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How to Make an Anvil

Learn to to build your own anvil

The process is actually rather simple in concept; it just deals with really thick steel in a rather nasty way.  For more details and photos see Anvil Making Made (Kind of) Easy

Start with a pattern for your anvil. Either trace an existing anvil or design your own.

Next, decide how heavy you want it to be. In general, a 4 inch plate yields an anvil of around 200 lbs., if you go by a 1905 anvil pattern, 3 inch yields 150 lbs.and 5 inch yields 250 lbs.

You will need an oxy-acetylene cutting torch capable of cutting the plate thickness you choose and 2ea. – 244 cu. ft. tanks of oxygen.
Go to a scrap yard nearby and find a chunk of steel that is big enough for your pattern, say about 30 inches by 18 inches by 4 inches. If you buy new steel you will pay through the nose. Scrap runs between 10 and 20 cents per pound. New steel costs between 90 cents and $1.50 a pound.

Layout your pattern on the steel and cut it out. Trust me, I have done a lot of oxygen cutting and I was unprepared for just how nasty cutting 4 inch plate could be. It takes a steady hand and a very regular speed to get a cut that is even remotely nice. This process was so unpleasant that after cutting my first anvil I immediately looked for a company with a computer controlled cutting torch. I decided that if I was going to do this for anyone else there was no way I would hand cut another anvil. Check your area for a burning company that will do one of a kind projects. It will cost more to have them rough cut the blank, but will save a lot of trouble.

After you have the cut blank profile, you have to do a couple of bevel torch cuts by hand to give the shape to the horn. Also, don’t forget the hardy hole. The pritchel hole can be drilled, (thank god). To start the hardy hole torch cut, you should drill a hole to start the cut in.

After all the torch work is done, knock off all the slag and scale.

Hence beginneth the grinding. Use a large right angle hand grinder to grind the rough shape of the anvil. The better your torch cut was, the less grinding you have to do. Don’t worry about getting a perfect finish yet.

To create the hardy hole, take 4 small pieces 1/4 in. plate steel that together form a small tapering box. The interior of this box will be the hardy hole. Once you have the pieces welded together into a box. Torch cut a hollow in the heel of the anvil that allows the hardy hole box to be placed flush with the surface of the anvil. Tack weld it in place. Flip the anvil over and backfill around the box till you have completely fused the box to the anvil. Grind it off flush top and bottom, and everyone will wonder how you cut such a nice square tapering hole in the anvil. It’s up to you if you choose to tell how you did it.

After you have all the rough grinding done, and the hardy hole is installed, you will need to hardface the face of the anvil and also the top of the horn. To do this you will either need a stick welder capable of at least 200 amps or a MIG welder capable of 200-250 amps and able to push .045 wire. .045 is the smallest hard facing wire made due to the difficulty of drawing it any smaller.

If you are stick welding, it is best if you preheat the anvil to about 400 degrees F. This will help to prevent cracking of the hardface due to cooling too fast. The weapon of choice is a propane weed burner since it can’t get it too hot. To check the temperature you should get a Tempilaque stick. It’s a kind of crayon that can be purchased in sets of temperature ranges. When the crayon melts on contact you have reached the temp marked on the stick. I believe you can get these from Centaur Forge or a good welding supply house should have them. First, it is best to lay down a layer of whats called build up rod It’s not as hard as the true hard facing and acts as a kind of cushion. Also, it’s best not to build the surface too thick too fast. About an 1/8 inch at a time with a thorough cleaning between layers.

If you are using a mig welder, you can skip the preheat and slow-cool-down stages since the hard facing wire is much more forgiving than the stick rod. Still don’t lay down too much in one place at a time. It’s best to do about 2 layers over the whole surface rather than try to lay it down all at once.

Once you have the desired coverage you should bury the anvil in Lime or Vermiculite to let it cool down slowly.

And the grinding beginneth yet again. Yeah verily. Once the anvil has cooled down, grind, grind, grind and, oh yes, grind some more, until you have the anvil of your dreams.

If you use a cup wheel on a 7 inch or 9 inch Right Angle grinder you will find it easier to get a flat face. For the final polishing of the surfaces invest in some “flapper” style sanding wheels of say 40, 60, and 100 grit . On a 4-1/2 inch right angle grinder they are just great for finishing. (p) All that is left is to weld on a couple of feet to stabilize it and possibly to mount it to your block and there you have it. So simple and quick (sarcasm).

Top/side view of anvil

Author: Ernie Leimkuhler

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