Homemade anvil from railroad track and 4140 steel

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I am not a blacksmith, but would like to have a anvil like object for pounding stuff. Because of the above and lack of space, I would like not to spend too much on a real anvil.

I do, however, have some things such as billets of 4140 steel of various sizes and a piece of LIGHT GAUGE railroad track (20 lbs or so). After a recent discussion in rec.crafts.metalworking, I decided to take a quick peek here and ask a question.

If grind a part of the rail approximately flat, and then weld a piece of 4140 to the flat top of the rail (to form a flat part), and grind another billet to some horn like shape, and weld it to the anvil also, how usable would this be for small scale aplications?

Grinding will be done with a 3 HP grinder.

Welding would be done using TIG method.

I have a decent quantity of various oil hardening tool steel filler rod, which I could use if so advised. I also have a "hardfacing rod" in very small quantity.

Now, if this is a "waste of time", I would rather not do it and could look for a real anvil at industrial liquidations or some such, when I need one.

thanks

i

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I would not start with "light duty rail". Railroad rail is gaged by weight in pounds per yard. Main line rail starts at about 110 puounds per yard. So and anvil make from it, assuming it was 18" long, would be less than 55 pounds, after removing part of it by grinding, cutting, etc. This is pretty light for an anvil that would be used by a blacksmith. It will have to be clamped down tightly or it will bounce all over the place. I have heard that the latest, realy heavy duty main line rail weighs 150 pounds per yard, so an anvil made from that, maybe 24 inches long could weigh in at 80 or 80 pounds. This is still light, but better. Personally, I think the main problem with using railroad rail is the thin waist that you will get.

Weyger's book, "The Complete Blacksmith" shows how he made an anvil from railroad rail. I'm not saying "don't do it", just that there are limitations.

If you already have the 4140 billets, I would simply weld them together to make yourself an anvil. You will want to harden the face, at least when you are done.

Alternately: Have you looked at the Harbor Freight 110 pound cast STEEL anvil for around $80? (It's the only one they have that isn't cast IRON) As a first or occasional use anvil, I think it is hard to beat and a lot less work!!!

Pete Stanaitis -----------------------------------

Ignoramus29761 wrote:

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I've had a 110 pound cast steel HF anvil for about 3 years now and love it. When I bought mine, they were on sale, and they allowed me to use a discount coupon as well. IIRC, I paid just under $70.

I must admit, I use it for (compared to blacksmithing) light automotive and general shop use like a surface for driving sintered bronze bushings and letter/number impression stamping. And wow, what a heat sink!

I remember when I got it, I cleaned up the face with a file, and put about a 1/32" radius on all the edges... then 'polished' the face with wire cup brush, then a fine scotchbrite disc's in the electric drill. I keep a light coat of oil on it, and it still looks brand new.

The horn was originally VERY rough, and as I really have no use for it, still is...

Only complaint is I didn't grab a real anvil 35 years ago.

Erik

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Alternately: Have you looked at the Harbor Freight 110 pound cast STEEL anvil for around $80? (It's the only one they have that isn't cast IRON)

Only problem with this suggestion is that Harbor Freight now is only carrying the caste iron 55 lbs anvil. I just checked their website.

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Check local stores. They still have them.

Pete Stanaitis -------------------------

R.L. Groshans wrote:

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Haven't checked my local HF store. Maybe I'd better? :)

To the person looking for an anvil: (Iggy? I'm losing track of the thread, but I won't let that stop me:)

Far as I'm concerned, one is a smith the first time he/she smacks a piece of metal with a hammer. It may take a while to become a good, or even barely competent, smith and a lifetime to master the craft, but: Hit metal, you're a smith.

Follow the First Rule in The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy: Don't Panic!

Early smiths managed quite well with any old hunk of iron stuck on a stump -- or whatever else was handy, even a sorta flat rock and no iron but the hammer.

One of the best smiths in the SCA always uses just a stake anvil stuck in a tree trunk round when demonstrating at an SCA event. He does beautiful work.

After all, you can only hit an area as big as the face of your hammer.

As long as whatever you're using is harder than hot steel, has at least one relatively smooth spot, and is mounted solidly, you can go ahead and blacksmith and build up your tooling collection as you go along.

If you have to, go to your friendly neighborhood junk yard and pick up any old piece of 2-4 inch or bigger piece of round or square stock. Set it on end on/in something that makes it a solid striking surface It'll work well enough to get started. Even the 55# HF POS anvil will work. You'll just have to be careful not to hit the face too much.

Check out a cutler's anvil: It's a square block of steel, period. Knives and swords have been and are made on such and blades can be the most complicated pieces of work one can try, especially if one gets into pattern welding.

RR rail, old chunk of "I" beam, 3x3, 4x4, or any other dimensions of 1" or more thick steel, big rock; they'll all work well enough to get started.

Well, enough diahrrea of the keyboard. Just do it!

You're a smith: Build a fire and _make_ something so you can make something else.:)

--
Bring back, Oh bring back
Oh, bring back that old continuity.
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I kind of agree actually.

My own thinking is this: if I make something usable from that rail and a couple of 4140 pieces TIG welded to it, I could always sell it for more than I paid for it (nothing) when I get a better anvil. Quite possibly that homemade contraption will work just fine for years.

If/when I get a half day free, I will try to get that done.

i

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Ignoramus29761 wrote:

I've got about four feet of switchyard rail sitting in the corner. I've been whittling on it for powerhammer die material. How big an anvil do you want? This is taller in the web than regular rail, and damn heavy and VERY workhardened by years of rail cars rolling over it. Considering its usefulness as die stock, I figure it's worth about $100 a foot, finished out as an anvil. You pay the freight.

Charly

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On Sat, 23 Sep 2006 00:16:41 GMT, Charly the Bastard

Charly, I am sure that shipping 100 lbs of railroad rail would be very expensive, unfortunately, if you were local I would jump on the deal.

i

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So how does rairoad rail's steel itself work out for an anvil? Not so much asking about practice as theory here. :)

Brand-new I know it's soft stuff so would the face need to be heat treated for use as an anvil since it hadn't been work hardened?

A new rail would need heat treating like what was suggested for the 4140 plates?

Couple facts for the fun of it... Railroad rail is like 1075 to 1080 pearlite just like the soft upper half of a cold chisel.

The first train to roll over it squashes the crap out the surface. Looks like it won't last a week at that rate. :) The second train doesn't seem to do anything to it. :)

When the rail is going to be part of an old-style bolted-together rail joint (using "angle bars") the factory already did it but, if it's been cut the RR "track welder" heat treats the upper surface right near the end. Using a rose-bud he quickly heats up a circle about 2+1/2" in diameter to austenite and lets the rest of the rail quench it. Otherwise the rail end will "batter" and he'll have to weld it up using special 1/4" welding rod later. Spark testing the welding rod looks to me like it's 4140.

Alvin in AZ (retired signalape)

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Well, let me ask another question. What would be a good cheap source of plain iron "bricks". I seriously regret not getting more of that 4140 (I only have 36 lbs). I could assemble something heavy and weld 4140 billets on top.

i

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Your local scrap yard, if your lucky enough to have one near by that'll let you rummage. Only one of those left in my area used to be all of them would let you look for cool stuff. :)

A while back got a fancy machined steel part (of some sort) that weighs 105 lbs. It's built like a square anvil.

If you live near the rairoad stop and talk to anybody working on it.

I made it a job of mine to collect short pieces of non-torch-cut rail and give it away. The SP's strict policy was they -never- sold rail. It was supposed to go back to be re-melted for new rail, but the small pieces ended up in scrap piles that went to local scrap yards. I was "saving" it, see? ;)

Alvin in AZ

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snipped-for-privacy@XX.com wrote:

It works great for powerhammer dies, so it should make a fair anvil. I used a rail anvil for years, the only complaint I had was that it was damn skinny. This particular piece is almost 100 years old, as evidenced by the '1909' cast into the side of the web ( which I guess is the date of manufacture) so it's plenty workhardened, probably all the way through the rail and into the web. It could be a 'model number' too, you tell me.

Charly

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Off hand I'd say it's the year. :) Large raised numbers, not stamped, right?

Alvin in AZ

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snipped-for-privacy@XX.com wrote:

Yep, about 2" tall, right next to the connecter holes at the end of the rail.

Charly

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If your chunks of 4140 are big enough, you may want to follow Ernie Leimkuhler's lead:

http://www.stagesmith.com/gallery/shop_projects/anvils/anvil_3/index.html shows the pictures and http://www.metalwebnews.com/howto/anvil1/anvil2.html tells you how!

I wish I had access to his metal supplier!

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Very fascinating, the pictures are great also. Ernie is a great inspiration on sci.engr.joining.welding.

I am basically an idiot when it comes to 4140. I was visiting a defunct mold and die company and picked up some letter and number stamps that I won on auction. At the same time I bought some TIG supplies (tool steel filler rod, magic zinc filler rod, brass filler rod, electrodes, alumina cups, alumina bars blah blah) from him.

Then we developed a sufficient rapport with the owner who offered me to take any chunk of steel out of a very large barrel. He was nice enough to point out whenever I was picking a junk piece of mild steel and so I walked away with about 36 lbs of 4140. Just a nice person.

If I had enough brains to think clearly, I would definitely realize that I want an anvil made of 4140, and would ask for more and for larger pieces. But, alas, I did not at the time, so I have only 36 lbs of it.

i

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Iggy, try to get some follower blocks from the railway they are over 75 lbs each and harder then heck. The car maintance crews change them out regularly. I believe they are about 10X12X about 3 inches thick. Unfortunately you are half a continent away or you could drop by and see one. I have several around the shop for press blocking and striking plates.

Pete

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Just out of passing interest, should the blocks happen to actually weigh under 70 Lbs, you could ship one anywhere in the US pretty reasonably.

USPS has 2 sizes of specially marked Priority Mail 'Flat Rate' boxes (free for the asking at the PO by the way, and/or can be ordered for free from the USPS website.) Anything that will fit in one weighing under 70 lbs goes anywhere in the US for $8.10. The inside measurements of one of the boxes is 11 7/8" X 3 3/8" X 13 5/8". Details are on the USPS website.

Erik

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That's a VERY smart idea!!!

I did that with some heavy stuff.

i

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