November 30, 2010

Anvils are multi-purpose tools developed by and for blacksmiths, but you don’t have to have a forge to put an anvil to use in your shop.

In my home farm shop, the anvil was simply used as a base for straightening bent or twisted metal. Such use might be denounced by a blacksmith, as an anvil is designed for use with hot metal, and cold can mar the surface. However, half a century later, that same anvil continues to serve my brother and nephew as it did my father before them.

The face is the heart of the anvil. You want an anvil face that deflects force back into the piece being worked when you hit the the piece. For this reason, an anvil face is hardened steel. A blacksmith recently told me the way to test an anvil’s quality is to hold a steel ball bearing directly over the face and drop it. If it bounces back into your hand, you’ve got a good anvil. The face should be flat and smooth—and be kept that way—or any piece being worked will be imprinted by the imperfection.

As mentioned in my last blog post, the face is also home to the hardy hole. This feature is key to the multi-purpose use of an anvil. The hardy hole is a square hole, normally tapered to its final dimension. It’s designed to seat various accessories from chisel tips to punches and other tools. Anyone who has ever manipulated a hammer and chisel to cut a frozen nut free from a bolt or a bearing from a shaft can appreciate the idea of a fixed chisel.

Next week, I’ll focus on the pritchel hole, horn and step as well as placement of your anvil.

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