If you are blacksmithing and metalworking from home, you probably need some sort of anvil. However, blacksmith-grade anvils can be very expensive and difficult to access, so they are not a viable option for everyone.
Instead of an anvil, you can use any large, solid block of steel, which you can transform into a makeshift anvil at home. Some of the best options include railway tracks, scrap metal, or heads of sledgehammers.
This article will also give a brief outline of how to use these anvil substitutes and how to create them. Keep reading to learn more about anvil alternatives and their pros and cons.
What Is an Anvil?
Anvils are large blocks of steel used for metalworking, where the metal piece you are working on is struck with a hammer against the steel. These blocks usually have flattened tops and rounded edges to allow steel to be shaped.
The shape of the anvil is important, as any marks on the top will be transferred to the shape of the metal during hammering.
Cheaper anvils are made out of cast iron blocks or rock material, but these materials are less durable than steel, which is the most common and reliable material for anvils.
The heavier the anvil, the more sturdy it generally stays, so steel’s weight and density make it ideal for an anvil.
Serious anvils are made of forged steel that will not change shape when it is struck during metalworking. They are made to withstand heavy blows from hammers without moving, breaking, or drastically changing shape during metalworking.
Blacksmith supply companies sell anvils, but they can be very expensive. Luckily, you can make your own anvil using materials that are easily accessible to you.
If you have a railroad or scrap metal yard nearby, you can likely find excess steel to use for metalworking. Furthermore, heavy steel tools like sledgehammers can be used for metalworking too.
How To Make Cheap Anvil Alternative
1. Scrap Railroad Track
Scrap metal is generally cheap or free and is relatively easy to obtain. These features make it a good alternative to expensive steel anvils. One scrap metal that can be easily made into an anvil is a steel railroad scrap.
An anvil can be made out of pieces of railroad track. Because these tracks are made of steel, they are strong enough for metalworkers’ use.
Moreover, their shape offers a flat surface with rounded edges, another vital dimension of anvils.
This youtube video shows how to make an anvil out of a railroad track:
To make an anvil out of a railroad track, follow these steps.
- Obtain an 18-inch railroad track. Pieces of the track will often be found near a railroad, or you can obtain them from a scrapyard.
- Shape your track into an anvil shape using an angle grinder. Any type angle grinder works, such as this 4 ½ inch Bosch Angle Grinder from Amazon (affiliate link). A good anvil shape will have an upturned horn in the front (so it lasts longer before it is turned down from being beat) and a flat back.
- Heat your shaped track until it is red hot, then bury it in ashes. This process will remove stress from the molecules of steel, preventing metal from springing back during metalworking, but ensuring it still has some spring, so the shape of the anvil is not affected.
- Next, drill your holes. Typical anvils have two holes- a pritchel hole and a hardie hole. You should drill your pritchel hole on the face of the back edge of the track, to mimic a standard anvil. Drill a hardie hole and fasten a bolt through it, welding the nut to it on the underside.
- Heat your anvil. Make a fire and drop the track in it for 30 minutes. Remove it from the fire and quench it in a barrel of water, replenishing the water frequently to ensure the anvil cools as quickly as possible. When it is cooled, it will be hard and ideal for metalworking!
You can also use scrap metal steel that is not from a railroad track. Virtually any heavy piece of scrap metal steel will work, or even a heavy steel plate.
Just go to a scrap yard and find a piece that is about the right size- usually, steel from about 50 to 200 pounds will work, but it depends on your preferences and needs.
2. Steel Hammer Anvil
Welding an anvil is not the only way to create a makeshift anvil, although it is the most effective.
Remember, arguably, the most important aspect of an anvil is that it has strong steel.
Therefore, you can also make an anvil using heavy steel tools, such as the head of a large steel sledgehammer.
3. Concrete-Based Anvils
For this homemade version of an anvil, you can use a large steel sledgehammer head buried in a bucket of concrete. The sturdiness of the steel will keep stable enough that you can easily strike metal against it while it stays stable.
Furthermore, the cement will keep it in place, so it does not move. This is also faster and easier than forging an anvil from scrap metal.
However, this method is generally less effective than forging your own anvil. Concrete is lighter and less dense than steel, so it is less stable.
Moreover, these traits make it collapse more easily, and this type of anvil will crumble quickly if you use it frequently.
When the concrete has a high percentage of aggregate, which is sand and gravel, it will shrink less under pressure. Also, you can remove the larger pieces of stone aggregate from the concrete and replace them with old nuts and bolts to increase the concrete’s weight for more stability and weight, although this may make it less cohesive.
To make this replacement anvil, secure the heavy steel sledgehammer head into the concrete. This anvil will help muffle noise and is very cheap and easy to use but is lower quality and effectiveness than an anvil you make or purchase.
4. Stump-Based Anvils
If you do not have access to concrete but still want to make an anvil, you can make a stump-based anvil. To do this, take the handle off a large sledgehammer and set the head into a cutout in a stump.
Ideally, you should use a large, sturdy stump. Smoothly cut the stump so it’s even, then create a cutout by cutting into the stump in the necessary dimensions to fit your sledgehammer’s head. Then, you can insert the hammer’s head into the stump to create a makeshift anvil.
This option is very easy and virtually free, assuming you already have a sledgehammer and stump. However, wood is much softer than steel and does not respond as well to repeated force.
Also, driving the steel into the wood repeatedly may eventually degrade the stump, forcing you to choose a new one. Finally, this type of anvil will likely be looser and more prone to human error than others.
If you cannot afford a pricey commercial-grade anvil or expensive steel, you have a few alternatives.
The best thing to use if you cannot use a standard anvil is heavy steel, such as a scrap railroad track, shaped into an anvil.
However, if you do not have the resources or access to use this method, you can create a makeshift anvil using resources from your home, such as a steel sledgehammer head placed in cement or a tree stump.
Thanks for reading and I hope this article was useful. Good luck with your future blacksmithing projects!
Cheers, tools owners!