Looking at anvils next week- some advice greatly appreciated

Hello all,
Today I contacted a guy who has some anvils for sale today who came recommended by one of the list members here, and am going to take a
look at what he has to offer next week.
From the phone conversation, it sounds as though he has two good contendors for sale right now- a Peter Wright anvil in *good* condition for $290 (I don't recall if it was 120# or 150#, but it was something in that size range) and a smaller 60# anvil for $90 that has some slight chipping on the edges (My guess is that it's a cast steel HF anvil, but I'll find out when I go to look at them.)
$90 is more realistic for my price range, but I've burned myself enough times by purchasing tooling that was inadquate to know that sometimes it's better to tighten my belt for a couple of weeks or months and get the right thing the first time. It's kind of hurt my woodshop over time when I've "saved" money in the short term only to end up replacing equipment six months or a year later and selling the smaller tooling at a loss.
(In a nutshell, I'm not cheap- but not wealthy, either)
So, I'm leaning towards that larger Wright anvil. But $290 puts it into a realm where it needs to be a quality tool, and not just a toy. Basically, if I put that much into it, and it turns out to be a piece of junk, blacksmithing as a hobby is going to be ruled out for at least a year or two. For $90, I can pretty well shrug off a loss on the smaller anvil, but I can't see a good reason to waste money on useless stuff.
So I've got a week to educate myself a little further on exactly what it is I need to look for when I'm assessing the condition of a used anvil. I've been searching around the internet from time to time over the past month or two, but so far have not come up with any good *field tests* for judging an anvil.
What can I look for when checking this hunk of metal over? What would you, as a smith, allow a prospective buyer to do when checking an anvil? I would assume he's not going to worry about me giving it a whack with a hammer, but what else can a guy do to figure out whether or not it's worth the asking price? Maybe like giving the base a quick once-over with a wire brush to look for cracks, or some pointers on judging the overall quality based on the finish of the casting? Do most smiths tend to go for haggling, or is the price he set the price he wants, and debating it likely to be seen as an insult?
I am also wondering if those Peter Wright anvils have much ring to them- I am in a residential neighborhood, and even though the garage is mostly underground (the rafters and roof are above grade), I'm not looking to get into a fight with the neighbors over my loud anvil. If it does ring, would doing something like mounting a bit of tire rubber or similar material between the anvil and the stump help reduce the sound? If nothing works, but the anvil is worth the investment, I may insulate the roof of the garage to reduce the amount of noise that can escape- but that is a sizable investment as well, and one that could be much better applied in the house itself.
Thanks for any comments or advice you may have.
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Prometheus wrote:

Okay, if it's good it'll ring a bit when you tap it with a hammer, if it's got big cracks, it'll klunk. Good condition usually means it hasn't got structuraL cracks. Bigger is better for smithing work. PWs have a good name for quality, and $2 a pound is reasonable. Check the face for flat with a straight steel ruler. corner to corner and look for gaps between the ruler and the face. Anything under an eighth of an inch is acceptable. Check for hammer dings in the face surface, chipping at the edges, corners, around the hardie hole, on the horn. A little wear and tear is okay, but deep gouges and dings will have to be fixed sooner or later by welding and grinding. You can dress out a lot of minor stuff with a body gtinder, so don't let small flaws deter you from getting it. If it's really swaybacked, there's always the machine shop to get it decked flat again. Carbides will cut even hardface like a hot knife through butter in just a few minutes on the mill. Keep the neighbors happy by putting some sheet lead under the anvil when you mount it. Lead will soak up the KLANG without leaving the anvil on a soft base like using a mudflap would. When you mount it, make the stand high enough so you don't have to bend over to use it. The hammer should be level in your hand when it gets to the anvil. Take it from me, lower back pain is no fun, and standing humped over the anvil will give it to you damn quick. Anvils used to be marked for weight in hundredweights, stones, and pounds. Hundredweight 2 pounds, stone  pounds, so a 150# anvil would be 1 hundredweight,2 stone,6 pounds, or 126. This was usually cast into the base somewhere. Hope this helps, happy whacking.
Charly
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Hmph. I thought it was hundredweights @ 112 pounds each, quarter hundredweights @ 28 pounds each, maximum of three in this position, and pounds, maximum of 27 in this position.
Goes to show: You learn something new everyday.
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John Husvar wrote:

YMMV. My Vulcan is matked 126, and tips the scale at 149 lb, 11 oz. Guess it lost a little weight over the years getting dressed for dings and such. The bathroom scale will never be the same, I heard a crunch inside when I weighed it. I guess I should have put it on the scale by itself, instead of holding it. Dumb Dworf...
Charly
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Oopsie!
Charly: Dear, I think we need a new scale. This one will only go to 125 now.
Charlie's SO: Don't you touch that scale, you Bastard, or you'll never touch _me_ again! :)
You get called a dwarf too, or is that a persona you play?
Good friend of mine always calls me Gimli for my height and build, but then he's 6'5" 260# I'm 5'7" and 200. Well, maybe 210 after the holidays. So maybe I look dwarvish to him. (Funny, you don't look Dwarvish?:)
I've always weighed in at 25-50# above estimates. Muscle is heavier than fat, I guess. Those in my head must be the ones making the difference. It's useful at carnivals, though..:)
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John Husvar wrote:

Your buddy would qualify as well. Ever heard of the SCA? Long ago, there were Dworves in the SCA. To be 'recognised' a Dworf, you had to be over six feet, over two hundred pounds, display copious facial hair, and exibit Dworven tendencies. I was a natural, being 6'3", 250#, very furry,and dumb as a box of rocks. My Patron Dworf is Dopey, I drove 800 miles out of my way just to meet Snow White at the Shrine of St Walt in California, I didn't so much learn smithing as remember it, and my weapons tend to glow in the dark. Go figure...
Charly the Bastard, the Last Dworf in Ansteorra Head Metal Forger In Charge, Dwarven Metals
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John Husvar wrote:

Yep, but not today. Your original idea of hundred weights-quarter hundredweights-pounds is correct. I just checked the Richard Postman book and he notes NO variations on any anvils using the old English system. There are, of course, many anvils which show only actual total pounds in their stamped weights.
dennis in nca
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dgrup wrote:

Then why does my anvil show 126 and weigh 150#? Maybe it's older than I think.
Charly
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Charly the Bastard wrote:

I agree it seems like a lot of weight to loose. Can you borrow another scale to double check?
Can you describe your anvil, or post a few photos somewhere? Sometimes the age can be estimated rather closely from markings and such.
dennis in nca
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dgrup wrote:

Sorry, no pic capability. It's a Vulcan, standard anvil shape. Prominent cast-in logo on the side, no date. 126 cast into the hardie end just above the feet. Ma won't let me try weighing it again, not on the new electronic scale. I guess some things are just a mystery.
Charly
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Charly the Bastard wrote:

Interesting. The Vulcan anvils were, until the 1960s, built in Carpentersville, Illinois so did not use the English system of weights. Postman says the first two digits "only" of the weight (also used as the model number) were cast into the anvil. So a "12" would indicate a model 12 which could be between 120 and 129 pounds.
I'd suggest borrowing another scale and, with a friend, re-weighing.
Or: Is the name "Vulcan" on the anvil? Or only the picture of the "Arm-with-hammer?"
dennis in nca
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dgrup wrote:

Definitely a Vulcan, cast into the side. I've seen the Arm & Hammer logo; similar but not the same. So we still have a mystery. A Vulcan with a three digit number that matches the weight if you use the English system, but is too light or too heavy if you believe the book. Go figure...
Charly
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Charly the Bastard wrote:

<snip>
a vulcan built for the European market? perhaps for lendlease in WW1 / WW2?
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bigegg wrote:

That's an interesting thought:

After all Postman's book _is_ titled "Anvils in America".
dennis in nca
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John Husvar wrote:

And some days you learn something that's wrong.
Hundredweight/ quarter hundredweight/ pounds is correct.
Cheers Trevor Jones
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Hmmmm -- thought so. Guess I was wrong about being wrong. I should have checked it myself, but was being lazy.
Guess that's better than being wrong about being right. :)
John
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On Mon, 15 Jan 2007 01:48:14 GMT, Charly the Bastard

Thanks for the replies, all of you- that sounds like a good starting point. Chances are, the guy selling it is as honest as can be- but there's always that outside chance that there are is a thing or two he'd rather not mention about it that a guy new to the hobby might miss. Still haven't met him *or* the anvils, so I couldn't say one way or another.
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I'm pretty sure that the ball-bearing drop test has been mentioned or linked to in the not too far distant past. Basically take a ball bearing (biggish is better), and a clear tube that it fits in, and check the "rebound" when you drop the bearing on the anvil face. Gives a feel for hardness and "live-ness" - more bounce is better. Can let you find soft spots if things have been reworked.
Look for any separation of the face, or puffs of rust when the face is hit that would indicate separation of the face and body.
Ring is most effectively killed with a sheet of roofing lead mounted under the anvil - between the anvil and the stump. Some folks also like to place old speaker magnets at various places on the body of the anvil.
Of the two described, the PW is obviously the better - it's a wrought anvil rather than cast, and it's "of a useful size" as opposed to "too small". Seems a little steep based on local prices in Western Mass/Eastern NY, but not bad as compared to some reported prices from elsewhere. And those local prices might not have been in *good* condition, which saves both time and bother, and is probably an accurate representation from an anvil dealer, as opposed to someone that just wants the toe-stubber out of the barn. You could sit on your wallet and hope for a better deal, but you might or might not find it (before the anvil dealer snarfs it up, anyway).
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over on primal fires there is a topic on this very subject. try this.
http://p222.ezboard.com/fprimalfiresfrm32.showMessage?topicID40.topic
ron
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r payne wrote:

r payne wrote:

Great post. Thanks ron.
dennis in nca
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