Hi guys, first post here.
I was wondering if someone might help me with a question. I am about finished
with an anvil, made from about a 2' section of rail, mounted to a chunky steel
base. I welded it with some 6010 rods, to stand up to repeated pounding.
now my question is this. I annealed the rail in a huge campfire to make
shaping the face and horn a bit easier. My question is what to do now. Some
sources I have read say that the anvil needs to be heat treated (ie, in this
case hardened), while others say to just go ahead and use it---that the piece
will work harden on it's own with use.
I'd prefer to use it as is, as i don't have equipment to do a very adequate job
of heat treating the thing. The fire that i needed to anneal such a chunk of
steel was a big problem, and handling like 200 pounds of red hot steel seems a
little dicey to me in the first place.
So, anyone have success just using the steel as is--in a more or less annealed
Oh crap. :/ What is left behind by 6010 rod?
A rail road rail is about 1080 high carbon steel, just like a good
cold chisel. Also it's almost pure pearlite... that is it's fully
annealed for use as rail and the wheels work harden the surface.
Checking out a new rail after he first train rolls over it, you'd
swear it wasn't going to last a month! ;)
Is there any letters/numbers in the web of your 2 foot piece of
rail? If any, post them for me. :)
Alvin in AZ (retired signal-ape, not a blacksmith)
Mine is 133 lb. per foot stuff. torched off the bottom part about 6 inches
in on one end for a crude horn and had about an eighth in. milled off the
top for a flat work plate and started using it as is. Made an angle iron
saw horse that kind of clamps it in place by it's own weight and it all
works like a champ. No serious scarring after 9 months or so of mostly
light work. Heaviest thing I've used it for was to draw out a 1x1x8 inch
bar of carbon steel into a quarter x 1x 24 inch blade. Never tried to heat
treat it but I don't really think it needs it. It will take what I throw at
Sounds good and right to me. :)
I tend to use the friction-saw cut ends of the rail pieces I have.
Tried drilling a dimple in one a couple times as a relief hole for
my handle pin peening... drill didn't want to cut it, it's as if the
surface is heat treated from the friction-saw blade.
Decided to drill a dimple in my bench vise's little anvil thingy. :)
Hmmmm... for some odd reason I quit using that dimple.
Alvin in AZ
Hmmm, been thinking about drilling a threaded hole in the opposite end from
the horn on mine so that I can screw or bolt on a brace attachment. I find
it useful to clamp a long blade to the lenth of the anvil for file work but
I need a way to immobilize the the far end without the helper hardware
getting in the way of the file draw. You think my handheld cordless will
have a hard time with this? :)
Is that end friction saw cut or torch cut? If so, need to figure
out a way to get under the hard part. If it's hacksaw cut it won't
drill like mild steel but will still drill nice ...get a Co enhanced
HSS bit and use oil. Even WD-40 will help the drill bit while
That was a signalman's job drilling 3/8" holes through the web of
the rail. :) Using Co HSS (M42?) drill bits, 8 holes per drill bit
if drilled dry, 40 holes if it was kept sprayed down mith "WD-Dummy"
The rail is looking for any excuse to work harden. ;)
So, keep the bit cutting! :)
(high carbon plus medium(?) manganese steel)
I had an "annunciator" track circuit hooked to a siren so the guys
in the crusher plant (all wearing ear plugs;) would know the ore
train was approaching.
The crusher foreman told me a story about how they used to buy very
expensive heat treat treated (quenched and tempered) steel plates
(armor?) for the insides of the rock crushers. They'd wear out in
3 months and have to shut it down and replace it.
So along came some high carbon, high manganese steel plates, cheap
as dirt, no special heat treatment was done to it so it was easy to
drill etc. Put them in and the wear rate the first day was...
"should be gone in a week". :)
I can't remember how long it lasted tho :/ seems like it was still
in there when the story was being told (years). ...once the stuff
had a chance to work harden, the wear almost stopped. Rail is a lot
like that, the first train over it and you'd swear it's gonna need
changing out again in a week. ;)
The old rail was in there for like 15 years.
Alvin in AZ
That end is cut as the railroad folks did it. I assume from the big
composite material cutting disk I found near the tracks where the wreck
happened that that is the normal cutting tool. Smooth edges. So, yeah my
makita battery operated drill might have a time of it ;-) Might not be so
bad though. Both the guy who torched off the other end and the one who
milled the top were surprised at how easy it went.
Look closely at the markings on the end of the rail are they an arc?
Try it. :)
Milling the top of a -new- rail would be one of your better steels
to be milling, same with torch cutting. Drilling ain't so bad
either but drilling the friction-saw cut end that's either self
heat treated or work hardened is a whole nuther thing. ;)
If it's "hacksawed" keep your eyes peeled for saw blades and also
the gang... talk to them, and ask for the used blades.
If you don't use them yourself you could use them for trading
Alvin in AZ
Well, my anvil is about done. I need to talk with the welding/fab shop that
did most of the work as to how they did it. For $35 they plasma cut out the
area for a horn, cut a hardy hole, and welded the base to the rail. The welds
look great. Since i had the face flattened and ground down to 80 grit with a
belt sander, they even went ahead and pre-work hardened the surface with a
power hammer with a flattening attatchment, and even went as far as to
sandblast the thing, to pretty it up for some finish (i'm thinking epoxy or BBQ
paint on non-forging surfaces).
The guy assured me that if the surface and the welds could hold up to the
heavy, heavy blows they inflicted on it, that there is almost nothing i could
do to damage it with a 3 pound sledge.
What was funny about the whole deal was that i went in with stuff from the web
and a couple books and tried to take the owner of the shop to school on what
welding materials to use.....
He listened for a while then said, "let me show you something" and took me into
the shop, where he already had about 5 RR anvils custom built for various jobs.
One of the anvils was simply a flattened section of track, mounted to heavy
angle and tube "sawhorse" kind of rig---that was his general purpose anvil to
bash out stuff, for straightening stuff. He had one, more or less in the
traditional shape of an anvil, and another that was a real beauty, with a
flattened horn on one end, and a perfectly cone shaped horn on the other.
I saw that, and told him to torch out and weld whatever he saw fit. The whole
deal cost $40, not bad for the work he did on it. He even plasma cut and
machined a square hardy hole, and threw in some chunks of cutoff rail that i
could use to make the hardies with (basically, a chunk of rail, with one end
machined to fit the hardy hole), that i can machine into whatever shape i need
(a cuttoff hardie is my number one thing, then probably a spring fullering tool
Today, i'm on the lookout for another chunk of rail. My fiance has a tiny
little anvil for silver smithing---it's a lovely little thing (only about 10
pounds) that has a perfectly round horn on one side, and a flattened horn on
the other, with only a small hammering face in the middle. I think if i could
scale that up to something to resist a 3 pound sledge, made of rail, it would
be great for more delicate work. My current anvil with most certainly be used
almost exclusively for blade smithing. A smaller, double horned anvil would be
good for more intricate work (although i don't currently posses the skills to
do much more than bash pieces into tool and knife shapes). Also, i was
thinking of having a twisting jig made out of another section of track, and as
a final item, using another section of track, this time mounted upside down for
a wider, flatter surface, probably having at least one side boxed in, and
filled with maybe a hundred pounds of iron and steel scrap packed in
there--just really a heavy as hell flat platform that will not deform under the
Still, I thought the pre-workhardening step they performed was excellent. It
saves me from trying to heat treat the object, as well as proving to me that if
it can handle that kind of repeated, super heavy pounding without the welds
failing, it can handle anyting my wimpy 3 pound sledge can throw at it.
Anyways, i got the face of the anvil to about 80 grit, nice and flat. The
power hammering mushroomed the sides a bit, so i'm going to re-finish it to 80
to re-true up the surface, then mabye take it down to 120 grit, which should be
fine for my needs. I'm going to use a big pnuematic "jitterbug" that a buddy
from a body shop has---it has a huge surface, which will take care of smoothing
out any small deviatons in the surface.
Still, i'm pretty stoked about it. Should be bashing away soon. I'll keep you
guys posted on any developements, especially any speciallty anvils that I hope
to have made in the coming weeks.
Greyangel wrote:Mine is 133 lb. per foot stuff. torched off the bottom part
about 6 inches
When thinking of railroad rail anvils, I recall a friend who liked the price
but wanted a bigger work surface. He built a wood frame, like a sawhorse but
sturdier, and mounted the rail upside down! Great surface, and all the mass
was still there. So what if the horn is a little further below the base than
As a matter of fact, I did take that into consideration. My angle iron "saw
horse" clamps onto the webbing of the rail and holds it tight by the sheer
weight of the rail. Upside down or not doesn't really figure into the the
design requirements so yeah, if I need a larger surface I'll just flip it