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
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,
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
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.
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
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,
Only complaint is I didn't grab a real anvil 35 years ago.
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.
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
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
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
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
Well, enough diahrrea of the keyboard. Just do it!
You're a smith: Build a fire and _make_ something so you can make
Bring back, Oh bring back
Oh, bring back that old continuity.
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'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.
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)
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.
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
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
If your chunks of 4140 are big enough, you may want to follow Ernie
shows the pictures and
http://www.metalwebnews.com/howto/anvil1/anvil2.html tells you how!
I wish I had access to his metal supplier!
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.
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.
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
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