Tuesday, April 12

Makeshift Anvils

Ideally, we could all find an excellent deal on a vintage anvil at a flea market or farm auction. These are both excellent places to look in your area. If you're running out of ideas, a variety of anvils are also available on eBay. If you know the size and manufacturer you want, narrowing your search is easy.

Brand new anvils can be prohibitively expensive for the budget-conscious blacksmith. There are wonderful anvils available from the upstart Nimba and the tried and true Ridgid/Peddinghaus. If you have the capital for it, you can't go wrong with a Peddinghaus.

For the frugal blacksmith, there are plenty of options out there for makeshift anvils. You're looking for a material hard enough and heavy enough to take the blows sent through the steel your working. When you're hammering a piece of steel, you're actually working it from two sides at once. The anvil is shaping it at the same time as the hammer.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I came across a piece of railroad track that a friend was willing to part with for free. This was an excellent find. My piece is 18" long and about 6" tall. It doesn't have the ever-useful hardie or pritchel holes, but for a beginning blacksmith, it does the job.

Pieces of track can be purchased on eBay for very little money. Some sellers will cut it to length for you. from a longer piece of track. Railroad suppliers are another place to look. They might not have the length you want, though. To save on shipping costs, it's better to find a local supplier and go down in person. Nothing beats a real-time conversation with a person.

Another idea is to look up your local steel supplier and see if they offer I-beams. I was in Columbus picking up some stock at Kroot Corporation and noticed some sections of I-beam lying around the warehouse. The advantage of I-beam is that it has a wide, flat face that can be drilled out to create your hardie and pritchel holes. It's also good and heavy. To mount it, you could either drill out the base if you have the right tools for the job, bend nails over the base or, if it has holes, use a chain like I did for my Quick Mount Anvil.

Need some more ideas? Check out Makeshift Anvils Part 2: Hammerhead Anvil


Want to Learn Blacksmithing?

  • Everything you need to know to start blacksmithing.
  • Save $$$ on Anvils and Forges.
  • Learn the ancient craft on your own time. (No travel.)
Get started for Free.


  1. Terran,

    Another option is the scrap metal yard. Search for a piece of 6X steel as long as you can safely handle. You have two option depending on what kind of work you do. Mount it vertically in a log, or horizontally with cleats... in a log.

    If you have the gumption, that mass of metal can be ground, polished, and brought to heat in a large fire of scrap wood/firewood, or even charcoal or coal. The trick is how are you going to lift it and plunge it in a 55 gallon drum of brine? I've gt a couple of ideas, but I havn't completely thought out the process.

    I intend to do a tutorial on the subject when I get home. (I'm in Afghanistan right now...)Too many people have the potential skills to do constructive work, but no materials or wherewithal to do it with.

    Sorry to go sideways on your post!

    BTW, you have one of the best smithing blogs out there! Keep it up!

    Post Tenebras, Lux
    Dirus Canis
    The Wolf and Moon™
    Woodworking Tools of Afghanistan!

  2. What does "6X" mean? I'm searching for a big block of steel that's 8" high, 14-15" long, about 5" wide, and weighing in at 55-70lbs. For the past year and a half, I've been using a 55lb. cast iron ASO from Harbor Freight Tools. As helpful as it's been, it is so worn out now that it may not last another two months, so I am on the hunt. I can't afford a real anvil. What should I do?

    1. I believe the 6X steel Canis Dirus is referring to is a steel alloy designation. A steel supplier would know more.

      If you have the time, grinding and shaping a piece of rail is an option: http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/anvils/making/RR-rail_anvils.php

      At the moment, I'm using the set-up at a local fine arts center. For a rental fee, I have access to a variety of forges, anvils, equipment. You could check in your area for blacksmiths offering classes and possibly work out a deal. They also might have a lead on a good, used anvil.

      I'd continue to look around at estate sales and auctions. The benefits of even a beat-up anvil over cast iron are huge.

  3. AnonymousJuly 27, 2012

    By 6x he means the dimension, such as 6"x4" for an example.

  4. I took a old used Fork from one of the forklifts at work. Hardened steel with a weight capacity of 1200 lbs. It works pretty well.

    1. That's a great solution to the anvil problem. Did you do any additional shaping?

  5. Right now I just use a chunk of railroad track. I will end up finding some other chunks of metal in the rough shape of some of the other parts of an anvil as needed. Maybe something like a chunk of pipe filled with concrete for making round parts. My biggest problem is finding a way to fasten all this to something at the proper height. Sounds simple, but its proving to be kinda hard. It should also be mentioned that the most money I spent on this whole blacksmithing thing I am dabbling in was a 2 lb hammer from Harbor Freight. Refractory for the forge was already paid for as it was left over from building a foundry and I had pvc for the center form and a vacuume cleaner pipe to from the burner tube. The burner is the one from my foundry, and I plan on not spending any more money

    1. Hi Toby-

      This is exactly the type of problem solving we like to see. Solid work on putting everything together.

      I hope things are coming along for you.



  6. Just started...and i mean just but i get the feeling i was headed down this road. I work building construction and have been hauling home pieces of red iron and scraps of steel for about a year now. Idk why just liked the weight of the things. Now that I know what i want to do (a little smithing) I'm going to go sort through what i have.

    1. Happy to hear it! Let us know if you have any questions as you go along.