You Too Can Make an Anvil

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About: Just another gear head who loves to make and fix stuff. I am a professional mechanical design engineer by day and love to tinker in the workshop most of the night! My lifetime goal is to use my God given s...

I have always enjoyed working with metals especially heating them up and pounding into usable shapes. When the show Forged in Fire came out it reignited my interests and I began to experiment with forging steels even more. As my skills progressed I realized i needed a better anvil than my old stump topped with a steel plate. I searched the market for used anvils and the prices blew me away. There was no way I could tell wifey that I needed to spend $2000 for a block of steel to pound on, she would tell me to pound sand! It was at that point I realized if I could forge a knife, why not construct my own anvil. The light went on and this is how i did it.

Be sure to VOTE for "YOU CAN MAKE AN ANVIL" in the Build a Tool Contest!

Supplies:

Step 1: There Is an Anvil Hidden in That Steel Block

Upon researching commercially made anvils I found there was nothing exotic about them, other than their size. Basically a good anvil is made from a soft base steel and has a hardened top feature. This can be accomplished by stacking up dimensional steel to form such a base and adding a tool steel top. I started with a piece of 1018 CR steel found in a scrap yard that measured 4" x 4" x 52" long. This allows enough material for a standard sized 220lb. blacksmith style anvil to be constructed. I then procured a piece of S7 tool steel for the top cap plate, it measured 1/2" x 4" x 18".

Alternatives could include 4" or 6" round CRS or A36 and the anvil could be made in nearly the same way.

Step 2: Tools Needed

You can do this using only a welder, sawzall, drill, grinder(s) and patience.

Luckily I had at my disposal an 18" Grob Bandsaw and Bridgeport Mill which made the job progress much faster, but these machines are not absolutely necessary and it can be done without them.

Step 3: Laying Out the Block to Optimize the Anvil Size

As the old saying goes, "measure twice, cut once". Know where you are going before cutting. Take the steel chunk(s) you will be using and determine the best way to stack them up to get the largest anvil possible. I started with the top as I knew it was the most important. I wanted at least an 8" horn, and about 22"-24" wide overall on the top. Given this, I marked it out on the steel and then adjusted the mid and base to best suit supporting the top.

Step 4: Cutting and Dicing

After I was happy with the parts layout I began cutting them into rough form. I did this using an industrial bandsaw, but the same can be done using a sawzall and a few new blades. I actually tried making a couple cuts using the sawzall as examples for this Instructable and to prove to myself this was possible. Using the sawzall actually went much easier than I expected, so dont be afraid to try it!

Step 5: Making Chips and Forming Parts

The bulk of the time required to make the anvil was consumed in cutting out the parts and adding features such as the Hardy Hole and 1/2" piercing hole.

After getting each piece cut to length I started on the top by cutting the horn angles. The horn is roughed out by cutting three angles. The actual degree of angle will depend on the steel you start with and the length you desire it to be. Since this is for your personal use be creative, make it work for you!

The Hardy hole was made by drilling the four corners 1/8" first, then center drilled it and finished using a 1" bit, then using the mill I connected the dots and squared the sides to form a 1" square hole. (The finished dim was 1.010" which worked perfect, the Hardy fit snug but could still be removed) Your Hardy hole can suit you and does not have to be 1" if you have tools that are different. Again make this feature to what suits you.

I added some additional features as well such as clamping holes and bending pin holes to the sides. These are simply bonus features and you can do without them.

Step 6: Grind Time

Now the fun begins. Grinding all the parts to make them fit and be aesthetically attractive. The horn can get to be addictive. I found myself spending too much time making it perfect and had to remind myself this is an anvil and will get beat to heck! No need for absolute mirror perfection on the grinds.

Step 7: Welder Up

Now that all parts are ground to near finished state, its time to weld it all together.

I used a Miller 350P welder and set the induction to "0" so that the bead was hot and flat. Each part I put a 1/2" x 45 degree bevel on the edges to be welded s so that i could get a hot, deep and wide weld. The same results could be made using any welder and multiple passes if necessary. The load on the welds are minimal since they are all compressive loads.

Step 8: Adding the Tool Steel Top Plate

Tool steel can be a tricky one to weld, but it can be done. I used S7 tool steel which is a very good choice when it comes to shock loads which is exactly what an anvil sees. Alternatives can be H13, A2, or even one of the "O" series of tool steels if its all you can find. Alternatives to welding the plate to the top block can be flat head socket screws, blind or through dowels, roll/spring pins or plug welding. These were in the back of my mind for backup plans should the perimeter welds fail or cause issue. The good thing is that they can be added after the fact if welding doesnt turn out for you.

I first machined the Hardy and piercing hole into the S7 to match the top form. Before welding I ensured that all features were in perfect alignment using the Hardy hole and 1" square CRS pin. Check and double check these fits now!

To weld any tool steel it must first be preheated. I waited until my wife was gone and using her kitchen oven, placed the tools steel on the rack and set it to 485 degrees, (485 because my target welding temp was 450 and it is cold in Indiana and I had to get the TS from the house to the shop, thus I knew it would cool off). I allowed it to be in the oven for 90 mins, (while I welded everything else up first) before welding it to the top form.

Do not allow the welded parts to cool too quickly. I used a LP brush burning torch to control the cool off post welding. Allow for 3-4 hours for the weldment to return to room temperature. The slower the better to prevent cracking of the joint.

Step 9: Finish Grinding and Paint

After the weldment has cooled its time to clean it up and add some paint. I chose to leave the horn and top edge bare steel but did add a lanolin oil to them to prevent rusting.

As a final touch I added my shop logo and "MADE in USA" to the sides.

Step 10: Final Results, I Have a New Anvil

The entire project took about 32 hours of work and the results far exceeded my expectations. Using a 3 lb hammer the anvil responds with a nice ring and surprisingly strong rebound. It feels as good or better than my buddies old commercially made anvil (hes wants to trade now...) and I can say I made it.

Now its your turn, you can do it too.

Be sure to VOTE FOR THIS ANVIL PROJECT in BUILD A TOOL Contest

Thank you and best wishes for all your projects!

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    79 Discussions

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    kanga-doo

    2 months ago

    As many of the excellent forums (see anvilfire for example) on blacksmithing have indicated time & again it is not worth making an anvil when taking into account time, materials & energy & heat treatment finishing.

    4 replies
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    tonyhillkanga-doo

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    For me its all about doing it... as the saying goes, "its not the kill, but the thrill of the chase". In other words the thrill is all in the build!

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    tonyhillkanga-doo

    Reply 2 months ago

    The bigger topic here is, my Instructable being quite unique got you to read it. Mission accomplished! :)

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    tonyhillkanga-doo

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you for your comment. To each his own as for what their time is worth, but for me to spend 30 hours to save even $1000 is time well spent. This project wasnt about the money though, it was about doing what many said, or thought to be, nearly impossible. Not only was it possible, the result is fantastic and far exceeds my expectations!

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    Khovet1kanga-doo

    Reply 2 months ago

    Sometimes, you know, its just very valuable to complete a project like this and know you can do it. Besides, this anvil is one of a kind. It has bragging rights. So WHO CARES if it took some time. BIG DEAL!

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    mstreeter454

    2 months ago

    Great craftsmanship, awesome personalization . Thanks for sharing, and for the great presentation.

    2 replies
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    tonyhillmstreeter454

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Thank you for your comments. I apprecaite it and I am glad you enjopyed this project.

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    tonyhillmstreeter454

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to look!

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    Alchemical11

    8 weeks ago

    Great job on both,the anvil and your instructions. I appreciate the time and effort it took you, on both counts.

    1 reply
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    tonyhillAlchemical11

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you enjoyed this build!

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    katouthemhs65

    Reply 2 months ago

    If your making blades, you will be a fair bit of drawing out. Take a piece of square section steel to fit your hardy hole and weld a piece of 1" round about 2" long at a right angle. You might want a 3/4 round or 1/2 too. Smaller the dia, the faster it will draw.

    Voila, easy drawing tool.

    Katou

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    charger38rt

    2 months ago on Step 9

    Nice job but 32 hours at say $50//hr is $1600 plus cost iof steel. Could have bought a beaut anvi for $2000?

    2 replies
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    tonyhillcharger38rt

    Reply 2 months ago

    This is true. This wasnt about the money though. It was all about doing what few ever do and doing it well.
    Thanks for your comment.

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    Jason S1

    2 months ago

    Now that I see you are in Indiana I have to ask....would you be willing to build one for me? I've been looking at auctions but where I live in Indiana the Amish are usually willing to pay more money than me.

    Great job by the way. That looks like it was very fun to build!

    1 reply
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    tonyhillJason S1

    Reply 2 months ago

    I would condsider making you one. Send me an email and let’s seenwhat we can come up with.
    Thanks for the message and comment.

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    oilcan13

    2 months ago

    Very nice welds.