Making an anvil



Hi Kenny-
I did this project tonight, only I made a swage block instead of an anvil. Here's what I came up with.
As far as yield goes, I ended up with a 15.5" x 10" x 3" swage using one 4' x 4' x 1/4" mild steel plate. You'll get more out of it using 3/16", of course, but 1/4" is what I had handy. It comes out to something just under 125 pounds (the swage has cutouts, so it's not a full solid block)
Going off the advice of our welder, who is very good at what he does, I cut the plates with 1/2" half-round cutouts every inch along the perimeter, and 1/2" plug holes which were offset from plate to plate. In the case of the swage block, I also cut gradually smaller circles in each plate to get some rough dish shapes which I'm going to grind smooth tomorrow. I'm not sure how your plasma cutter compares to my laser, (It's probably faster, actually) but it took about 45 minutes to run the sheet.
Since he was busy with some other stuff, I did the welding on it (and I am not a masterful welder in any sense of the word). It took about 2 hours, with occasional stops to change sheets on the laser on the other end of the shop. I lined up each plate and clamped them down, then filled the plug holes and welded the inside edges of my dished cutouts and ground the top of the plate smooth before moving on the the next one (be careful with this- I started to get a little rushed as the shift was drawing to a close, and it's very easy to get some small gaps- I have two on one side that are about .010" wide, probably from weld spatter I missed. Make sure you have a few clamps, as the plates will start to warp a little from the heat, especially when you have got a good base built up and it's steaming hot.
After that, I welded up the cutouts on the side, and filled them a little more than flush with the surface. It takes about three passes. When the sucker was done, it was HOT. I had another guy help me carry it out to the parking lot with a couple of giant C-clamps, and let it sit under the garden hose for about 20 minutes before it was cool to the touch, and I suspect that the core is still pretty warm even now- it steamed for at least 10 minutes, even with a good flow of cold water running over it continously, so plan accordingly- especially if it's gov't work, and you don't want to leave it sitting around to cool.
All in all, it was not that hard to do with a wire-feed welder (though I still have the grinding to do, so I may change my tune yet,) As I was working on it and thinking about the project overall, it occured to me that if a guy was making an anvil, I had been thinking about it the wrong way- instead of building it up in layers like a cake, from the base to the top, I think you'd be a lot better off building it from vertical plates cut to the anvil's profile- that way, you'd be avoiding a lot of the trouble that gaps could cause. A good layer of hardfacing rod on the top would hopefully keep it from delaminating, and cover any gaps that might be there.
I know that still doesn't fill in any gaps about how well or how long this thing is going to hold up, but I figure that a brief description of the process might be handy for you. After I use it a bit, I'll let the group know if it was a worthwhile project, or if it just breaks apart once I start hammering on it. I got very good weld penetration (I know what to look for, I'm just not that good at welding pretty), so hopefully it's enough.
For the price, (free) it can't hardly be bad- though it's not likely to be as good as one that is cast in a professional foundry.
If I were doing it again, I think I may have tried sprinkling borax between the plates and trying to give it a quick and dirty forge weld by heating each plate with the oxy-acetaline torch as I built it up and then welded it with the wirefeed. I have no idea if that would have worked, but it's worth considering- it certainly couldn't hurt anything. Even a half-assed partial forge weld would be better than none at all, if the bulk of your anvil's strength is coming from an electric welder.
Also- you'll almost certainly forget something important if you just wing it with the design. I'm already regretting that I forgot to put in a hardie hole or two in the block, as it's going to be a lot of work to do it now, if I even do it at all. Wouldn't be a bad idea to find some dimensions and copy an existing anvil before you start.
But for the investment in time, it's a hell of a deal. Swages and anvils are more or less similar in price, and I figure that for what I ended up with, and even if I would have had to pay for the full cost of the materials, I basically paid myself about $100 an hour to do the project, and that's not half bad for a shop rat.
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On Fri, 01 Jun 2007 04:28:44 -0500, Prometheus
One additional note- there's enough welding involved in this project that today, I have a rather impressive sunburn on my arms and chest from it. Didn't even know that could happen, but then again, I never really thought about it. Might want to use one of those open backed leather shirts if you've got one.
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wrote:

Ohhhhh, let me tell you about my high school summer job welding up volkswagen heads for a friend of dad's who remanufactured the heads. My job was to stand there and essentially fill up the combustion chamber with aluminum so a new one could be machined from scratch. I had a LARGE water-cooled TIG torch running pure Argon (one of the better UV emitters around). Can't recall the amps but it was a LOT, over 200.
It was June and hot and I showed up the first day in a lightweight Tee-shirt and shorts. Spent 12 hours that day, yes I did, in front of that bench. By the time I was ready to leave from work, I knew I'd fubar'd bad. By bed time I had water under my skin and was in absolute agony. Once the blisters break, the skin dries up and cracks. That's when the REAL pain begins. I was in the hospital for a couple of days with one continuous burn across my chest, arms down to the end of my gloves and my thighs. About another 10 days recovering.
One of the more miserable aspects was that enough UV bounced off my shirt, then off the inside lens of my helmet to sunburn my corneas. Think about someone tossing coarse sand in your eyes but it won't come out for a day or two. I've had lesser cornea burns from UV from dark but smooth shirts.
I now use a leather jacket when it's cool enough or heavy fire retardant canvas Carhardt overalls when I weld. I've screwed a little leather bib to my helmet that guards my throat and my eyes. With my electronic helmet I don't have to flip it up and down very much so I try to keep the bib tucked inside my shirt except when I'm doing something that splatters a lot, such as gouging. I also have leather "gators" that I put around my ankles that overlap my shoes and keep the sparks out.
John
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John De Armond
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Ahh yes... this was a similar deal, though I was using a big Miller wirefeed- one of the industrial ones, about the size of an average home forced-air heater. There was about 20 minutes when I was running it on the highest possible setting, to get it done faster, but it was melting the wire inside of the tips, so it got turned back down.

On the bright side- it's not nearly that bad. I'm not terribly prone to sunburn to begin with, but it's good enough to keep me sitting in my chair today. Only one blister- and that's on the knucle of the middle finger of my left hand, where I was using it as a pivot to weave the welder tip back and forth to fill up those 1/2" cutouts. I ground about 1/2" of the swage block this morning (to me, anyhow- to the rest of you, it was probably late afternoon) and it was irritating me badly enough that after about an hour with the angle grinder, I slipped up and let go of it with one hand before the flap disk stopped spinning, and dislocated my thumb and slit it lengthwise with the egde of the disk.
Not a big injury, and easily enough dealt with a good tug on the injured digit and a bit of scrubbing to get the metal grit out- but enough to make me decide to stop working on it this evening in favor of watching movies and drinking (more than I'm accustomed to) beer. Actually, the worst pain of all is sore muscles in my back from hunching over the welding table when filling the plug holes- that's a job I'm not used to, and because I'm a less than masterful welder, sitting down to do it would have been just begging to set myself on fire.
Still works out to a net benefit though- for a professional who earns a handsome living, it may not be worthwhile to bang one's self up to make something like this. But in my case (and a lot of other folks too, I suspect) it's a small price to pay to get a tool that would have otherwise required months (if not years) of careful saving or some strenuous side-job work to aquire.

It *did* explain to me why the welders wear heavy dark blue shirts, while the uniforms for the rest of us are lightweight light blue cotton. No welder's burn on the eyes, though- so far, I've been lucky enough to avoid that particular injury.

Way ahead of you on the footwear front- after 15+ years in metalworking and construction, I don't even check the mail without wearing my 6" cuff steeltoes with my jeans overlapping them. Sad, but true- I spend more on boots every year than I do on all my other clothing combined- except for when I got married, and bought a couple of nice suits.
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ya john, as a greenhorn welder, been there, done that. i think the greatest pain can come from your eyes. anyway........have fun. mark
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I have considered a similar project and it seems to me like a good idea would be to arrange the plates vertically so that you are beating on the edge of the plates rather than the face. IOW,
||||||||||||||||||||||
rather than
------- ------- -------
That way, you avoid the problem of voids. FWIW, I resurfaced an anvil with a combination of Lincoln MM and Ranite hardfacing rod. The rod cracks as it cools, but according to the product literature that I read, it is designed to do this. I haven't used it much, but I haven't seen any spalling yet.
FWIW, Rob
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