Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Anvil - RR Anvil - Part 1

Anvils are one of those things which can be "home made", or totally unorthodox, but it's hard to make a cheap home made anvil which is good, and matches the traditional pattern.
The biggest issue with home made anvils is mass, and "ringing". People tend to make them too light, or out of materials which ring. The first anvils I made were made of material which was too soft, and would scar when I attempted to flatten coat hanger wire on them, let alone anything substantial.

I was given access to a source of rail offcuts, and so was able to grab a number of lengths of rail ranging from 200-1200mm (8" - 48") in length. Since oxy cutting is not in my list of proficient skills yet, I asked one of my friends in the workshops to cut the rail for me. I also provided a sizable piece of 1-1 1/2" plate and marked up a "table" to be cut at the same time. Payment for getting the cutting done was to supply additional lengths of rail offcuts so other anvils could be made.
Sounds good, and it was... the problem was some of the "bosses" spotted my anvil in the workshop whilst it was being cut - each time the bosses would spot it, they'd claim it. The workshop would then start another one for me, and another boss would walk through. By the time I got my anvil, all the heavy plate was used up, and I had refilled the rail offcuts bin at least twice. I don't relate this story to criticise the workshop - far from it. I relate it to show that most people who work with metal like the idea of having an anvil, but would rather someone else made it. If I could afford the purchase and shipping on a commercial anvil I'd have bought one..instead I made one.

To reduce the demand on the workshop, I only asked them to do what I couldn't easily do at home, or to do what was considerably easier (and more efficient) to do with the machines at work.
I asked them to rough cut the rail with the oxy, and to cut the table from the 1 1/2" plate with either oxy or plasma cutting.
I asked them to drill a pritchel hole in the table of a minimum of 1/2" diameter.
I asked them to weld the table to the head of the rail, with appropriate overhangs, clearances, etc as per the drawings and templates I'd supplied.

From what I understand, the guys who'd made my anvil were apprentices tasked by the tradesmen between jobs. I am led to believe that the two apprentices ended up making at least 8 anvils prior to mine, and had at least another 4 to complete after mine. After all that, I'd have expected them to be cutting corners, and generally sick of making something, only to have a boss claim it. When I collected my anvil, I was most pleasantly surprised with how much work they'd done over and above what I'd asked... all the finish grinding was done, there was practically nothing left for me to do other than a few minor alterations.

Below are pictures of the anvil I ended up with. I'll point out the features and the reasoning behind them.

The feet are deliberately cut so they are under the tip of the horn. I read on one of the blacksmithing sites that when someone builds a RR-Anvil (Rail Road Anvil), that by making the base extend under the horn, the force from strikes is transmitted to the base better, and is less likely to cause issues through the web.

The table ended up slightly smaller than planned due to the loss of materials. The table is roughly 150x200x19mm (6" x 8" x 3/4"). A section of bare rail head had been left uncovered for the cutting table.

The table is welded to the rail head on all four sides. I don't know what the trick is the workshop guys used, but their welds to the high carbon rail have excellent penetration. When part 2 comes along I will be able to tell you that nothing I tried worked anything as well as what the workshop guys did.

The RR-Anvil (Mk 1) weighs in at 26 Kg (57 lb). Is it heavy enough?
Does it work?

I tried the anvil and found it rings like the proverbial bell. I don't know if the original anvils I tried to get made turned out, but with some perverse pleasure, I really hope the ones claimed by the bosses also ring as badly. It's mostly the thin web through the middle of the rail section which causes the ringing, so odds are all the other anvils made will also ring.

The way to reduce the ringing is to increase the mass of the web. Some people accomplish this by wrapping the web in chain.

I tried it, but no luck. It still rang badly - subdued slightly, but still quite uncomfortable.

Part 2 will cover how I got rid of the ringing, and ended up with a very serviceable, albeit small anvil.

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