you've already read blacksmithing sites, then you should know what you're doing... So go do it you lazy bum.

Drewbaccaa (author)Blaaken2010-12-28

Why not try a blacksmithing site rather than instructables?

Blaaken (author)Drewbaccaa2010-12-29

when i posted that i meant it as in an actual site had an account on here basically and posted alot on here. i've used black smithing websites. also, everything i asked as an example, i already know lol

punkhead58 (author)2011-07-27

I use a 50lb Chinese-made cast iron anvil with a 1/4 inch mild steel plate JB Welded to the face. It works great for forging small knives and tools.

nurdee1 (author)2011-07-27

I use rails as anvils often. They work great.

The Metal One (author)2011-07-27

first off, im only 17 and havent done much blacksmithing. but my anvil is a half-inch galvinized angle bracket lag bolted to a stump. works great unless you get it too hot, then the galv gives off toxic fumes.

pyrotechnical (author)2008-12-10

Anyone know if a chunk of cast bronze would work for an anvil?

Leon Close (author)pyrotechnical2008-12-11

It would, but only for working metals softer than bronze, like silver or gold. Since bronze is relatively valuable, you could probably trade it to a scrap metal dealer for a larger lump of steel, which would make a better anvil.

or sell the bronze for a really good anvil b/c bronze is really expensive (7" x 10" x .25" piece costs around $25 and that's not for a new piece)

pyrotechnical (author)Leon Close2008-12-11

cool, I was going to cast an anvil shaped thing for an anvil, but i plan on working steel. But thanks anyway.

Drewbaccaa (author)pyrotechnical2009-12-30

It probably wouldnt work unles you have a really big foundry and the means to heat treat it properly. try this link

Kiernan (author)2010-12-10

Im just brainstorming here, I dont have access to any heavy woodworking tools or welding equipment right now. what if I chiseled a hole into the middle of a stump put the track in and cemented it in how long would it hold till the cement started to crumble

Wolframite (author)2010-08-30

I've done that before, fast and dirty, and long arcing like crazy to burn the slag out. It works, but it doesn't make for great welds. But when thats all you have, and the job has to get done now, you do it.

spylock (author)2010-01-05

Its illegal around here to have a peice of railroad track without a paper from the railroad saying that they gave it to you,I would love to have a peice,but itd be easier just buying an anvil,tip if youre buying an anvil,dont let them pass off cast iron for steel,take a hammer and hit the horn,if it rings youre good,if it clanks not so good.Although a cheap cast iron anvil is better than no anvil.

Deathcapt (author)2009-02-11

I'm thinking of just getting a chunk of railway, putting it into a large bucket, filling the bucket half way with concrete, and then being done. Is this a bad plan? will the concrete crack or what-ever if I'm smashing this home made anvil?

Drewbaccaa (author)Deathcapt2009-12-30

It would work for a bit then fall apart... try apoxy and add a bunch of filler rock so you dont need to buy too much

Leon Close (author)Deathcapt2009-02-11

You mean like this? I can't see why it wouldn't work. Coil up some steel reinforcing rod and put it in the bucket before you pour the concrete, should stop cracking.

Deathcapt (author)Leon Close2009-02-12

Yeah, good thinking with the reinforcing rod. I have to wait until the summer to get this set up at my new home, but I'm certainly looking forward to getting my forge on!

KronoNaut (author)2009-09-20

Here is another option.


sstought (author)2009-02-04

Concrete doesn't work as an anvil stand, unless its only for very light work or for a very short time. Its strong and heavy, but repeated pounding will slowly crack it inside. I wouldn't want an anvil to suddenly fall on me from the concrete giving out. Stumps or steel stands are your best bet.

scafool (author)2008-10-27

We used to be able to get rail cut offs like that. We used to just burn some holes in the lower flanges or gring notches into them so we could spike them down to a stump. The top were the train wheels rode is really hard.

thedog458 (author)2008-04-23

hey how did you make the little anvil because I'm 13 and do I a lot of smiting but I only need a small anvil and in not to wiling to use my money to by a anvil when I have railway line to use so how did you make it?

necropolian (author)thedog4582008-10-01

aha...another teenager who likes smithing... this makes me happy...what do you make, specifically? i only transform iron nails into little swords yet, and i just use the head of a big broken hammer. a big piece of solid iron will always work.

thedog458 (author)necropolian2008-10-02

i make daggers and sword but i cant any more because its summer and it will be way to hot where i live to make any thing with fire.

necropolian (author)thedog4582008-10-02

ahh oke. it's just, i don't know anyone around here that likes smithing and wants to practice it so i was interested. i'm now have to ask my parents permission to make a forge...

thedog458 (author)necropolian2008-10-24

well i would show you mine but i pulled it down im curntly makeing a new 1

Leon Close (author)thedog4582008-04-24

I didn't make it, I got it cut by someone using an oxy-acetylene torch. It's pretty hopeless for forging on, far too light. It might be ok for very fine work though. What sort of work are you doing?

thedog458 (author)Leon Close2008-04-26

not to heavy stuff just light stuff and sum medium.thanks anyway

Leon Close (author)thedog4582008-04-27

How big is the piece of railway line you're using? If it's at least 30cm or so long you would probably be best off mounting it as is shown in the Instructable. The end of the line is not a very big striking area, but it gives you a reasonably solid striking surface. An anvil horn is useful, but you can do plenty of interesting work with just a simple flat striking surface and a hammer.

panstar1 (author)2008-10-09

I made something like this but for mounting a vice ,I just bolted everything together by drilling and tapping thought. but I used a large flywheel from a large diesal engine as a foot & just drilled and tapped bolt holes to bolt the vice down. I never welded anything b/c I never had a wielder large enough at the time. But I have a older 250 amp stick wielder now but I never really needed to weld it anyway b/c I actually broke the vice & it still held together the only other thing I did was mount a grinder on it for general sharping and grinding .

pappyld04 (author)2007-12-01

The small pieces of iron you seek are always available if you are willing to ask a worker. With all the theft that happens here I just wait until they are work on something nearby then go and ask. At times I've spotted what I needed and other times I asked if they knew of it or have even walked the tracks until I found one. I'm sure this is the best way to abtain this iron since they throw it away into the ditches. As long as you don't get greedy or steal it they are just like you and I. They tinker at home also!!!

CanDo (author)2007-06-04

Cool, but where do you get the railway line to begin with?

bryanr01 (author)CanDo2007-09-07

There was an old Sante Fe rail line not far from my house that was unused for decades. A few years ago, the RR gave the land to the city, for use as a bike trial and to connect several parks. You might check your local Parks & Recreation department to see if there are plans like this in the works. Eeven though they tore out all the rail lines a few years ago, I have found dozens of spikes along the trail, which I use as practice blacksmithing projects.

Leon Close (author)CanDo2007-06-04

I'll quote step 2:

A lump of railway line or other heavy steel section. Finding this can be difficult if you don't want to spend too much cash but scrap metal dealers are a possibility. Looking around railway tracks may be dangerous and illegal depending on where you live.

I was given this piece, and I know of a fair few people with bits and pieces lying around. Ask around and you'll come up with something.

CanDo (author)Leon Close2007-06-04

Haha, I just look at pictures :) I see.... Well, I'll be on the lookout then.

Leon Close (author)Leon Close2007-06-04

Oops I meant to say step 1

paparush (author)2007-07-08

Nice job! How did you cut the 'horn' on the smaller anvil? My 12 year old does blacksmithing and we use a 1' section of rail as his 'anvil', but he's been wanting a horn, but I'm not ready to shell out $$. But maybe we can mod the rail that he currrently has.

Leon Close (author)paparush2007-07-09

I didn't make that little thing but it was cut using an oxygen/acetylene torch. It really needs a lot more shaping to be useful as an actual horn. I have found anvils of this type to be next to worthless for forging, unless you are working with wire or other small stock. With some shaping and polishing it would probably be excellent for jewellery making. There are lots of possible alternatives to a proper anvil, some are better than others. I've improved mine since I made this Instructable, check out the final step.

ironsmiter (author)2007-06-06

Nice looking project. From the title, i thought you were gonna show the "construction" of the "light gauge rail" anvil. Are the holes in the baseplate spaced so you can rotate the anvil 90degree, and us the rail face for normal forging? One suggestion... Do a full weld on the anvil-to-plate connection. That's gonna take a TON of pounding, and those couple of tack welds aren't gonna hold up for long, once you start swinging heavier hammers. Your 240 stick welder should do fine for a full weld, and no need for a bigger electrode, or even your double rod. All that is needed is patience. It's already tacked, so no worries there. Just go in and lay down 2-3 inches of bead at a time, right in the crack. Use the smaller electrode, and adjust the machine properly. That's probably all you'll need, as the two parts are now one piece of metal. The only basic difference between using skinny electrodes, and big fat electrodes is how much metal you can lay down before having to start a new electrode.

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