I have always enjoyed working with metals especially heating them up and pounding into usable shapes. When the show Forged in Fire came out it reignited my interests and I began to experiment with forging steels even more. As my skills progressed I realized i needed a better anvil than my old stump topped with a steel plate. I searched the market for used anvils and the prices blew me away. There was no way I could tell wifey that I needed to spend $2000 for a block of steel to pound on, she would tell me to pound sand! It was at that point I realized if I could forge a knife, why not construct my own anvil. The light went on and this is how i did it.
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Step 1: There Is an Anvil Hidden in That Steel Block
Upon researching commercially made anvils I found there was nothing exotic about them, other than their size. Basically a good anvil is made from a soft base steel and has a hardened top feature. This can be accomplished by stacking up dimensional steel to form such a base and adding a tool steel top. I started with a piece of 1018 CR steel found in a scrap yard that measured 4" x 4" x 52" long. This allows enough material for a standard sized 220lb. blacksmith style anvil to be constructed. I then procured a piece of S7 tool steel for the top cap plate, it measured 1/2" x 4" x 18".
Alternatives could include 4" or 6" round CRS or A36 and the anvil could be made in nearly the same way.
Step 2: Tools Needed
You can do this using only a welder, sawzall, drill, grinder(s) and patience.
Luckily I had at my disposal an 18" Grob Bandsaw and Bridgeport Mill which made the job progress much faster, but these machines are not absolutely necessary and it can be done without them.
Step 3: Laying Out the Block to Optimize the Anvil Size
As the old saying goes, "measure twice, cut once". Know where you are going before cutting. Take the steel chunk(s) you will be using and determine the best way to stack them up to get the largest anvil possible. I started with the top as I knew it was the most important. I wanted at least an 8" horn, and about 22"-24" wide overall on the top. Given this, I marked it out on the steel and then adjusted the mid and base to best suit supporting the top.
Step 4: Cutting and Dicing
After I was happy with the parts layout I began cutting them into rough form. I did this using an industrial bandsaw, but the same can be done using a sawzall and a few new blades. I actually tried making a couple cuts using the sawzall as examples for this Instructable and to prove to myself this was possible. Using the sawzall actually went much easier than I expected, so dont be afraid to try it!
Step 5: Making Chips and Forming Parts
The bulk of the time required to make the anvil was consumed in cutting out the parts and adding features such as the Hardy Hole and 1/2" piercing hole.
After getting each piece cut to length I started on the top by cutting the horn angles. The horn is roughed out by cutting three angles. The actual degree of angle will depend on the steel you start with and the length you desire it to be. Since this is for your personal use be creative, make it work for you!
The Hardy hole was made by drilling the four corners 1/8" first, then center drilled it and finished using a 1" bit, then using the mill I connected the dots and squared the sides to form a 1" square hole. (The finished dim was 1.010" which worked perfect, the Hardy fit snug but could still be removed) Your Hardy hole can suit you and does not have to be 1" if you have tools that are different. Again make this feature to what suits you.
I added some additional features as well such as clamping holes and bending pin holes to the sides. These are simply bonus features and you can do without them.
Step 6: Grind Time
Now the fun begins. Grinding all the parts to make them fit and be aesthetically attractive. The horn can get to be addictive. I found myself spending too much time making it perfect and had to remind myself this is an anvil and will get beat to heck! No need for absolute mirror perfection on the grinds.
Step 7: Welder Up
Now that all parts are ground to near finished state, its time to weld it all together.
I used a Miller 350P welder and set the induction to "0" so that the bead was hot and flat. Each part I put a 1/2" x 45 degree bevel on the edges to be welded s so that i could get a hot, deep and wide weld. The same results could be made using any welder and multiple passes if necessary. The load on the welds are minimal since they are all compressive loads.
Step 8: Adding the Tool Steel Top Plate
Tool steel can be a tricky one to weld, but it can be done. I used S7 tool steel which is a very good choice when it comes to shock loads which is exactly what an anvil sees. Alternatives can be H13, A2, or even one of the "O" series of tool steels if its all you can find. Alternatives to welding the plate to the top block can be flat head socket screws, blind or through dowels, roll/spring pins or plug welding. These were in the back of my mind for backup plans should the perimeter welds fail or cause issue. The good thing is that they can be added after the fact if welding doesnt turn out for you.
I first machined the Hardy and piercing hole into the S7 to match the top form. Before welding I ensured that all features were in perfect alignment using the Hardy hole and 1" square CRS pin. Check and double check these fits now!
To weld any tool steel it must first be preheated. I waited until my wife was gone and using her kitchen oven, placed the tools steel on the rack and set it to 485 degrees, (485 because my target welding temp was 450 and it is cold in Indiana and I had to get the TS from the house to the shop, thus I knew it would cool off). I allowed it to be in the oven for 90 mins, (while I welded everything else up first) before welding it to the top form.
Do not allow the welded parts to cool too quickly. I used a LP brush burning torch to control the cool off post welding. Allow for 3-4 hours for the weldment to return to room temperature. The slower the better to prevent cracking of the joint.
Step 9: Finish Grinding and Paint
After the weldment has cooled its time to clean it up and add some paint. I chose to leave the horn and top edge bare steel but did add a lanolin oil to them to prevent rusting.
As a final touch I added my shop logo and "MADE in USA" to the sides.
Step 10: Final Results, I Have a New Anvil
The entire project took about 32 hours of work and the results far exceeded my expectations. Using a 3 lb hammer the anvil responds with a nice ring and surprisingly strong rebound. It feels as good or better than my buddies old commercially made anvil (hes wants to trade now...) and I can say I made it.
Now its your turn, you can do it too.
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Thank you and best wishes for all your projects!
First Prize in the
Build a Tool Contest