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So you’re not a blacksmith, but do you find yourself beating on metal from time to time in the garage? Do yourself (and your vise, workbench, and everything else in the shop) a favor and buy the right tool for the job: an anvil. It’s shaped perfectly for re-shaping a bracket, making a 90-degree in a piece of bar, or banging a strip of metal into a compound curve.

Personally, I inherited my anvil from my father, or I’d have never thought about buying one. (He was a blacksmith-in-learning and picked up this really nice model from Laurel Machine and Foundry in Mississippi.) Hell, I actually spent a few months beating on my (sturdy) workbench from time to time before I dug his out of storage and brought it to the shop.

Yes, I realize they’re meant for working hot metal, and banging on cold metal can potentially damage ’em. (And I’m sure my father is rolling in his grave over my use of his.) So why not buy a cheap model? Northern Tool sells a little 15-pounder for just $20, and $60 will get you into the 50-pound range. If it breaks, just get another one.

Bonus: If you pick up one that has a hardy hole, you can weld up all sorts of brackets out of 1″ square tube to turn it into a slick mount for tools.

[Northern Tool]
Other Sources [Google Products]


20 Responses to Crap You Should Own: An Anvil

  1. tmib_seattle says:

    If you’re not going to be blacksmithing on it (and sometimes even if you are) you can often get away with using a chunk of railroad rail. The horn on a regular English-style anvil is invaluable to a smith, and ocassionally useful to the handyman, but a good sized piece of railroad rail works great for most applications.

    I haven’t looked at the ones from Northern Tool, but based on the price, I’d guess they’re around the same quality as the Harbor Freight ones. I’d highly recommend getting the aforementioned rail road rail instead. It’ll cost less, and give you a more durable tool. The tops on the imported Chinese anvils are soft and end up dishing out over time, rendering them useless when you need a flat surface.

    Rails are what we use for teaching smithing at the Boy Scout camp I work at in the summer. Either mounted normally (seen to the left here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmib/3755299483/in/set-72157618993244139/ ), or upside-down (as in this picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmib/3755298045/in/set-72157618993244139/ ) so as to provide a wide flat surface.

    The really critical part is making sure it has a good solid base and is mounted so it doesn’t move or bounce, as that takes energy away from the striking blow.

  2. Eric says:

    I got my anvil used off of Craigslist, but it took a while to find one. I ended up using CLGenie.com which sends you new Craigslist posts via email, so I didn’t need to go check daily. It’s been a great resource to score good deals on used tools.

  3. george says:

    yes, i’d love to have one but a bit of $$$$. as is, i have a five lb one from hf that is just fine for now and yes, everyone should have one.

  4. David Bryan says:

    I don’t know how many times I heard my Daddy say “Go get the anvil.” It was about 80 pounds, I think, maybe heavier, but if he wanted that anvil right where he was working that’s what he got.

  5. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    I know it’s not the same, and not as versatile, but I use what my grandfather used – an 7″ length of light duty railroad rail. Nice, burnished smooth top, and happy memories.

  6. SCWetherbee says:

    I use short cut offs of various sized I-beams.

  7. Dennis says:

    A piece of railroad tie makes a great temp or learning anvil. I built a few stands for such an anvil for T.M.I.B. sturdy enough to take a beating, yet cheap enough to learn on.

  8. Roy400 says:

    Harbor Freight has this anvil that I have seen for as low as $30.00 on sale. I have this one and it works for me.


    Item number 806 priced $59.99 today.

  9. DaveH says:

    I would stay away from the cheap Grizzly/HF ASO’s (Anvil Shaped Objects)

    Mankel makes a great 120 pound Anvil that is reasonably priced and solidly built.


    No website — call or write.

  10. Chris says:

    /me waits for one of our resident blacksmith-types to chime in about the difference between “anvils” and “anvil-shaped objects”.

    Meanwhile, here’s a link that I believe I got from someone else around here:


    I tend to think anything at Northern Tool or Harbor Fright is probably more toward the ASO end of the spectrum, and you get what you pay for in this regard.


  11. Roy400 says:

    Their are always the knee jerk folks that are always against Harbor Freight tools and other cheaper tool sellers. They are probably right for people that use the tool frequently and or require a high quality tool. I use my Harbor Freight anvil a few times a year and not on critical things. It has always without exception served me just fine.

    Harbor Freight has been a very good supplier of tools for me with few exceptions.

    So knee jerkers have at me for the above.

  12. Tom Bierly says:

    I just picked up a small ASO (22 pounds). It’s wonderful for small things. I’ve also picked up some “Hardy hole tools” (my wording). My ASO is to small for most of these, but I can mount them in the short log I picked up (14 inch dia. 10 inches long).

    I long after the anvils I see on Ebay. Many of these are over 100 years old and weigh around 200 pounds. If it’s lasted 100 years, I think we can say it is a quality piece.

  13. @MeasureOnceCutTwice:

    It’s funny you mention rail. When I moved into my house I found a section of rail tucked between the studs in my garage. I thought, maybe it was a souvenir or memento or such, but after I thought about it for a while I realized the old owner must have been using it as an anvil.

  14. Dave says:

    The harbor freight and other cheap anvils seem to be made out of something like cast iron, not steel as in “real” anvils. There are several blacksmith sites that have evaluated them. That said, the price difference between even the largest and most expensive HF anvil and a “real” anvil is huge. I own a real anvil that I bought off ebay and the difference is huge, but I wouldn’t hesitate to by one of the cheap cast iron ones if I didn’t have the money and I only needed it to use as a surface for occasionally beating on something. It is indeed handy to have a metal surface on which to pound things into submission. Rails work well, and some folks use smallish pieces of steel plate (like pothole cover plate) on their workbenches.

  15. tmib_seattle says:

    I own one of the HF anvils in addition to my “real” anvil. Really, railroad track is better than the HF anvil for any kind of serious work. That’s not a knee-jerk reaction, it’s a result of having used it and compared the results with the alternatives.

    The soft top will dish out over time, resulting in a non-flat surface. The softness of the top will also result in more work being needed to effectively move metal when you’re hitting it with a hammer.

    One thing that it is useful for is as a surface to punch/mark metal on. Traditionally smiths would place a softer metal saddle on top of their anvils for this purpose, to avoid marking up their anvil surface.

    I find the HF anvil works well for this. I set it on top of my regular anvil when punching/chiseling. This not only protects the good anvil, but raises the work several inches, which is handy when doing fine/closeup work. The surface of the HF anvil is soft enough that I don’t have to worry about damaging chisels and punches that cut all the way through the metal being worked.

  16. turtleman1 says:

    Where does one obtain a short section of railroad track suitable for an anvil?

  17. tmib_seattle says:

    Check around for local metal yards or scrap yards. Places that buy scrap metal usually sell it too. A couple of quick net searches for your city should turn up some places.

    Most of the metal supply places will cut it to whatever length you want. It’s pretty cheap if you’re buying used stuff as scrap.

    If you’re really lucky it’s the kind of yard that lets you walk around and collect a pile of stuff and throw it on a scale where it’s sold to you by weight. Those kinds of places usually have pretty useful/interesting old machine parts, auger bits, railroad pieces, etc.

  18. Frank Townend says:

    I have over a hundred anvils.
    Of course 99% of them are under six inches long; collectibles.
    I went crazy on eBay.
    Such is life.

  19. phil says:

    I saw a forged RIDGID anvil one time at an old style hardware store and have wanted one ever since. It was around 300lbs or so – owner said he beats on it unmercifully daily and it has always remained flat and true.

  20. Ethan says:

    Guys, Please. Anvils are precision tools made FOR BLACKSMITHS. We are experiencing a large resurgence of new blacksmiths wanting to learn the craft, but There is a large LACK of real anvils for these guys to buy. Real anvils have Round horns, Tool steel tops, a hardy hole to hold blacksmith’s tools, And are for shaping hot metal on. When you beat cold metal over the edge of a good anvil or Cold chisel on the top you are damaging it. the flat face and smooth edges are what a smith uses when shaping hot iron. If you guys have a real anvil, please don’t abuse it.many of the older ones have hundreds of hours of work put in them and were HAND FORGED. If you’re not going to be blacksmithing, buy a harbor freight anvil to beat cold steel on. If you aren’t forging hot steel the top being soft and denting doesn’t matter to you. sell the real anvil to a blacksmith that needs it. You never know, he might forge you something.

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