I have a similar 125lb Arm and Hammer, from Columbus, and its a great
You definitely do not want to attempt to remove the top plate- it is
not "pretty easy" to replace one- these were originally either forge
welded on, or cast in place, depending on the brand of anvil, and
either process is virtually impossible to replicate in a home shop.
The Fisher anvils from Trenton New Jersey used to cast a tool steel top
plate into a cast iron base- basically, nobody today can do that- the
theory is understood, but the institutional knowledge, and equipment,
does not exist in one place any more.
When people stick weld a plate on, by welding around the edges, you get
no weld in the middle, so the top plate just bounces around and does
not conduct the blow very well.
If you have worked with good anvils, you can immediately feel the
difference when trying to use an anvil with a loose top plate. They
Nowadays, labor is a more significant factor than the raw metal cost,
so good anvils are usually monolithic castings of good hardenable
My other anvil is a Nimba, made by my late friend Russ Jaque, in Port
Townsend Washington. His wife still sells these, and they are
The design is based on a 19th century Italian anvil he used to have,
and it is quite a bit more sensible than the classic "london pattern"
most of us think of when we think anvil.
It has more meat where you need it, meaning more of your energy goes to
actually moving the metal. You can feel the difference between swinging
the same hammer on the Arm and Hammer and the Nimba, on the same weight
of hot steel- the metal moves more on the Nimba.
For an old guy like me, less arm strain for the same result means I use
the Nimba 9 out of 10 times, and they are right next to each other.
Needless to say, not cheap. Made entirely in the USA, cast from 8640
alloy, heat treated, then hand ground and finished by one of the best
blacksmiths in the world (Jim Garrett) who has an incredible eye, and
These will last a hundred years, though, and are quite beautiful to
The other main players in the anvil biz right now are the Czechs- an
old soviet era foundry, Bronko, makes european style 2 horn anvils, and
they sell them here under a couple of names, cheaper, but still not as
cheap as an old one fresh from the barn-
Railroad rail, by the way, makes a particularly poor anvil- the shape
of the section means that the narrow neck of the vertical wiggles all
over the place when you apply a lot of force. This is not a big deal
with a train- its actually desirable to spread the load out. But when
you are hitting hot iron, you want maximum bounce to the ounce- hence
the very large mass down low of most commercial anvils. When they
design big power hammers, they often go with 15,000 or 30,000 pounds of
cast iron for the anvil, in big blocks- not tall skinny wiggly little
Railroad anvils look cool, and are worth collecting as folk art. Some
of them are really cleverly made. But for serious metal banging, a
plain old cube of steel is far better than something that looks a lot
like an anvil, but is wiggly as a worm.
Knivemakers often just use 6" x 6" x 24" blocks, on end. Or even just a
3 foot piece of 4" round bar.