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.