A newbie anvil question

Hello folks-
By way of introduction, I am a woodworker by hobby and a machinist/fabricator by trade. Recently, I've been running up against
a bit of a wall when it comes to upgrading my tools any further- the *really* good stuff is out of reach, and the cheaper stuff gets worse every year. Many older tools are getting to be almost impossible to come by at all.
So, in the interest of continuing to refine my hobby work, I've started do some really basic smith work for making woodturning tools. So far, a propane torch, a ball-peen hammer and a small "anvil" area on the back of a bench vise are all I've got available. But with that, I have been able to make some metal spinning tools, and even discovered that it's kind of fun.
I figured I could get a little anvil that might be more useful for making some short gouge flutes and various chisels at any given hardware store, but it turns out that's a pretty tall order- everything I saw was just a flat spot on the back of a vise.
So, I'll have to order one or make one- but since I have the intended uses in mind, I'm hoping some of you could steer me in the right direction.
What I'd like to be able to do is as follows-
- Flatten bar stock to form basic "head" shapes in a variety of profiles, mostly smaller than 1" in width and length.
- Forge flat chisels from flat or bar stock.
- Forge "hook" shapes from bar stock (for hollowing)
- Forge shallow fluted gouges from flat or bar stock with a flute that does not necessarily need to extend down the entire length of the tool.
- The occasional knife-making project, just for the hell of it.
Basic steps, as far I've been able to determine will be annealing, hammering, and quenching to harden the cutting surfaces, then grinding to refine the profiles, buffing the finished work and sharpening (correct me if I'm wrong, this is all pretty new to me)
I'd like to be able to do this first with the regular old hot-rolled or cold-rolled 1018 steel available at most hardware stores, and then try and move up to tool steels once I get the hang of it. If I really enjoy it after making the tools, I may try my hand at making a little wrought iron, but that's a long way off in any case.
What I have availible for tooling is a farily well-appointed wood shop, a manual mill, drill press, a large wood lathe, various grinders, hammers and buffing wheels. I'm willing to invest a little money in making a small charcoal forge with fire brick and purchasing an anvil, but please bear in mind that this for strictly utilitarian purposes for now, and I'm trying to save money- not spend it on tooling that is appropriate for a full-time industrial smith or a guy making broadswords or the like.
I do have neighbors nearby, and already make plenty of noise with the chainsaw, and do some metal casting in the backyard, so less noise is probably good (IE, I'd rather not have an anvil that rings like a bell, if that can be avoided!) I came up with this anvil as a promising candidate:
http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_23561_23561
I did read through the posts here, first, and saw that a lot of folks were recommending a Harbor Frieght product, but given the quality of their woodworking stuff, I think I'd pass on that.
So, any suggestions or concerns about the Northern Tool anvil, or good free sites that cover the basics of blacksmithing?
Any general advice is appreciated!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You're on a budget. You want good, therefore, NEW is NOT the way to go. New cheap is crap, and new good is expensive. If you are somewhat patient, and learn to use all the local (anvils are expensive and a hassle to ship) resources, you will eventually turn up an old anvil. If you are lucky, it will be a good one, but any is better than none to start, and you can keep an eye peeled for an upgrade, and then sell off the first one by the same channels.
Classified ads
Auctions, particularly farm auctions.
Craigslist
Other classified-ad sites in your local area. (ie, in Maine and nearby, Uncle Henry's).
Bulletin boards at feed stores, etc (post an anvil-wanted ad if you don't find an anvil for sale ad).
Plenty of good basic anvil info available on the web.
--
Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

Or... you could build your own. Got a scrapyard handy? Get yourself a piece of medium size I beam for the body, hunt up a piece of Big Rig leaf spring stock at a spring fabricators, take them to the welders and have the spring stock welded to the top of the I beam. Anvil. You said you have a mill, use it to shape the work surface to your own needs. Since you mentioned gouges, I suggest half-round grooves in various sizes cut with ball mills into the work surface at one end. It's easier to drive hot metal down into a groove than it is to beat it around a positive form to put the curve into it. You can kill the RINNNNNG by putting a layer of sheet lead under the anvil when you mount it to the stand. Make sure that the stand has a generous footprint and some mass to it; having an anvil fall over in the middle of a project can seriously ruin your morning. I used one of these homemades for years before I scrounged my current one; worked great. As for Fire, look at LP gas farrier's forges. There are lots of really good ones already on the market for reasonable prices. They're clean, quiet, easy to set up, and you don't spend 90% of your work time futzing with the fire. You'll need tongs, gloves, EYE PROTECTION, hammers, a grinder or disk sander for fine shaping, a quench tank which can be any metal container big enough to take the part, and a very well ventilated work area. Forges generate lots of carbon monoxide, be safe. You'll want your hot area to have a fireproof floor, because you will drop hot metal. IF it falls, let it. Jump back, then pick it up with the tongs. A piece of sheet steel will do to cover a wood floor, just nail it in place.
Happy Whacking
Charly
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mon, 27 Nov 2006 12:07:41 GMT, Charly the Bastard

Good advice- I had seen a lot of stuff about railroad track, but short of causing a derailment, I wouldn't know where to get the stuff. I-beam is real possibility. if purchasing an anvil isn't in the cards. I'll almost certainly go it the milled groove suggestion, provided I don't run across an anvil that is too big to fit on a knee mill.

Way ahead of you on the stand- it's the same story with a lathe. These days, I try not to build any tool that weighs less than about 400#. Too many close calls with light stands.

I've got some old fireplace blower fans that are just begging to be installed above a forge. I'll take a hard look at using propane, though. Is running off the house's natural gas a sensible alternative?

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Not really: Propane forges usually require 2-20 PSI fuel flow and the NG is regulated at the meter to under 1 PSI.
Some people HAVE been able to get their utility companies to install a second, metered, line with higher pressure.
YMMV - I haven't been able to talk mine into doing that, yet, although I keep trying...
Propane, OTOH, can be delivered/refilled on-site in a variety of tank sizes up to 1,000 gallons.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 28 Nov 2006 12:57:51 -0600, "RAM³"

Nah, I'll skip that- there's a farmer's co-op that sells propane a few blocks away. If it will last a while, I'm sure I can just get a 100# tank.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

snippage
Welll.... if you can rig up a forced air system, you can use city gas. I have one with an 8" impeller in a snail housing driven by a 1.5 hp motor feeding a four hole manifold into the box. The gas line with a flow valve dumps into the inlet of the blower and has a choke on the pipe to limit the airflow into the blower. This generates a 'less than ambient' pressure at the inlet and sucks the gas into the blower. The problem with city gas is the low pressure at the line, usually less than one pound above atmospheric. In a venturi burner, this can be a problem. If you're just starting out, think seriously about LP. Venturi burners use the pressure of the LP to entrain the air, so upping the gas pressure drags in more air and the fire gets hotter. LP is really quite effecient in a small box. Most everyone I've talked to runs between five and ten pounds on the guage, and gets welding heat in about ten minutes of run up time. It's about matching the burner to the size of the box, and the amount of refractory material inside. I do know that four holes in mine makes about a half million BTUs and the gas meter really spins, but it hits welding yellow in about five minutes. Sounds like a jet engine; whirrrrrrr ROARRRRRR.
Charly
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 28 Nov 2006 18:59:59 GMT, Charly the Bastard

So that I can visualize this better, what you're describing is a box made of or lined from fire brick with a burner inside and holes in the sides to insert the metal that is going to be worked, right? Is the burner like a jet from a propane torch, or is is more like a grill element?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

Well, the business end of the burner is inside the box. The main body of the burner is outside, and extends into the box through a hole in the side. Definitely more like a propane torch than a grill element, but usually bigger. Ever seen a jet water pump? A venturi burner works a lot like one. Bhob, I wish this system would support visual aids.... A venturi burner is a pipe that mounts to the firebox and extends into the box through whatever refractory material is used. inside the pipe is a nozzle (metering jet) that the LP is fed through, pointing down the pipe coaxially. As the gas flows through the jet at speed, it generates a low pressure area that entrains the surrounding air in the pipe and drags it into the box for combustion. The busuness end is usually a bit larger than the venturi section, which lowers the speed of the gas/air mix and slightly increases the pressure (Bernoulli's Principle) and supplies an 'attachment point' for the flame front to propagate from. The flame floods into the box, heating the air inside and the refractory material and raising the temperature. Temperature is controled by balancing the amount of fire injected with the leakage out the exhaust openings. The more fire you put in, the hotter it gets. Exhaust size (cross-sectional area) is part of the design equation. Too much outlet area is just as bad as not enough burner capacity, and you end up with a box that won't get HOT. Trying to force a too small burner to heat a too large box will result in the gas mozzle 'freezing up' as the moisture in the air condenses on the orfice, driven by the drop in pressure as the gas exits the orfice. (Boyle's gas laws) Clear as mud, no? This is why we rely on real engineers to design these little honeys.
Charly
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

That anvil you link to says cast iron, is 70 lbs and only $50. Probably cast in china of marginal or poor quality. Truth be told if the Harbor Freight anvil is one of the Russian ones it may be the best buy for the money unless you luck into an old one in good shape. Decent old anvils tend to run around $3-5 per pound. One of the best ways to find anvils aside from farm auctions is to see if there is an ABANA affiliate in your area (BTW where are you?). ABANA is the Artist Blacksmith Assn of North America (I think). Some groups even have get togethers and shops set up for the members to use. Iforgeiron.com is also a good resource and they have forums with a for sale area that occasionally have anvils. Of course since you want to do gouges you'll also want a swage block unless you follow the advice elsewhere and custom make your own anvil. Iforgeiron also has plans for simple coal/charcoal forges that may only cost time to build. All that is really needed for an anvil is something that can withstand the heat and hammer blows and the heavier the better. For a looong time large rocks were used as anvils till iron work developed to the point of iron anvils. And don't forget tongs.
ron
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

So, what exactly is the problem is iron? I thought they were all cast iron, until I started looking around. What will a cheap one do? I do know I've gotten thinner cast iron tooling that was cracked, but it seems like a big block of it would take a pretty nasty hammering.

Is it a reasonable alternative to get an anvil, then mill a thick piece of steel scrap for a block? I guess what I'm asking is if the anvil underneith would be enough of a heat sink. If I do go that route, will I need to temper it in the forge and quench it before using, or would it be good to go if I found something like 4140 and used it right off the mill?

Any chance a granite surface plate with a solid wood base (something like stacked railroad ties to fully support the bottom) would do the job? Grizzly Industrial has them fairly cheap for machinist work, and those suckers are 4-5" thick. It was one of my first thoughts, but I figured there was a reason why people don't use them for that purpose.

Nope, gotta have tongs. Probably a lot of them- I'm going to be doing some aluminum casting fairly soon, too.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Main things: Cast iron is softer than steel, it will dent easier.
Cast iron absorbs and dampens the vibrations, and you want the energy of your hammer to be reflected back into the work, not dissapated into the anvil. A good test of an anvil is to drop a small ball bearing on it from a foot or two up. If you get it to bounce almost back to your hand, it is a good anvil. The less it bounces back, the more work you have to do to deform the metal you are working on and the more tired you will get for a given amount of work done.
(snip)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

Good tip- thanks!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Prometheus wrote:

The problem isn't so much with it being iron (although something harder than iron is nice) as it is with Chinese iron anvils having a reputation of inconsistant casting quality. A poorly cast anvil will tend to absorb the energy from the hammer (which means more work) and may have inclusions that will make the anvil prone to breaking.

I've seen some around here that have had hardface welded to the top. Sometimes to repair badly dented faces, sometimes just to build up the face. It is nice to have something with a little hardness to it so it resists the occasional errant hammer blow.

The big reason folks went from rocks to steel anvils is a rock will eventually crumble/break. If it is cheap enough you may find it usefull to start with.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I see- so an older iron one cast in the US or Europe (though I doubt many of them go overseas) is probably worth having, but an import is less likely to be worthwhile?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
No, not that anvil. It is cast iron, not cast steel or mild steel with a tool steel top. You don't want the corners chipping off. The 50 KG (110 pound) anvil that Harbor Frieght has is cast steel. Some people say that it is no longer available, but it sure is available at the stores in the Mpls/St.Paul area.
Don't think too small on the anvil size. I suggest that an anvil for your purposes should weigh in at at least 60 pounds, and another 60 or so wouldn't hurt. For much of the woodworking tool making, a swage block (or swages that you can make) and a good anvil bick will be very useful.
It helps to give us your general location when you post with questions like this. There may even be folks watching within 50 miles of you who have an extra one of what you want.
The Guild of Metalsmiths, Minnesota and western Wisconsin, (my "home" club) has taught basic blacksmithing to many woodworkers who have exactly the same goals that you do.
Most blacksmiths who have been at it for a while accumulate extra stuff, including anvils. There was a thread here several years ago where the OP asked: "How many anvils should a person have?" Someone came back and said "at least 5." I suggest that you go to www.abana.org, find the chapter closest to you and make contact. Most have newsletters that have classified ads. Most have meetings and conferencse where they discuss extra tooling. Many of the smiths that I know always have a couple of anvils out on loan to someone they trust will return it some day. Also, many of the chapters (actually "affiliates" these days) have education programs where skills all the way from the basics up are taught. When most of the guys (and gals) that I hang out with see a truly interested neophyte, they jump for the chance to help them out. You sound like one of them.
Pete Stanaitis -------------------
Prometheus wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Plenty of good advice here to date.
I'll repeat, find yourself a good used anvil and that will do. 70 pounds should be your minimum, although you won't be doing really heavy work from the sounds of your plans. Remember, there are two types of used anvils; the ones which have been repaired and the ones which need repair.
I built a small forge out of an old propane tank using a burner from Rex Price at http://www.hybridburners.com/ . I used the shorty burner for the propane tank and with insulation and the ITC-100 coating it works very well. It would be perfect your your work. And it won't generate all the noxious gases the others do.
I also scrounge diesel engine head bolts from a local diesel truck service place. They are replaced when they do head work and they make great chisels and related tools. For larger items, the S cams replaced on big truck brakes are really tough steel and also work well. I've made hammers from them, and matching swages to fit into my hardy.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

As someone who dabbles in both woodworking and blacksmithing I feel the need to point out what may be obvious to everyone else: Unless you WANT to start a fire, sawdust and metal sparks don't mix well.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Cothian wrote:

That is "unless" ;-) Good point though. It's bad enough when you get flare up on your quench bucket (mine is a 20 litre bucket full of cheap carbon full dirty oil).
Most of the wood working tools needed can be made with a hole through a fire brick forge. Cheap as hell (relatively speaking) very efficient on gas too.
I'm still looking for a good anvil (without having to pay eleventy billion dollars for it). In the mean time I've put a 10 mm hardened steel face on a little cast iron anvil, it does the job, but I had to sacrifice the hardie hole (no sweat I'll make a stake plate).
BTW Aluminium powder and rust make a better fire ;-)
Regards Charles
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Yep. Woodshop is in the basement, metalwork (except for spinning) goes in the garage. Should be a good place for a forge, the walls are stone, and the floor is concrete.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.