I am setting up a shop before having done any work. If I have a rectangular
forge in front of me and I'm right handed, will I want the anvil to the
right or left of the forge? Why? Where would you put the quench barrel
relative to these? Thanks for any help!!
I'm afraid there is no hard and fast rule on the above. It's whatever you
find most comfortable for yourself, paying due regard to the space you
have around the hearth and the size of work you will be doing.
Arrange it so it works for you, and the work you want to do.
Same goes for the direction the horn faces, when you position the anvil.
Tradition puts the horn on the left, IIRC, for a right handed smith.
For some things I have done, that required repetetive use of both the
face, and a cutoff hardy, like square nails, I found that by cranking
the anvil end for end, I could leave the hardie in place, with no risk
of whacking my fingers off on it, as it was now on the far side of the
Sometimes it's good to be able to play with the layout, or at least
have stuff that's semi mobile, to adjust for the usage.
The shop that I used the most, had the forge set up with the anvil at
the smiths back, within arms reach. The slack tub was to the immediate
right of the forge, and was a source for water to use when making and
managing the fire, as well as being ready to hand when required to use
to quench metal or cool a tool.
Immediate to the left of the forge, was a leg vise,mounted to a steel
post/truck rim combination. Sturdy enough, and mobile enough.
If you were wondering about the water and the fire, the coal we were
using was mostly fines, and once a fire was lit, coal fines and water
slurry would be built up around it to coke off. You got in the habit of
making sure there was a bit of coke around for the next relight.
What I was told about anvil direction, and handedness.
The anvil horn should face to the left, and in my my shed my forge is to
my right when facing the anvil. Forge placement is not that important,
although sometimes when you are doing forge welding it is better that
the work gets to a hot anvil quickly.
My quench container (which is actually a garbage can filled with the
sh*ttiest oil I could get) is outside my shed, for no other reason than
I like my floor space (which is funny really as the floor space is
cluttered with a few things that are on the go.
There's no hard an fast rule to any of this, basically it's what works
However I do not recommend you face the anvil horn toward the mouth of
your forge, chances are you're going to drop something, bend over and
get an anvil enema... not pleasant.
For my part anvil #1 is to my left at 90* to the forge with enough room
to walk around, this week, last week it was right behind me.
This week I want to make three steps to the power hammer and only pivot
to use the anvil.
Last week I had to turn around but it was only a side step to the post vise.
It is all about process.
Accept when it comes to physical needs.
I rarely set up to pivot right. Knee gets sore.
On a circular base even a heavy anvil can be moved with a minimum of effort.
For a quench bucket I normally use a stainless steel milk house bucket.
That moves around somewhat , but usually sits to the right of the
forge out of my traffic pattern.
It is funny everyone wonders about anvil placement, I did too.
Most important is the forge placement if you are using coal.
For the most part it isn't going to move around much due to weight and
If I had it all to do again (This would be the fourth or fifth redesign)
I'd obsess about forge placement to allow for the most variations
possible on the other items.
It would also be in a building built for the purpose. Laying things out
to match floor shape and existing venting can be limiting.
Yup, what everyone else said.
"They" talk of making a triangle of the forge, anvil and post vise. The
idea is to keep them all as close together as you can so you aren't
running around the shop with iron cooling on the way to the next step.
One other issue to consider: Are you going to be adding a trip
hammer or treadle hammer one of these days? If so, give some thought to
how they might fit in to the whole scheme of things.
Slack tub full of water (that's what I assume you mean by "quench
barrel") as close to forge as possible, as others have said.
But there IS a fourth piece of equipment that needs to be close by: a
work table. This doesn't have to be a large layout table, but at least
a flat place to put things so they don't have to be picked up off the
floor. And of course, you need a place to put tongs and handled tools.
My forge has a rack on the end and so does my 2' X 3' work table. It
also has a holder for 16 of my favorite handled tools to the front and a
holder for 40 less used handled tools on the rear, out of the way of my
If you have convenient wall space (CLOSE to the forge) for hanging
tools, use it. Don't "show off" your tool inventory within the
triangle. Keep only tools needed for the current job in that area.
You didn't mention the post vise, so if you don't have one, get one. If
you mount it on a moveable stand, make sure it has a table for laying
tools on; at least a foot square (I like 18" square). I strongly
suggest that the stand and vise combination weigh at least 200 pounds,
more if possible. My personal favorite base is the flywheel from a New
Holland model 66 baler. It weighs 215 pounds, but rolls into the van
or pickup truck easily when dissassembled from its support tube and vise.
One other poster mentioned anvil placement so as to aviod chopping off
knuckles on the cut-off hardy. When making nails, I put the hardy in
the post vise so I can't cut a knuckle.
And remember, don't stir the slack tub before drinking out of it!
Ted Walker wrote:
Make it all movable (no stump buried 5 feet into the ground at this
point) and rearrange after a bit of use and thinking. Refine until it
works well for you. One immediate comment - the forge is hardly primary
"...forge in front of me" - think from the anvil - the forge is an
enabling heating appliance, the anvil and vise are where the work gets
Thanks to all who answered. Needless to say my forge is stationary but I
was trying to figure out where to install forge to allow me to arrange
anvil, slack tub, post vice (yes I have one but forgot about it -thanks) &
work area around it the best. I was going to permanently mount the anvil to
the concrete floor but am now reconsidering putting it on one of those
homemade stands filled with sand or a banded stump. I like the suggestion
about mounting tools storage on wall vs. in work area where they are pretty
but get in the way. I understood the deal about a baler flywheel to provide
the wt. for a post vice but I'd think the weight vs. moving the vice would
negate each other - why not just bolt to floor w/ plate steel and a wood or
metal post? Again - thanks for the help in getting setup!
OK, so I haven't mounted my post vice yet. But it seems to me the
reason for the post is to withstand banging. Banging on anchors
loosen them. And repeated shocks wear around concrete or wood (my
guess for your floor). The flywheel would provide two important
functions. First, provide a massive inertia reservoir, similar to an
anvil, that would provide a sturdy support for the post vice, with a
dynamic mount - very little random motion between vice and the
mounting (the flywheel). The flywheel also presents a very large,
relative; surface to the floor, reducing wear on the floor. With the
flywheel you don't wear out your anchors to the floor. Bolting to the
floor isn't a good way to manage vibrations/impacts, or my anvil would
be bolted down. Instead I put a lot of thought and adjustment into my
anvil stand - and it isn't bolted down.
Ted, you wrote questioning making the vise movable.
Keep in mind that I have chosen a fixed, actually three fixed vises, one
large machinists vise and two post vises.
I can recommend a set up that I saw used. The vise was mounted to a post
on a steel plate which was round and about 30" in diameter.
When the vises is used with the smith standing on the plate it is a
closed system and would work just fine in a zero G environment.
The plate being round makes trundling it about the shop a matter of
rolling it. I have also seen a square plate with a couple of dolly
wheels , just tilt and move.
As to the anvil stand a round stump works well and can also be rolled a
bit if the vise isn't too big.
Mike - Actually my question started based on total room layout. I basically
have a 12 x 12 area in the corner of my shop shed that I'm partitioning off,
except on one side, with cement board. I'm trying to figure out where to
place the forge, mainly relative to the anvil & vice, on the outside wall
I'm planning on using an old vent-a-hood to create draft. This is my
"dirty" metalworking area. I'm going to have metal shelves, 3 grinders,
cutting torch area, and MIG welder in this room. I've got a 4' dia. steel
plate about 1" thick that I'm going to mount on pipe legs & casters as my
work table for everything. I guess I need to come up with a smaller/taller
table for near the forge work area. I'm already running out of room trying
to fit all my toys & projects into my new shop - 30' x 100' with a 20'
lean-to down the side for storage. The main floor is concrete. This is my
dream shop but alot of my projects are large - old tractors & cars,
machining, & woodworking (yes - I know about combustibles).
Thanks for everyone's suggestions so far....
"jack of all trades, master of none" but will be working on it the rest of
my lfe - joyfully,