Improvised Anvils

I have, in my previous instructible, addressed the issue of anvil snobbery. Imagine then, my surprise; when I found that complaining about it on the Internet had not made the problem go away. There are still a lot of people who just can't comprehend why we don't all just do what they did, and take advantage of some poor fellow didn't realize how much great Granpappys old Anvil was worth.

So, partially in a pure philanthropic spirit, and partially as a friendly slap to the face of the anvil snobs, I'm going to show you how to make a few simply dandy improvised anvils.

And anvil is in essence, a chunk. There are good anvils and bad anvils, simple anvils, or ones with lots of bells and whistles. But in the end, they all come down to a chunk of metal upon which to hit other chunks of metal, with a chunk of metal.

Some of these improvised anvils are kind of terrible, while some of them are in my opinion, comparable to real anvils. many of them though, are lacking in some way. Some of you might be disturbed by the lack of a conical horn on all of these designs. Well, rest assured that, in my not so humble opinion, the horn standard on most anvils is grossly overrated. No, the real bummer with all these designs is that they all lack a hardie hole(the square hole) and thusly, cannot be fitted with tools.

Step 1: An Addendum on ASO's(Anvil Shaped Objects)

You may have seen some of these cheap "anvils" at hardware stores or floating around eBay. You may think to yourself, as I did, " by Jove! A 55lb anvil for $60? I'd be a fool not to buy it!"
But just how good are these anvils? Well, for some frame of reference, the above pictures are before and afters of a dandy little anvil I got at harbor freight about 18 months ago.
You may note that the heel and two of the feet are completely broken off, the horn had to be extended because it was a useless piece of crap, and the face looks like it's been in use for a hundred years rather than one.
So, I'm not saying out right don't get one of these, I've done some of my best work on that thing. I am saying though, that as Anvils go, this is a useless chunk of cast-iron, and if there are any other options, you should go with those. yessiree, any OTHER OPTIONS.
My goodness, was that a Segway? I think it was.

Step 2: The Clothes Iron Anvil

they're fairly ubiquitous, cost about $15, and are easy to mount,
Disadvantages, they are not very big, and thusly bounce around, they are typically made from cast-iron, and thusly are prone to cracking.
To make it, first cut out the grip part of the handle. Then straighten out the two little bars you're left with, then simply hammer the thing down into a stump and you're ready to go.

Step 3: Cobblers Anvils

they are reasonably easy to find,
they are good for specialized forming, and work well for knife making.
they're very light in bouncy, and kind of tricky to secure. They can also be fairly expensive.

Step 4: The Strongmans Anvil

This is one of my favorites, and they are particularly wonderful if you can find one of those absurd 60 or 80 pound dumbbells. Advantages,
they are very solid, and are usually very reasonably priced, and you get 2 of em'.

Disadvantages, they are typically made pretty soft iron,and thus get dented up pretty easily.

To make it, it is cut the handle and half in the middle, then grind the two handle pieces to a point. Now you have 2 30lb stake anvils.

Step 5: The Anvil Ironically Made Out of a Hammer

I'm rather partial to these sorts of anvils as well. Often times people will simply give you broken off sledgehammer head, they're made from excellent spring steel, and if you set them properly they can be very solid.
Disadvantages, they've kind of a small anvil face, and if set improperly, are very wobbly.

Step 6: Slab Anvils

This is the sort of anvil I have used most extensively. I like 'em just because the materials are easy to get a hold of, and its easy to put 'em together once you've got 'em. The one in that picture is a piece of 1' mild steel, with a 1/4' piece of stainless welded on as the face, and a cute little horn and hardie hole welded on. To secure it, you can weld on some spike-legs, or just nail it down with some railroad spikes, if welding's not an option.

A rail-road tie plate, if you can find one, works beautifully for these, And I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say that these are some of the best improvised anvils out there.

Step 7: The Chunk Anvil

Now, this may be a difficult concept, but you can figure it out, I believe in you. In layman's terms, you find a chunk of steel, and you use it as an anvil.
I can't really give too many specifics, as each one of these will be different. One of the best anvils I own is a chunk anvil. One of the worst Anvils I own is also a chunk anvil. The first three pictures up there detail the making of one of my finest anvils, which I believe is part of a train I found in the Ohio river.

Step 8: Anvils of Stone

I almost did not include this page because of all the irritating comments I know I'm going to get about it. To placate some of those before there asked, no, it will not explode. It will at worst crackle bit if you use a porous stone that was recently rained on. And yes, it's going to leave a rough surface finish, and yes it is prone to cracking.
That said, I've hammered out steel on a block of limestone before, and you know what? It worked just fine. Folks back in the olden days forged iron blooms on granite slabs, as back then a good anvil was almost as expensive as it is today, and they made some pretty cool stuff on those rocks.
So, while stone anvils suck and should only be used as a last resort, they CAN be used.

(POST SCRIPT, AND DISCLAIMER: The pictures of the dumbbell, the stone anvil, the monkey, and a couple of the chunk anvil pictures are not mine. I know how emotional scarring it can be if someone uses pictures you took, that were on google images, for a non-profit article, without express permission.)



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    10 Discussions

    Male Human

    6 weeks ago

    So I am an aspiring blacksmith. I am only 12 and have taken classes, but i'm having trouble deciding between a coal or a propan forge. Thoughts?

    1 reply

    The answer depends a lot on a few details. I’ve run coal forges more than propane, but I have actually warmed up to them recently. They’re what most professional blacksmiths use, for good reason. If this is somthing you’re planning on continuing long term, I’d recommend getting comfortable with a gas forge. There are some downsides though: you’re limited by whatever the size of your chamber is, and building them well takes some know how, and can be expensive. And if not built well, they aren’t going to heat your metal very efficiently, and can potentially be quite dangerous.
    Another thing to consider is fule availability. Propane is fairly ubiquitous, but it can get very expensive if you’re exchanging grill-size cylinders for $25 a pop. Coal on the other hand, is cheap, if you can buy it in person, but it can be hard to find a good supply. Building a coal forge is cheap and easy, and no more dangerous than a bonfire.
    All that taken together, my advice would be to start with a coal forge, provided you can find fule for it, and use that until you get a feel for the kind of work you tend to do. Then eventually, after doing plenty of research, and ideally trying out and examining other people’s gas forges, make one that will work well for your typical project.
    I hope that helps, a good for you for starting young! What are you using for an anvil?


    3 years ago

    Word of caution... hitting two hammers together can splinter the steel and cause fine steel shards to break off and injure people. I would advise against using a sledge hammer as an anvil.

    1 reply
    cycle ninjaswimspud

    Reply 1 year ago

    All forms of hammering can cause shards to break off and, essentially, create shrapnel. You should always wear at least basic PPE (safety glasses, heavy apron, etc). I've used an 8 lb sledge hammer as my 'anvil' for the past 7 years, with either a 3 or 5 lb hammer and have made some amazing things. Just sayin...


    1 year ago

    my neighbor is giving me a 2 ft long piece of railroad track


    2 years ago

    I love the caveman pounding carbon steel rods with a rock and iron tongs. Very fine, and raises a philosophical question. Which came first...?

    Thanks for the tips. I'm off the local brownfield to find my first anvil.


    2 years ago

    Great Ideas, I started off with a counterbalance off a tractor, then moved up to a Rail Road track Anvil, and the made a "Chunk" anvil, from a piece of hardened steel, welded and braced to another piece of the same. I believe the best tools you use can be tools you make. I would love to spend upward to $700.00 on a anvil. But you do what you can do. I have also build my own gas and coal forges and 72" belt sanders. Keep up the good work :)

    20160817_140946.jpg20160817_140951.jpg2016-04-20 19.03.04.jpg

    3 years ago

    The Vikings used granite for anvils and use fairly small chunks at that.


    3 years ago

    soooooo any tips for someone looking to get an upgrade from a cobblers last / dumbbell discs? what i have found so far are the 800$+ anvils or some anvil thats been sitting in someones backyard for 60 years, beaten up, weighing 300kg and too far away to be an easy pickup. is there any midway to be had?


    3 years ago

    Anvil snobbery...god, is there anything worse?? lol The worst part is, a lot of the people who do that are also the same onse who have either not even made anything on their $500.00 anvil or haven't made anything good on it... lol