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Thread: OT- Railroad track for anvil
01-26-2015, 10:31 AM #1
OT- Railroad track for anvil
A friend of mine is looking for a cheap anvil for his son to practice blacksmithing on. I have a chunk of railroad track and was wondering if it would work for an anvil. Any ideas?
01-26-2015, 10:36 AM #2
01-26-2015, 10:41 AM #3
I've got hunk lyin around whenever something needs a good beatin'. Not really all that good for blacksmithing though.
01-26-2015, 10:43 AM #4
Pretty sure from what I've read from the blacksmiths here, no real black smith would consider it useful.... In the same way that none of us here would consider a CNC 2 axis knee mill to be really useful.... But it doesn't mean it couldn't work.
01-26-2015, 10:51 AM #5
It works. I have a length I've used to bang stuff out. I'm sure it won't have longevity, will deform over time, and is not ideal... BUT... it's a good holdover. Especially if it's a kid who may lose interest in the hobby before the cost of a real anvil was worth the investment. Or an adult like me who doesn't have time to be good at it, but still needs to bang on something that will put up with the abuse, and will take the force and heat well.
01-26-2015, 11:13 AM #6
If he is working with 1/4" dia stock, it will work fine. Try working with 1/2" or bigger stock will probably discourage him from Blacksmithing.
If you can firmly weld it to a 100 lb chuck of metal, then you can work with larger stock.
tdmidget liked this post
01-26-2015, 11:20 AM #7
I have a small one made from railroad track. It's okay, but soft and dents. (mine was actually made on a planer, so it's nostalgic )
A better anvil is a log standing upright, hole bored in and a sledgehammer head tapper into the hole. Much harder...
Scottl liked this post
01-26-2015, 11:26 AM #8
If you insist on RR rail, a piece about four foot long and set vertically into the ground would be the way to go. Otherwise, it doesn't have enough mass to be effective.
01-26-2015, 11:42 AM #9
I used a small piece of track until I got a bigger anvil. Check out the black smith forum at
I Forge Iron
I flame cut and then angle ground a horn on one end. I also used cut a hardy hole in the other end using a few centercutting cutting end mills and a file to square up the edges.
It helps if there is a flat area on top as most of the track I had was convex.
It really helps if you have something heavy and stable to attach to the base of the makeshift anvil.
Here is the link for a pdf about low budget beginner smithing.
Blacksmithing Basics - PDF - Blacksmithing Tutorials
Greg White liked this post
01-26-2015, 03:24 PM #10
Amazing how many don't know the difference between track and rail.
wgnrr1 liked this post
01-26-2015, 03:29 PM #11
The most important thing for a word to do is convey an idea. Let's not get too pedantic.
01-26-2015, 04:42 PM #12
not trying to hijack thread or cause a ruckus
What is the difference between track and rail?
01-26-2015, 05:26 PM #13
I was more or less in this same boat a few months when a coworker asked me if I knew where to find a piece of rail for his nephew. Apparently the nephew was reading on all the blacksmithing websites that for a kid with no money a piece of rail was the best way to get one's start in the hobby. I volunteer at a railroad museum and was the only one my coworker could think of who he knew could maybe get a piece of rail for the kid. I was concerned for the most part that all we would have was 20ft min pieces but just so happened to come across a 1ft chunk. At any rate I got him the piece of rail and last I heard from my coworker he is happily banging out some really nice knives, I am still owed pictures by him which I look forward to seeing. But as far as I can tell the rail works a heck of a lot better than beating hot metal against a rock, dirt, pavement, concrete, the kitchen counter top or what ever else the kid had available and for now it does a great job keeping the kid moving forward in his pursuits till a real anvil comes along. So unless you can hook him up with a real anvil I bet the rail should do just fine as a start.
The funny thing is the same thing happened to me when I was his age. I was 13 when I wanted my first metal cutting lathe, so I got a machine that was rescued apparently by an old man in his 80's who got it back in the 1950's when they were closing a factory that made cotton gins. Well this machine was so old I bet Eli Whitney ran it somewhere along the line. It was a flat belt machine, the headstock was shot, the carriage worn to hell, it didn't have a compound, it was one gigantic piece of obsolete junk when compared to my current lathe, but, I wanted to build a model steam locomotive so damn bad I didn't really care. I learned a lot on that machine and it held my interests long enough for me to step up to a bigger and better machine that still in many ways sucked, but I learned a lot more accomplished a bit more and traded up to my current machine that is quite sweet. So the conclusion is never doubt a determined kid and even if it is second/third rate if it moves him forward he has all his life ahead of him to find a real anvil.
Heck Anvils aren't that hard to come by around here if you are patient. The last 2 I got one for me and one for my father are both maybe 75lb ones as I can just barely lift it and I paid $50 each. Granted I needed to be in the right place at the right time and if I see one again for that price I now know of a young kid who needs one too!
01-26-2015, 05:31 PM #14
An old hunk of railroad track has one claim to fame - it's usually darn near free. Other than that, it makes a lousy anvil. Any blacksmith, or student 'smith, would be better off tracking down a decent used anvil.
01-26-2015, 05:36 PM #15
01-26-2015, 06:03 PM #16
A short piece of rail will work for small, (1/2") material. It's not ideal, but it is better than using the concrete driveway to forge your project. If you would start a serious program to locate a real anvil, one will turn up within range at a price you can stand. If the boy loses interest, you can always get your money back on an anvil. Don't settle for a cast piece from Harbor Fright. Take the time to research what makes a good one, and hold out for that quality. Just my experience, but buy all the anvil you can possibly lift. Regards, Clark
01-27-2015, 12:27 PM #17
I've got a couple railroad anvils and they work great for my needs with the limitation outlined above. However there is one other thing I didn't see mentioned and that is the sound! If you strike mine with a hammer you will go deaf! I have it securly bolted to a stump but it rings like the bells of St. Mary's. It might just be mine but it makes a much higher pitched ting than a real anvil and really hurts the ears without REALLY good protection.
Other than that I surface ground the top and one side flat and square with a hard edge and it works great for folding/creasing work. I also have a small section for tabletop work when I don't want to beat on my vise. It's fantastic for delicate work that I used to do on knives.
Just my opinion but they worked great for me when I did a little smithing years ago.
01-27-2015, 04:08 PM #18
Wow! Some really interesting ideas and stories from such a seemingly dull question. Thanks everybody.
01-27-2015, 04:51 PM #19
I have a ft of rail,my daddy beat on it,now I do,maybe twice a year!
Works for other things too,,counter weight,riser,ect.
plus it reminds me of my pops and some of the many "toys"
him and I messed with.
As a real anvil, I am clueless.
saves from beating to hard on your vise too.
01-27-2015, 05:32 PM #20
Grinding and torch cutting are the way to shape the top surface. Machining, not so much. Think of all the sand and stone dust that's been pounded into the rail over the years.
Go ahead, ask me how I know. It did turn out OK, though. Just used a few more carbide inserts than I should have.