Best steel for making an Anvil?
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    Default Best steel for making an Anvil?

    I'm thinking about adding an anvil to my garage. Something which I can use for forging metal, etc.

    I am considering two options. The first is to buy a Pedding-Haus forged steel anvil.

    The second is to just buy a large block of steel from a scrap yard and anchor it down to a stump or something.

    My question is this:

    What's the best type of steel for something like an anvil? Would A-2 tool steel be suitable? I read that a lower carbon content would be better (A-8?). I also see that there is an S grade tool steel, which is shock resistant, but I really don't know much about metals.

    The yard I am talking to has good prices on steel. I'm looking into getting either a round section (about 8 to 10 inches in diameter) that is 7 to 10 inches in length, or maybe some plate steel that is 5" thick (10"x10").

    What type of steel would be best to use? They also have some pretty nice 316 stainless, but I'm not sure if SS would be better or worse - as far as banging on it with hammers, etc.

    I'm also considering attempting to harden / temper the surface. I was thinking about using my welding torch and some propane to heat up the surface, then dump it into a large bucket of water. However, I'm not sure if my torch will be able to heat up something which would probably weigh about 150 lbs. I was thinking I might try to find someone who could induction harden the surface, but I'm not really sure if I would need to harden it or if I could get by just using it as is. It seems like if it's steel, it would be a better anvil then the older cast ones, such as the Peter Wright anvils, etc.

    Any comments or suggestions?

    Ray

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    An anvil really is a devilish thing to make for yourself if you want to get any heavy use out of it. It needs to be as hard as possible without cracking, and as rigid as possible but still have rebound. You are ideally looking for hardened and tempered, 4130 or better. The best way I know to check an anvil, to determine if the hard steel plate has been finished off the top or to make sure it's not a Russian or Chinese ASO (Anvil Shaped Object) is to drop a ball bearing on it. Find a 1 inch or bigger hard steel bearing and drop it from 6 or so feet onto your proposed anvil. If it leaves a mark, it's too soft. If it doesn't bounce back to almost full height, it has not enough spring. It should also ring like a bell when you hit it with a hammer, clear and pure.

    Many servicable anvils have been made by welding train track together, or by shaping a nice hunk of 4130 or 4140, but you are not going to do any heavy forging on something like this.

    More info
    Anvil Making articles on anvilfire.com : blacksmithing and metalsmithing reference

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    I heat large sizes of steel up by surounding with fire brick. Have achieved red heat with small propane. Even red brick would help.

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    The first anvil was undoubtedly a stone. I have read that jade (nephrite) was used for anvils, and has very high compressive strength

    For most of the iron age, anvils were wrought iron, with a steel face welded on. Later, they were often cast iron, with steel face placed in mold before pouring to fuse with the cast body.

    If you can afford the Peddinghaus, you will have an anvil as good as any anvil ever needs to be. If cost is no object and you want "the only one there is around", make it of a shock steel (like S-7)

    Your anvil should be AT LEAST 10 times the weight of the heaviest hammer you will use on it, and 20 times is MUCH better

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    Quote Originally Posted by magneticanomaly View Post
    The first anvil was undoubtedly a stone. I have read that jade (nephrite) was used for anvils, and has very high compressive strength

    For most of the iron age, anvils were wrought iron, with a steel face welded on. Later, they were often cast iron, with steel face placed in mold before pouring to fuse with the cast body.

    If you can afford the Peddinghaus, you will have an anvil as good as any anvil ever needs to be. If cost is no object and you want "the only one there is around", make it of a shock steel (like S-7)

    Your anvil should be AT LEAST 10 times the weight of the heaviest hammer you will use on it, and 20 times is MUCH better
    Okay, thanks for the info!

    Pedding-haus has a 277 lb anvil that is forged steel. That's the one I am considering buying. It's currently on back order for about 3 weeks, so I was thinking I might see about buying just a big chunk of some sort of steel to use in the mean time; I figured if it worked out okay, I might be able to put off buying the Pedding-haus also.

    When talking to the scrap yard, is "S-7" the proper way to refer to the steel? As opposed to a number like 4140 or something? I'm only just learning about the different types of metals.

    Ray

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    I made the patterns for all but a few of the anvils used in Williamsburg's blacksmith shop. We got them cast out of 4140 and hardened. The first pattern I made was in the late 70's,used hard daily,and they are not sway backed yet. Cast in Texas. Foundry went tits up,and they lost my pattern. I'm not sure where they are getting the 2nd. pattern(of an earlier type anvil) cast,but they are 300#,and cost $1500.00 each!! Ouch! I retired before they sent the pattern off.

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    i wouldnt trust a scrapyard to know the metals as well as they should.my biggest concern would be picking a chunk of shrapnel out of my knee-at best.
    i saw a guy using two hammers-one as a drift,and chunks blew off one of the hammers.
    the hammers were both Snap-On.
    a large piece of plate,for me works,well,but its a little soft and it marks easily.
    but it doesent chip.railroad tie is also my banging block of preference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RayJohns View Post
    Okay, thanks for the info!

    Pedding-haus has a 277 lb anvil that is forged steel. That's the one I am considering buying. It's currently on back order for about 3 weeks, so I was thinking I might see about buying just a big chunk of some sort of steel to use in the mean time; I figured if it worked out okay, I might be able to put off buying the Pedding-haus also.

    When talking to the scrap yard, is "S-7" the proper way to refer to the steel? As opposed to a number like 4140 or something? I'm only just learning about the different types of metals.

    Ray
    I think it's unlikely that you would find a piece of S7 large enough to make an anvil in a scrap yard; steel like that commands a premium and would not be sold to a recycling yard unless in error.

    4130 or 4140 would make a heck of an anvil, but would still likely be overkill. Get a slab of low-carbon steel and hardface it. When (if) you get experienced enough to feel the shortcomings of such a tool you will have no problem justifying a proper forged anvil of reputable heritage.

    Henry

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    Quote Originally Posted by RayJohns View Post
    When talking to the scrap yard, is "S-7" the proper way to refer to the steel? As opposed to a number like 4140 or something? I'm only just learning about the different types of metals.

    Ray
    Its AISI designation is indeed, S7. Pretty universally known, and not exactly an inexpensive tool steel either.

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    You don't have the setup to harden a big block of steel. I doubt few of us,if any,do. They used to quench anvils under a WATERFALL. And,they had LARGE forges to get them hot.

    A shipyard might have ovens big enough to heat up as 10" square block 5" thick. They would also need a very LARGE quench,of MOVING water (at the least) would be best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by register View Post
    Get a slab of low-carbon steel and hardface it. When (if) you get experienced enough to feel the shortcomings of such a tool you will have no problem justifying a proper forged anvil of reputable heritage.

    Henry
    x2

    That's the route I'd take. The whole anvil doesn't need to be a premium alloy steel, it just needs to absorb shock.

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    Quote Originally Posted by autofrite View Post
    i wouldnt trust a scrapyard to know the metals as well as they should.my biggest concern would be picking a chunk of shrapnel out of my knee-at best.
    i saw a guy using two hammers-one as a drift,and chunks blew off one of the hammers.
    the hammers were both Snap-On.
    a large piece of plate,for me works,well,but its a little soft and it marks easily.
    but it doesent chip.railroad tie is also my banging block of preference.
    I actually have some railroad tie laying out back. I originally grabbed it to use as a small anvil, but never got around to doing anything with it.

    Ray

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    Quote Originally Posted by register View Post
    I think it's unlikely that you would find a piece of S7 large enough to make an anvil in a scrap yard; steel like that commands a premium and would not be sold to a recycling yard unless in error.

    4130 or 4140 would make a heck of an anvil, but would still likely be overkill. Get a slab of low-carbon steel and hardface it. When (if) you get experienced enough to feel the shortcomings of such a tool you will have no problem justifying a proper forged anvil of reputable heritage.

    Henry
    When you say hardface, do you mean harden the face of it using heat/quench or do you mean weld on a different type of [harder] steel to the face of the anvil?

    Ray

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    Forge welding would be the way to do it, but that's not exactly an easy feat.

    forging new plate on anvil sofa 2009 - YouTube

    Yes, hard surfacing is a build up process, but the rod would probably set you back a fair bit of $.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RayJohns View Post
    I actually have some railroad tie laying out back. I originally grabbed it to use as a small anvil, but never got around to doing anything with it.

    Ray
    Railroad 'tie' is wood, optionally concrete. Not much use for an anvil.

    A section of railroad RAIL, OTOH, (which I think is what you meant anyway...) has been the poor-boy mainstay for the anvils we couldn't afford for a good hundred years at least. There is more than one weight/thickness of it.

    Not that you have a lot of choice, ordinarily, but the heavier sections used at switch 'frogs' and X-crossings are made of tougher stuff yet.

    CAVEAT; 'Hadfield Alloy' was developed for these, and its high manganese content doesn't just work harden like an underpaid 'Night Lady' - either can chip and put high-velocity shards into tender places. But, also as with the 'Night Lady', that needs hard hammering over a long time before you'd need to worry about it.

    I'd definitely go for the Peddinghaus - lottery win or no, the 'Gladiator' and kin are a bit TOO artsy for my personal taste.

    Use the rail section in the meantime. Biggest downside is the shape is never quite right, so it will make you appreciate a 'proper' anvil all the more when it comes off backorder!

    Bill

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    Quote Originally Posted by thermite View Post
    Railroad 'tie' is wood, optionally concrete. Not much use for an anvil.

    A section of railroad RAIL, OTOH, (which I think is what you meant anyway...) has been the poor-boy mainstay for the anvils we couldn't afford for a good hundred years at least. There is more than one weight/thickness of it.

    Not that you have a lot of choice, ordinarily, but the heavier sections used at switch 'frogs' and X-crossings are made of tougher stuff yet.

    CAVEAT; 'Hadfield Alloy' was developed for these, and its high manganese content doesn't just work harden like an underpaid 'Night Lady' - either can chip and put high-velocity shards into tender places. But, also as with the 'Night Lady', that needs hard hammering over a long time before you'd need to worry about it.

    I'd definitely go for the Peddinghaus - lottery win or no, the 'Gladiator' and kin are a bit TOO artsy for my personal taste.

    Use the rail section in the meantime. Biggest downside is the shape is never quite right, so it will make you appreciate a 'proper' anvil all the more when it comes off backorder!

    Bill
    Sorry, yeah.. the railroad track, not the wood part

    Ray

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    Default Nimba Anvils use 8640

    I have one and bought a few for a local black smithing school set up by Dave Lisch and friends. I like mine a ton.

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    There's a lot to a good anvil. What seem's like a funny shaped hunk of iron most people recognize from cartoon gags is actually a product of many generations of refinement having many subtle features.

    The American pattern anvil has a body of wrought iron with a forge welded hardened tool steel face.

    I don't want to discourage anyone from experimenting but it often helps to know what was done for widgets (and anvils) in the past before venturing time and materials into developing a replacement.

    Here's a website with a little history: Metalsmith - V5.3 History and Development of the Anvil by James Cran

    I seem to recall an anvil's weight is best some multiple of the haviest hammer used on it. My 200 lb anvil is cheap cast steel with a tool steel face. I suspect the face material was placed in the old flask prior to the pour. My anvil may be cheap but it worked very well for me over 40 years.

    My anvile is shaped like "A" in the link. That little table just back of the horn is very handy when I was making upset bends. It's soft. I could jam the end of the bar into the corner and it wouldn't slip like it would off the hard face.

    There's quite a list of anvil tooling: tongs, hardies, snap dies, rounders, snap dies, flatters, and fullers and of course lod of fancy hammers. Equip an amvil with a basic set of tools takes about three times the weight of metal as the anvil itself.

    Good luck but don't get lost making an anvil from expensive alloys unless ou find a hunk that's nearly free. Many a good anvil has been made from heavy rail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Forrest Addy View Post
    There's a lot to a good anvil.
    *snip*
    Many a good anvil has been made from heavy rail.
    Sorry, but having too-often had nothing better, I have to take those two phrases in opposition.

    Many a [ serviceable | emergency | field-expedient | half-vast substitute ].. take yer pick ... 'anvil' has been cobbled-up from a length of rail, yes.

    But for MOST work the shape is so wrong that even the sorriest and cheapest of anvils will better serve. MOST rail is crowned, not flat. Vertical 'I' section interferes with shaping to even a 'sort of' horn, and it is devilishly difficult to provide a proper Hardy or Pritchel hole, again 'coz of the whereabouts of the vertical. Not to mention even the heaviest grade of rail is overly light for serious work. Striking true is hard and gets harder as the lack of proper 'bounce' tires one out. By contrast a REAL anvil *helps* the smith. Match up with the cadence, and one is far more accurate over the hours and less tired at day's end.

    While hardly optimum, there isn't a great deal wrong with the metal in rails if you want to craft a mold, get a hot enough fire, and smelt enough rail to cast a properly shaped anvil (not as simple as it looks, either, BTW. Far more to it than JUST shape).

    Otherwise? The combination of a length of rail for the heavy beating, a substantial partner of thick but 'mostly flat' plate for planishing and straightening, and the handier flat and even half-vast 'horn' built into most stout bench vises... for at least the lighter forming and shaping .... will better serve 'til one can justify a proper - or even third-rate - anvil.

    JM2CW, but 'good' anvil?

    A length of rail is better than nothing. But only just.

    Bill
    Last edited by thermite; 03-07-2012 at 04:27 PM.


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