Anvils are perhaps the most useful tool in blacksmithing. They allow you to hold and shape your projects to look and feel as they should. That being said, you should know the key attributes to keep an eye out for before you purchase your first one.
A good anvil should be strong and durable, long-lasting, heavy, and the perfect size for all of the tools that you’ll be working with. It should be seemingly impossible to move by the force of a swinging hammer, and you shouldn’t notice any dents or chips over time.
Throughout this post, you’ll learn the following information:
- What to remember when buying a good anvil
- What you should avoid
- The longevity of a high-quality anvil
What to Look For in a Good Anvil?
Anvils have been part of blacksmithing and other jobs for centuries. With so many years of expertise, you’d be able to understand how many hobbyists and workers have got it down to a science, including the design of an anvil.
If you’re new to blacksmithing or you simply want to upgrade your current setup, you’re in the right place.
Here are the five features that you’ll always find in a good anvil:
- A good anvil should be tough and able to withstand a beating. It’s no secret that you’ll miss a few swings here and there. Even the blunt impact of a hammer through the item that you’re working on would be enough to shatter most materials. When you’re choosing an anvil, try tempered, hardened steel.
- Always make sure that you choose the right size. Contrary to popular belief, not all anvils have to be massive in size. In fact, jewelry anvils are often small enough that you can fit them in the palm of your hand. Do adequate research prior to making a decision, since most anvils can be a bit pricey for shipping costs. A blacksmithing anvil should be big enough and heavy.
- If you’re buying a used anvil, check around for dents or cracks. When a good anvil is used for several years, it still won’t show any signs of wear and tear. It should be unbreakable, but that doesn’t mean that the dullness of color should be of concern. As long as there aren’t chips, cracks, dents, or rounded edges, you’ll be good to go.
- The rebound of a good anvil should place all of the impact of each swing into the piece that’s being worked on, not the anvil. In other words, when you swing your hammer toward the object that’s on top of the anvil, you shouldn’t be worried about the anvil taking part of the force and limiting your ability to shape the object.
- Texture plays a huge role in an anvil. The top should be as flat and level as possible. This texture allows the force to work hand-in-hand with the aforementioned rebound trait. Rigid anvils will reduce and disperse the impact of a hammer, whereas a flat surface will concentrate it on the piece that you’re hitting.
- (Extra) Don’t forget that an anvil also needs a solid base. You can put an anvil on a metal pedestal or a wooden stump. Read more about this topic here.
Features of a Bad Anvil
Unfortunately, you’ll notice that far too many beginners become prey to weakened, unfit anvils. Whether they’re purchasing a used model from someone who’s had it for decades or they don’t know what to look for in a new one, many anvils can give false hope.
The good news is that you’ll learn everything that you need to know about the features of a bad anvil once you read the signs below.
- Dull, rounded, or otherwise damaged anvils are a no-go. If you notice that the anvil has rounded edges, it means that it’s seen more than enough work to operate as it should. The same goes for chips or cracks. You can break the anvil or damage the project that you’re working on if you purchase one with this problem.
- If you can knock it over with one hand, then it probably won’t withstand the force of a hammer. Remember that jewel crafting anvils and other small anvils don’t deal with the same rules. For the most part, you shouldn’t be able to push over an anvil since the force of a hammer is much stronger.
- Cast iron and cheap steel are terrible for most general purpose applications. Anvils should be tough, not breakable, or lacking in density. Cast iron isn’t known for taking a beating, especially from the concentrated force of a hammer. Cheap steel runs at a lower price, but you get what you pay for.
- Finally, you shouldn’t see any signs of rust. When an anvil is properly taken care of, rust will be virtually gone completely. People who don’t pay attention to the early signs of rust and corrosion risk ruining their anvil. If you’re purchasing a used one, never get it if it has heavy rust anywhere on the surface. Although they can be restored.
- The anvil price for new ones shouldn’t go more than $10/pound, whereas old anvils shouldn’t exceed $5/pound. An anvil can last several decades, even more than a century in some cases. If you’re buying one, you should look out for all of these features as if it were the only anvil that you’ll ever have to purchase.
How Long Does a Top-Notch Anvil Last?
Anvils are made to last for countless years, but it all depends on three factors:
- How well it was taken care of
- What it’s made out of
- How often it’s used
Typically speaking, you’ll find that most heavy-duty old school anvils last over 100 years, sometimes even more. If it’s made from hardened, tempered steel as mentioned in the section above, then you’ll get the most use out of it.
On the other hand, modern cast iron anvils can sometimes last less than five to ten years. The reason is partly because of misuse and also because cast iron isn’t strong enough to take the blunt force of a missed hammer strike.
If you want to get the most use and the longest life out of your anvil, then a proper technique is definitely going to be required. You shouldn’t ever intentionally strike your anvil unless you’re trying to shape it for one reason or another. Even in that case, a good anvil won’t budge.
Another thing to keep in mind is that consistent use of an anvil is actually much better than neglecting it. When you let an anvil sit outside without using it for several years, it’ll develop a layer of rust that eats away at the surface.
Proper storage is just as important as good technique. Rather than allowing rust to develop, try using some cosmoline to keep it protected from the elements.
It won’t combust from striking as many oils would, and the coat lasts just as long. Do your best to store an anvil under a covering or indoors when it’s not being used to prevent moisture from settling.
As you can see, finding a good anvil isn’t as hard as it seems. You just need to make sure that it’s tough enough to be suitable for your projects. Not all anvils are created the same, so it’s important to keep an eye out for the features found throughout this article.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Tempered, hardened steel is the best material for an anvil.
- Make sure that you choose the right size.
- A good anvil shouldn’t be rounded, dull, chipped, or cracked.
- An anvil that’s properly taken care of will last up to 100 years.
- Cosmoline and indoor storage will increase the longevity of your anvil.
I hope this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading and good luck with your future blacksmithing projects!
Cheers tools owners!