Tips When Buying Anvils

 

I purchased my 95# Hay Budden here in Colorado in 1996.  I was able to buy it for $1 pound which was a very good deal since it was and still is in great condition.  Luckily the man I bought it from was an honest person and knowledgeable about blacksmithing (though not a blacksmith himself).  Shopping as lady blacksmiths, we should be equipped with a good knowledge of anvils before buying one.   While I was shopping around I gathered the advice of a few blacksmiths on what to look for and what was a fair price.  Here are a few of the items that were passed onto me:

Pricing

$2 – $5 per pound is a fair price for used anvils depending on the condition of the anvil.  The bigger the anvil the more it will be per pound.  Brand new anvils can be around $7 to $9 per pound and shipping can be very very expensive.

Anvil Size

This may be determined based on your economic feasibility, transportation to and around your shop and the size of your shop.  It can also be determined by what you will be making and the size of stock you will work with the most.  100# to 300# anvils are the most adequate weights.  HINT, don’t take the numbers at face value!  Some anvils have the correct American pounds numbered on the side and some have the old British measuring system.  This crazy unusual numbering system will have 3 numbers on the side of the anvil;

  • the first represents the hundredweight, each hundredweight = 112 lbs
  • the second number  represents the quarters of the full hundredweight
  • the third number is in simple pounds

British weight example: 2 – 3 – 5, 2 is 112 x 2 = 224lbs, the 3 is ¾ of 112 or 28 x 3 = 84 and the 5 is 5 lbs.  So the total weight is 224 + 84 + 5 = 313lbs.

I choose my 95 pounder for many reasons (price, overall condition, location), but the size and weight was a definite consideration.  At the time I was not married (yes, my husband is my muscle when I need it these days!) and I was renting a house so I didn’t have a proper shop.  I knew I wanted an anvil that I could haul around myself without any outside helped needed.  I would like to also mention that I had a piece of railroad track that I was using as an anvil before I bought my Hay Budden and it worked great as a beginner anvil.

Wear and Tear

Make sure the face or of the anvil (the top, flat, square surface) is free of cracks and the edges aren’t chipped off or rounded too badly (don’t be over critical here, a little wear and tear for a 100 year old anvil is OK).  The body should be free of cracks and made of cast or forged steel with a hard steel face.   There is the option of having the face repaired by an experienced welder knowledgeable about preheating, application and heat treating, this can be an expensive option.

Look at the condition of the hardy hole.  Is it cracked, can it still hold a hardy without much movement?  What size is the hardy hole, usual sizes for 100 lb anvil are ¾” to 7/8”. Many old anvils have different sized hardy holes because there was not a standard size back then.  Check to see if the hole is straight and the hardy tool sits straight and perpendicular to the anvil face.

Anvil Type

Look for a blacksmithing (or forging) anvil, Ferrier anvils have different features (different shaped horns and smaller bodies for lighter work) but still work great for blacksmithing projects.  Try to determine what the anvil is made of, there are many different types; forged tool steel, cast tool steel, cast iron, ductile iron.  The best is the forged or cast tool steel anvil.  Bring a ½” steel ball bearing to bounce on the face of the anvil, you are looking for a high, reactive  bounce of 75% or more of the height dropped, if the ball bearing only bounces 2” to 3” inches high from a 10” drop it is probably cast iron and doesn’t give your hammer a good “bounce”, this means you will be working twice as hard with twice as many hammer blows…not good for the arm and shoulder, but great for a boat anchor!  Check the anvil’s “ring” by bouncing a hammer off of the face, the harder the anvil; the higher the pitch.  This will help you in determining what it is made of and how your hammer bounces.

Well, there you have it, a few things that will help you when looking to buy an anvil.  I hope this blog post was helpful and please leave a comment below if you have anything to add or share about buying an anvil.