I had originally posted this on sci.engr.joining.welding.
One of the gents suggested that I post this same request here.
I know that this topic has been revisited many times... I've started
the search for Rankin BBG and DDG dual-shield hardfacing wires, based
upon some voices of experience in this group.
I called Rankin directly. I then had a chance to speak with one of
their technical sales support team, and we talked about my application
of their hardfacing wires, and that he would get back to me the
following business day.
He said that Rankin would not recommend a hardfacing wire for an
anvil. I was shocked. He mentioned that after consulting with
several application engineers, that they would not be surprised if the
hardfaced layer would delaminate from the anvil after some period of
time. He recommended a Tool Steel build-up, and then doing a proper
Heat Treat. I'm not up for the excitement of 250+ pounds of 1700
degree steel...not to mention the quench.
I don't have enough experience with Hardfacing to understand his
concern. What do your thoughts/experiences tell you?
The pair of anvils I'm rebuilding are cast iron body with a tool steel
top plate... Fishers to be
Luckily, all of the top plates are intact, so there is no need to
butter the cast iron with nickel before building-up the top.
I have surface-ground several anvils over the years. I don't weld them
up myself, but I grind them flat for those who do weld them up and then
want them very flat.
Most of those anvils eventually develop hairline cracks along the
edges that are about 1/2 inch long where they build up the edges.
I haven't seen many of the cracks actually open up, but they are
certainly visible. They always (so far, anyway) have been using stick
welders to do the job. They use a base hardfacing rod to do the build
up, then a single pass hardfacing rod as the last pass. This, of
course, is after a lot of preheating, weld and grind, weld and grind.
Think of the joy in grinding away at each weld while the anvil is at
about 400° F. for a couple of hours.
If interested, you can go here:
to learn a little more.
I refaced my 1820's ish Mouse Hole anvil using Rankin BBG and DDG
dual-shield hardfacing wires.
some pictures here:
I don't have pictures of the finished anvil I see. I should take some and
I've only used it for a few months since then but so far it's holding up
fine. No clue how it will hold up after 10 years however.
As Pete said, I have seen a few hairline cracks near the edge which seem to
have formed between where I ran weld beads. But so far, none have
developed into a problem or turned into chunks that broke off.
I did NOT preheat the anvil when welding it. That was based on what I read
about on Ernie Leimkuhler page here:
(Ernie can be found in rec.crafts.metalworking I believe)
All the stick hardfacing rods require you to preheat the anvil. The dual
shield mig doesn't - so it seems. But it might well work better if you do
preheat it. Certainly the anvi gets very hot in a short period when you do
tha that much welding on it anyway.
I bought my wire on-line from Ram Welding supply in CA:
The wire has an amperage range from 150 to 250 I think. Ernie I think used
a welder that could run at the top end around 250 and his notes indicted it
was required. I only have a Miller Millermatic 180 which when turned all
the way up, runs more like 150 A. I was expecting to have to find another
welder to get the refacing done, but found my Millermatic 180 seemed to be
running hot enough for the wire. I had the wire speed turned all the way
up, and the voltage about half way up - that was the hottest I could run
and get a good bead.
My welder has a very short duty cycle when running that hot. The gun would
quickly overheat, and I could only weld for a short time before the machine
would overheat and I had to wait for it to cool. To deal with the gun, I
would quench the tip of the gun in water after every weld bead across the
face of the anvil (aka 4" of weld bead). If I didn't do that, the copper
tip would get so hot it would melt.
A larger MIG machine would certainly be advised, but it was interesting I
was actually able to complete the job with my 180 machine.
It was a hell of a long job. Took maybe 50 hours of welding and grinding
and welding and grinding and welding and grinding. Plus lots of waiting
for the welding machine and the anvil to cool down. But I started with an
anvil which was a total disaster. It was unusable for any real
blacksmithing without having it totally refaced. I also added a pritchel
hole (it was old enough that it didn't have one).
BTW, I used normal mig wire to do most the initial build up just to get the
surface flat again. Then once the anvil was roughly flat (took at least 4
layers of beads in the lowest spots), I did a few layers of the softer BBG,
and then finished with I think, 2 layers (forget now exactly how many I
used) of the harder DDG. Maybe it was 3 layers of DDG.
Also, I had a lot of recurring problems with porosity. It took lots of
experimenting with technique to mostly eliminate it. It tended to happen
at the beginning of the weld. But when it did happen, I had to stop and
grind out all the bubbles and reweld. I think running at a high amperage
with a larger welder would help with that.
If you only need to reface the edges, then you have the addition problem
that the part of the face you don't reface, but which is next to the weld,
we loose it's temper and hardness. I don't know how serious a problem that
is, but it's something to think about before you start trying to weld on
your anvil. I assume you would have to heat-treat the whole thing again to
fix that - and I have no clue how you do that with something as big as an
anvil. That is, how do you quench something that big fast enough? And
what does that do the parts that were replaced with hard facing, that
normally is not heat treated?
My anvil went from something like 130 lbs to 137 lbs when I was done. The
face is about 12" x 4", so doing a little math, that's 48 square inches of
surface, and at .283 lbs/inch^3, that means the average depth I added was
about 1/2" across the entire face of the anvil. That's a lot of welding
I'm happy so far with the results I got, and it was a fun experiment to see
what could be done, and a good learning exercise, but money wise, it was a
stupid investment if the only goal was getting a better anvil. I spent
close to $200 for the two spools of hardfacing wire (still have lots left).
Had to upgrade the welder with new liner and tips and drive wheel to
support 045 wire. And I went though a good collection of grinding wheels.
Probably spent about $400 before counting my 50 hours plus the $100 I spent
to buy the anvil in the first place. So in the end, I spent around $500
and 50 hours of time over many months to get a decent 137 lbs anvil. I
could have bought a larger one in good condition for more like $400. But
then I wouldn't have the fun story to share about the project or all the
experience it gave me.
Pete, thanks for that grinding information. I've spent a lot of time
on your very informative website. Your site is an asset to
metalworkers, thanks for taking that time to create it.
Curt, it sounds like you've already been through the war I'm
considering to start. Ernie's posts to both rec.crafts.metalworking
and sci.engr.joining.welding are worthy of printing and saving. I've
learned a lot about TIG welding from his postings.
My MIG machine (450amp) should be more than adequate for the amperage
required for the .045 wire. Were you concerned about getting the
anvil too hot during your buildup processes? One of the other aspects
of this project, is how to deal with the Hardy hole. I'm considering
a bar of square Aluminum or Copper placed into the hole, and then
hardfacing around that, if it would keep the edge of the hardy hole
Did you do any type of hardfacing to the anvil horn?
I understand that the BBG and DDG wire's flux is hygroscopic. Did you
find an acceptable way to store the unused wire?
I was just concerned in general about too much stress from the heat shifts.
I just didn't know what dangers I might be creating by allowing it to get
too hot. Or with the top at 400 deg and the bottom at 100 was I creating
stresses that could create cracks etc? I have no clue if my concerns were
Another side effect however seemed to be that the hotter the anvil, the
faster my little MIG gun was overheating so that was another factor I had
My hardy hole was oddly shaped to begin with. It sort of spirals down at
an angle though the anvil. I think this sort of stuff was common on these
older anvils (mine is nearly 200 years old). So I wasn't as concerned
about it. I did my best to not over-weld around the hole but you cna't get
the corners sharp without a good bit of over welding anyway. In the end, I
just used carbide burs on an air grinder to clean it up the best I could.
It ended up a little more square than what I started with.
It was good enough that I didn't touch it.
I had no idea there was a storage issue. I guess my left over wire is
turning to shit then? :) I've never heard the term hygroscopic. Does that
mean it reacts with moisture in the air?
Good luck with your project.
Hygroscopic just means something that absorbs water. Sugar is a good
I've asked Ernie what issues he's experienced with storing the Rankin
hardfacing wires, on sci.engr.joining.welding.
I'll let you know what I find out.
Reading the posts to date, I just remembered another way to reface an
anvil. I've never tried it myself, but an old timer who used to shoe
horses for the Budwieser Clydesdales told me the following:
You buy a new tool steel plate that is the size you need for the face.
Make it plenty thick.
Take it to a machine shop and have them machine the hardy hole.
Then have them machine a pretty wide female dovetail longways on the
bottom side. I think he must have meant that it should be at least
When you do the pritchel hole is up to you.
Now, take the whole anvil to the machine shop and have them machine a
mating male dovetail, removing most of the existing face. This dovetail
must produce a tight press fit to the newly made face plate.
Heat the new face up to about 450° F and drive it on.
If I WERE going to try this, I guess I'd use at least half-hard 4140.
Obviously, this is a job for a big mill, using carbide tooling.
It wouldn't have occurred to me that "Give me enough power and I can mill anything".
Note: I don't plan on doing an anvil this way in the near future; this
is just FYI.
I thought anvil horns were mild steel, and therefore don't require
Several of the guys around here have actually built up horns with mild
steel rod. In the cases (pretty common) where a lot of the horn's
original length has been worn away, they choose a large bolt that's
about the right length, grind a place to attach it, weld it on, and then
use it as an "armature" to do the weld, grind, weld, grind, etc., until
they get what they want.
Even works for an anvil where the whole horn is missing.
I don't think they do this during coffe breaks at work, though.
Seems there was this guy that had his hand on a workbench with the
fingers all spread out.
He was hitting each finger in turn with a hammer.
Another guy walks up and says " Hey, why are you hitting your fingers
with a hammer like that?"
First guy says: "because it feels so good when I quit".
I think anvil welding is sorta like that.
Well, adding to that, I know the old anvils like mine have a wrought iron
body and only the face has a steel plate attached, so the horn must be only
soft wrought iron as well. These anvils were built up in peaces and forge
welded together. I've heard it's common for the horn to break off if you
abuse it too much. I don't intend to do any heavy hitting on my horn.
Interesting idea. However, unless you have a friend with a machine shop to
do that sort of thing for free, the machine cost and tooling is likely to
cost more than a brand new larger anvil based on machine shop prices I've
On that same approach, I've heard people talk about welding a tool steel
plate on top of the anvil just by welding it around the edges. I think it
would have to be good and thick (3/4" or more?) to keep it from expanding
and warping up in the middle from being hammered. But maybe not? It would
be a faster and cheaper option than refacing or dove tail machining. If I
tried that, I think I would likely drill a hole or two in the middle of the
plate and plug weld it with hardfacing as well. But who knows, that might
end up causing more problems than helping.
I had not given much thought to the idea of welding a new top on the
anvil... I've got access to a 18x18x1" thick piece of 4140 steel.
It would take a fair amount of milling to remove the top plate of the
anvil. Not that big of deal...carbide inserts are cheap.
So, to perform a weld around the perimeter of the new plate, which was
previously hardened, wouldn't the heat from welding temper the
I like the idea of doing a couple of plug welds to keep the plate from
I heard of some guys welding on a new plate. They cut the old face
plate off one way or another, then veed out the body of the anvil enough
so they could weld all the way to the center and build out from there.
Yup, probably would be cheaper to buy a new one.
Or maybe make a pattern and have one cast out of solid 4140 and then
I don't think there is a cheap way out.
I had some (6) 10kg anvils cast in 4130 several years ago. I used one
example of the anvil (a European "cathedral style") as the pattern,
since exact size was not important. They cost me $175 apiece, including
heat treatment. One reason for the high price is that, when using a
part as a pattern, they have to make a "matchplate" for it and then
there is more manual labor involved in getting the flask ready to pour.
You can see them if interested at:
are the 3 small ones in the front. (I gave the others away).
There's a long story to with them, but that's for another day.
By the way, some years ago Peter Ross told me that if one wanted a brand
new anvil of the same design as they found at Colonial Williamsburg when
excavating the shop area, you can contact Colonial Williamsburg and
they can give you a license to have one made at a foundry some place in
Texas (I think). It was probably 10 years ago or so when he told us
that and, I think the cost was about $450 at that time. The anvil is
cast in solid 4140.
If it's in good shape, why remove it? Just mill enough to get the anvil
I would think so. I have no idea how they heat treat something as large as
an anvil but apparently it's done. Maybe it would still be hard enough
even after welding that you wouldn't have to do anything else. Might be
able to keep it cold enough with wet rags or something?
But of course, that creates more tempering problems around the plugs and
the hardfacing in the weld might not be as hard as the steel around it.
But I can't help but think it will start to rattle/ping on you over time if
you only weld around the edges.
I read someplace that back in the 1600's in England, the Peter Wright
company was already in litigation over water rights on the stream or
river that went by their anvil factory. It appears that they used such
large quantities of falling water to quench anvils that it was doing
something that others didn't like.
I have had enough experiences with Peter Wright anvils to oberve that
some are really hard and some are not so hard.
Also, it appears to me that the hardness wasn't all that deep, since
it seems that, the deeper I go when grinding, the softer it gets. Not
REAL soft, mind you, but softer. And I run enough coolant when I grind
that the anvil's temperature doesn't rise more that 10° F above ambient.
Maybe the soft days were when the English government made them cut
back on water usage?
I wish some of the guys from the New Jersy Blacksmiths assoc. would
chime in here. They used to do an "annual" anvil repair weekend once a
year. I do remember some pretty interesting stories from them. Like
the time they were heating a whole anvil prepatory to replacing the face
by forge welding and they MELTED it!
This reminds me that forge welding the face on must be the only "right"
way to "get 'er done"!!!!!!!
I have no idea how they heat treat something as large as
I was discussing making anvils with an old fella a few years ago - he
said that when he was young (1920s?) he was told by an old fella that
when HE was young, anvils were heat-treated by heating to red hot on a
big bonfire, then dropping them in the duck pond - this would (I guess)
go back to 1850s? in far north of scotland
Certain track welders were having trouble with the frog points
they'd re-built-up popping off. One track welder I knew wasn't
having that problem. Fred French could go directly to arc welding
the broken rail end or frog point or switch point and it'd stay
But the orders came down anyway that they first had to lay down a
1/4" thick bed (or so) of 4140 rod with the rosebud first then use
the arc welder. I don't know what rod they were using in the arc
welder tho. :/ Seems like Fred said it was mostly about getting
the frog good and hot first more than the gas-rod material itself.
They called it "hard facing" but I believe that was more of a
discription of the process than a type of rod, see what I mean?
Like one poster said the welding rod company said not to use any
of the typical hard facing rods/wires, but then again they might be
thinking in terms of going straight to the hard facing rod without
first laying down a bed of 4140 rod using a 3/4" rosebud?
Anyway, I've posted all that here before, don't know if it helps
or hinders. LOL :) But go out and take a close look at a frog
point sometime anyway and you'll see what I'm talking about. :)
Alvin in AZ