Introduction: How to Make an Anvil

About: I enjoy building all types of projects. I worked professionally in construction, boat building, furniture making and metal fabrication. As a teacher I have taught STEM classes, Computer repair and networking…

Step 1: Inspiration

I was inspired to build an anvil when I was cleaning up my shop and tearing apart some old equipment. I find that I often come up with ideas while I am cleaning my shop. I also tend to find all the tools that have gone missing since the last time I cleaned.

While cleaning, I came across several large chunks of steel. The first two pieces were 1”x2.5”x24” and ¾”x4”x24”. If I made these into an anvil, it would weigh about 35 lbs. I then came across a piece that was 1.5”x~5”x31”. This would make an anvil that would weigh about 65 lbs. Bigger is always better so I set my mind to using the 65 lb chunk.

In order to find the approximate weight of your anvil you will need to calculate how many square inches of material you have and multiply it by 0.283, which is how many poundss 1 cubic inch of steel weighs.

So in my case:
I would multiply 1.5" x 5" x 31" = 232.5 cubic inches.
Then multiply 232.5 in^3 x 0.283 lbs/in^3 = 65.8 lbs

I was lucky to have a bunch of scrap to go through but you could always get to know your local scrap yard or recycle center. It is amazing the amount of good stuff that ends up in the dump.

Step 2: Research

I never like to jump into things without doing a little research. I read a lot of information and watch a lot of videos before starting on this project. These 3 videos were the ones that helped me focus in on how to build my anvil. The first one says just get a big chunk of steel or anvil shaped object (ASO). The second gives you the theory behind why you should just use a big chunk of steel. The final one shows you how to make a very nice anvil but is more a piece of art than something I am going to want to beat on with a hammer, especially because this anvil will be used by students who don’t always think before they act. My plan would be to end up with something between the two.

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Step 3: Tools

The following is a list of the tools I used for this project. You could get by with other tools but I think these are the ones that would work the best for the size and type of material I am using.

Horizontal Bandsaw: Some alternates for cutting the metal would be a cutoff wheel or a cutting torch especially if you are using thinner material. On my bandsaw it took about 10 min to cut through 1.5"x5" steel. You could also use a smaller cheaper version than the one I have.

Arc Welder: Welding could be done with most welders but I would not recommend the cheap 110v wire feed welders. I chose to weld using a stick welder because the consumables are cheap and readily available. I was also trying to improve my arc welding skills so I saw this as a chance to get in a lot of practice.

Angle grinder: I consider this to be the "Crescent wrench" of the metal shop so, if you don't have an angle grinder, get one.


Milling machine: I could have spent a little more time with the angle grinder and got a good surface but I wanted to set up and use the milling machine because I hadn't used it in a while.

Step 4: Make a Plan

I designed my anvil around another 50 lb. anvil I had in the shop. The base was about 6”x8” and the top was about 4”x8”. The overall height was 8”. The piece of scrap I had was a long taper and I wanted to do the minimum amount of cutting. It was about 6” at the widest and tapered down to about 3” at the other. I laid it out to cut two 5” long pieces then two 8” long pieces. See the picture for how I cut the metal.

I used most of the pieces exactly how they came off the band saw. The only pieces I had to cut again were the top and the nose piece. You can see from the picture above that I squared off the top piece to make it exactly 4 inches wide. The bottom and the middle pieces didn’t matter if they were tapered. Be sure and try to cut the middle pieces as close to the same length as possible to avoid extra grinding or machining.

Step 5: Test Fit the Pieces

I liked the way everything fit. The 2 center pieces were square and less than 1/32" different in height. I was planning on making a rectangular top anvil with no horn but I had this extra piece left and I didn't want it to go to waste.

Step 6: Change the Plan

I initially rejected the end piece because it had a stub of metal sticking out. Also, the horns of anvils are always rounded but as far as I can remember I have never used the rounded horn. It seems I am always hammering things at a 90 degree. angle. It took me 3 cuts to get it the shape I wanted but the little stub ended up working as a gusset to reinforce the horn.

Step 7: Welding

I am by no means a great welder but that never stopped me and should never stop you from attempting a project. That being said, there are some things you should leave to the experts. One example would be steering components on vehicles. Use common sense and always think of the worst case scenario. Worse case on my anvil would be a cracked weld and that would just give me more opportunity to practice my welding.

For all of my welding I used a Lincoln Electric 225 Amp AC and 125 Amp DC Arc/Stick Welder‎. I used 1/8" 7018 rod with the welder set to DC negative 115 Amps.

I started by welding the center pieces together. I made 1/4" chamfers around all corners of each piece. This leaves plenty of weld metal after you grind it flat. For an even better weld you could chamfer it back a 1/2" on all the corners and then fill the V-groove with multiple passes. That would be the proper and best way but I felt 1/4" was good enough.

After that was done, I ground all welds flush and set the center piece on the base. I then proceeded to do a 6 pass fillet weld around the center block to weld it to the base.

The video link below is what I watched to make sure I was doing things correctly. Once you can lay a bead on a piece of metal the rest is just repeating what you already know how to do. An anvil is small enough that all of your welding can be oriented to be in the flat position.

The Basics of Multi-Pass Fillet Welding

Step 8: More Welding

Here are some more pictures of the welding process. Assembly of the anvil is straight forward after this. Make sure you chamfer the corners and make your first pass as good as possible. I then either did a 6 pass fillet weld or a 3 pass fillet weld depending on how much room I had. I had some other people practice multipass welding and had to grind a few of the fillets out but on a whole I think it turned out great.

Before I welded the top and the horn on my anvil I wanted to make sure the top was as flat and level as possible so I decided to use my milling machine to get everything perfect.

Step 9: Milling

One thing about using scrap metal is that you have no idea what type of metal you are using or what has been done to the metal. I tried to do a little bit of machining to one of the pieces and the steel proceeded to eat up my bit. I was using a high speed tool bit held in afly cutter. I had other carbide tools I could use but I didn't want to ruin any expensive tooling. I finally realized that the piece I was trying to cut had been flame cut using an oxy-acetylene torch. Cutting using this method surface hardens the material making it very difficult to machine. Another possible problem you might find is that there are a lot of steel alloys that will work harden if you are not careful and will ruin your bits. Even so I went ahead and setup my machine to mill the anvil. I started with the base because its surface had been cut with the bandsaw so if there was any surface hardening it would just be at the edges of the material.

When milling, clamping your work securely is essential. To hold the base in place I used step block clamps as shown in the first picture above.

The setup for the face/top of the anvil was a little different. I use a set of parallels to set the metal on. This ensures that the bottom and top will be parallel to each other. In the video, you will also see that there is a piece of welding rod sticking out from one of the jaws of the vice. This is important to properly clamp the metal. The piece I was clamping was slightly tapered so that when clamped it was only held at the widest spot. The other end was loose. By putting the welding rod in the center there were 3 points of contact and the material was secure.

After you have achieved a good fit, either by grinding or machining, it is just a matter of welding everything together.

Step 10: Final Thoughts

I am happy with the results. I have pictured my new anvil with the anvil that was already in my shop. It was the one I used as a model. As you can see, they are very similar. The commercial anvil is 55 lbs and mine is 60 lbs. I plan on mounting my anvil to the Douglas Fir round but I will have to make some adjustments in the future because the round is still green. It has been setting for about a year but still has a lot of moisture in it.

The total cost for the anvil was about $25. This was for the 7018 electrodes and the grinding wheels. It has taken me about 5-8 hours of total working time to complete the anvil. This Instructable has taken me 8-10 hours to write. I am hoping this will inspire others to build an anvil and I hope to pass this down to my children some day

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