Hmmm.... As far as I can remember, all the HF 55lbs anvils are cast
iron, and barely suitable for use as door stops.
Some of their 110lbs anvils are Russian made cast steel, and are a
pretty good buy. Some are a little sloppy... I suggest opening the box
and looking it over in the store before you buy.
They have a bunch of other cast iron anvils of most any weight you can
I bought a 110lbs russian a few years ago, and other than the horn
finish being on the rough side, am very happy with it.
I have one of their 55 lb Made in China anvils and have had no problems with
it. On the other hand, my expectations aren't all that high. I'm sure it
would drive a good blacksmith nuts. But this brings up the crux of the
matter. If your usage is such that you need a good anvil, you probably
would know enough about anvils that you wouldn't need to be asking. On the
other hand, if your useage is like that of many of us, you just need it to
back up something you are hammering apart (or together) or you use it to
bend stuff you heated up with an O/A torch now and then or to simply pound
something (reasonably) flat now and then, it will work just fine. Unless,
of course, you have the rotten luck to get a defective one and you knock a
major chunk out of it. In that case, HF will probably replace it for you
(they're not perfect, but they stand behind their stuff a lot better than
some other folks I could name...).
To find the best price for any cast iron anvil, price out doorstops, and
pay that price.
Maybe some of the other posters are thinking of the 110 pound (50
Kg) anvil that HF sells. That one is cast steel. The face isn't very
hard, but at about $80 on sale, I think it's worth a try. You can grind
away the dings for a long time before you'd have to retire it. And,
since it's soft, it should be easy to build back up with welder and grinder.
As far as "what can they do wrong?":
A friend bought one of those once to show how cheaply an anvil
could be had for. (I don't know where he got it) Anyway, the first
time he laid a piece of hot iron on the horn and hit it, the horn jsut
melted away. Seems that they had fille in the poorly cast horn with Bondo.
I bought one of those about 6 or 7 years ago for $25 delivered. The first
time I used it was to clean up the mushroomed end of a "brass" punch, to my
complete surprise this dented the anvil.
I have done limited blacksmith work on it and it is not ideal but workable
if: you are not too fussy about the finish since it will always be covered
with dents and the dents will transfer to your work, and you don't need to
do a lot of work on the horn which is pretty wide and thus cannot be used
for small radius bends. It has been workable, but just barely, and I feel I
got my money's worth out of it but I am watching ebay for a bigger one with
a hardened face and conical horn.
If I had to do it all over again I think I would buy one of the 110 lb cast
steel anvils. It depends on what you want to do. If you are at all serious
about blacksmith work I'd say forget it. For occasional smithing and just
beating on things with no smooth finished surface requirements it should do
Thanks for all the great responses.
The shape of the horn is critical. It is typically used to make
things round or change a radius in some manner. Looking at the
picture in the ad it looks like a wedge shape with a constant radius
from end to end and a lack of a sharp point. A cone shape, or
distorted cone, with constantly changing radius that comes to a
relatively sharp point is what one should expect from a real anvil.
I have gotten by with a 4x4x16 inch solid square bar and a similar
piece of rail on my garage concrete floor. I need to form heavy wire
up to #3 rebar for innards of sculptures. Thought this anvil would
make things more 'civilized' and softer for the knees.
The soft metal will clearly prevent any splintering. The Mythbusters
on the Discovery TV channel 'proved' that hammers etc against each
other was a myth! Most likely the end result of overly cautious
Ebay does not work for me. If anybody has a real anvil between LA and
San Bernardino,CA I'm in the market <grin>.
My previous leadhand has a piece of hardened dowel pin *in* his wrist
because the surgery would be too complicated to try and extract it. He
got it by whacking the dowel into a tight hole using a ball pean
hammer. I've been present when a piece of a dowel embedded itself into
a co-worker's palm, although he was able to remove it days later.
Hard on hard is dangerous to say the least. While it may be unlikely
that a hammer will come apart when struck with another, the risks far
outweigh the benefits (wtf are you doing whacking a hammer with another
Carl, your writeup was very interesting. Have you considered buying
one of those 110 lbs steel anvils and hardfacing the top with
hardfacing electrodes (can be found very cheaply). Grinding hard
facing flat could be quite time consuming, though.
If you are making rebar sculptures, it might be better to bend things by
driving them DOWN into a swage anyway. The "swage" can be made from 2
6 or 12 inch long pieces of railroad rail bolted or welded side by side
about 4 or 5 inches away from eachother. Lay the bar on top, hit it,
move an inch or so, hit it again, etc. By observing and controlling the
depth of the "dent", you can make rapid progress.
If this doesn't make sense, email me off list and I will clean up
A while back I decided to have a closer look at HF anvils. The method
I used was the ball bearing drop test which consists of dropping a ball
bearing (larger than 1/2") from a measured height onto the face of the
anvil and measuring the % of rebound results. As a control I used my
100 year old Peter Wright anvil which rebounds approx. 90% of the drop
The steel 110# anvil was the best with just over 50% rebound and the
smaller anvils were down in the 30% range. This, to me, is an
indication of either a poor choice of steel (for the 110#er) or
inadequate or non-existent heat treating which will allow the surface
of the face to be easily dented (which will transfer to the part being
It's possible the larger anvil has some type of heat treating/hardening
(just TRY to ask an HF associate about this LOL) which, if you were to
try to heat treat it again yourself, would most likely be lost. If you
only need a chunk of metal to beat on HF is ok, but if you enjoy
working with decent tools there are other, far better, choices.
I have two of the 110 pound Russian anvils, and have been happy enough
with them. The word is that the 55 pound anvils are not worth the
price. The 110 pound anvils need a little grinding on the horn, but are
find for light to moderate work. I hard-faced one of mine and really
pound the crap out of it, and it's been fine. I have a nice 460 pound
anvil, and I use the customized HF anvil far more.
The good thing about a cheap anvil is that you don't have to worry
about marring the face -- just run some mig wire on it, grind, and
you're good to go.
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