A blacksmith anvil is one of the most important and expensive purchases a blacksmith will make. The blacksmithing anvil is central to almost everything that happens in a blacksmith’s workshop. Whether you are crafting a sword, a knife, armor, tools, decorative scroll-work, or tools for your own use, you will need to use an this pivotal tool at some point in the production process.
It can be overwhelming for a beginner smith trying to pick the best anvil possible. It doesn’t help that most online articles and youtube videos recommend that you scavenge for yours. While scavenging can be fun, the results are uncertain, and it can be hard to fit a junkyard day into your busy schedule.
To help you on your quest for your first blacksmith anvil, I have compiled a list of them that are available for purchase, and I have made a list of pro’s and con’s for each of them. In addition, I will answer the most common questions I see from beginners, and I will try to give advice to those of you on an extreme budget later on in the article.
More than anything else, I will try to impart my love of this ancient craft to you. Getting your first blacksmithing anvil is exciting. It’s not just a piece of equipment, it is a symbol of a craft that is thousands of years old.
When you get your first anvil, you are joining a brotherhood of craftsmen that goes back millennia. You will get the opportunity to hand-craft unique pieces of artwork that will ultimately be extensions of yourself.
You can make anything you have the audacity to dream up. The plain of possibility is endless.
Savor this moment as a beginner, as you will not get to experience it twice!
Best 4 Steel Anvils For Sale
If you just want to know what my top picks are, look no further! additional information is posted below the table.
Before I dive in to the review of blacksmith anvils for sale, I think it would be helpful to spend some time explaining what you should look for in an anvil. What should the anvil be made of? What shape should it be? How much is it going to cost? While ultimately your anvil purchase will be a personal decision, it’s helpful to be as knowledgeable as possible before making that decision.
What To Look For In An Anvil
While there is technically an infinite variety of anvil types, in practice you really only need to worry about 3:
- Steel faced anvils
- Cast iron faced anvils
- Wrought iron faced anvils
While I will go into more detail on anvil composition later on, for now I will just say that steel faced anvils are generally better than cast iron anvils or wrought iron anvils.
There are however several tricky points that I will try to briefly address.
For starters, most steel faced anvils are made of “cast steel”. Cast steel is different from cast iron, and cast steel is perfectly fine for a blacksmithing anvil. In fact, while some smiths disagree with me, I find modern anvils made out of cast steel to be superior to the old wrought iron anvils.
Another point of confusion is that many have a hardened steel face with a cast iron body. This is perfectly fine, unless you plan on doing some…unorthodox smithing on the side of your anvil body.
As smiths we are most concerned with the anvil face, as this is where we will do most of our striking. We want an anvil face that is hard and not brittle. Cast steel anvils meet this description perfectly.
Which leads to the next section of this article:
Why Do You Want A Steel Faced Anvil?
Steel is a great material in that it’s very versatile. A good anvil made with high quality steel designed for the purpose of smithing will be hard but tough. This means that it can withstand hammer blows without denting or chipping.
If you set steel faced anvils against other types, such as cast iron faced anvils and wrought iron faced anvils, steel faced anvils come out on top.
Cast iron is too brittle and too soft compared to modern steels. To see what I mean, imagine yourself smashing a cast iron skillet with a hammer…the thing would explode!
Cast iron anvils are significantly thicker than skillets, but they suffer from the same brittleness problem as the cast iron skillet; they tend to chip.
Wrought iron anvils on the other hand don’t chip as much, but they tend to be too soft. This means that a wrought iron anvil will get covered in hammer shaped dents and holes. Luckily for us, wrought iron anvils are significantly easier to resurface than cast iron anvils.
Wrought iron is also significantly more expensive than steel. Usually when people buy wrought iron anvils, it’s for artistic or historical reasons, rather than practicality.
In short, steel faced anvils are the way to go.
Steel faced Anvils are:
- Less likely to dent or chip
- More economical than wrought iron
- More expensive than cast iron
Cast Iron Faced Anvils are:
- Generally cheaper
- Hard to repair
- Prone to chipping/denting
Wrought Iron Anvils are:
- Generally older anvils
- Soft but not brittle
- Usually have a steel plate welded on top
- Need a lot of maintenance if the striking face is made of wrought iron
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the most popular anvils being sold on amazon.
For this section we are primarily interested in the 66lb anvil,as the 55lb anvil is made out of cast iron, while the 66lb anvil is made out of steel. So from now on, assume that I’m talking about the 66lb anvil.
This little beauty has a hardy hole that is approximately 22mm x 22mm(.866 inches). This is important if you plan on buying hardy tools for this anvil as many hardy tools are 25.4mm x 25.4mm or 1” x 1”.
This means that any hardy tools purchased online will likely have to be trimmed down to fit in this anvil. This also has a 20mm (.787in) pritchel hole placed in front of the horn. Most anvils have the pritchel hole on the opposite end of the striking plate making this anvil a tad unusual – although it works just fine.
Although this is pictured as having a blue paint on the amazon product image, it seems that the company has been shipping them without the paint.
Overall, this is a good starter anvil. It’s not perfect, it’s not large(for an anvil), and it doesn’t have all the bell’s and whistles of a farrier anvil. But it is more than enough to get you started and sells at an affordable price. I recommend it for newbies.
It has a 1” (25.4mm) hardie hole, which is the standard size for most hardy tools sold in America. In addition to the hardie hole, this anvil has a pritchel hole.
Another neat little feature of this anvil is the fork in the heel. This is convenient for bending small pieces of bar stock quickly without having to drag out a turning fork.
While it’s more expensive than the previous one without a lot of additional weight, it does have a few more features that some of you may find valuable. It’s a good anvil, and will get you started on your smithing journey.
That being said, this is a very good anvil. It weighs in at 165lb’s making it significantly heavier than previous models. This will allow you to more easily work on larger projects without you having to worry about your anvil not being able to handle the workload.
This has a hardy hole and a pritchel hole. The backside of the anvil features an upsetting block which is handy for…well…upsetting bar stock.
It has a 1 inch hardy hole and a ⅝ pritchel hole.
While this is pricey, it’s definitely one of the better anvils for sale online. It’s a good purchase, and I recommend it to intermediate blacksmiths and people who plan on using their tools in a commercial capacity.
It has a 1 inch hardy hole and a ⅝ pritchel hole.
This is an expensive anvil and is most likely not economical for the average smith. It is however a great anvil for commercial smiths who are looking to invest in something that will be able to withstand the abuse of constant production.
2 Best Cast Iron Anvil
While I generally believe cast iron anvils to be inferior to steel faced anvils, it can make sense in some situations to buy a cast iron anvil. For one, cast iron anvils tend to be cheaper. This is great for smiths on a budget, or for beginners who just want to see if they like the hobby of blacksmithing.
If you think a cast iron anvil may be for you, don’t feel ashamed in buying one. Just don’t be surprised if it cracks or has dents in it after some use. It will most likely break over time, just make sure to account for this in your calculations.
This is one of the heavier cast iron anvils available for purchase. It’s hard to find them much heavier than this, as people really don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for tools that may crack after use.
All-in-all, this is a fine starter anvil. It will allow you to quickly and cheaply begin hammering some iron.
It has a hardy hole but no pritchel hole. The hardy hole is 1’ making it perfect for most standard sized hardy tools.
If you are looking for a cast iron anvil for blacksmithing, this is your #1 choice.
I debated whether I should put this anvil in the cast iron section or the jewelry making section. This is a bit too small for blacksmithing in my opinion, although I suppose it could be used for making small knives and chisels.
The good thing about it’s small stature is that its dirt cheap. It cost less than most modern video games. But unlike computer games, anything you make on this anvil won’t disappear when you hit the power button ; )
Best Large Anvil For Sale
If you are looking for a large anvil, the two rigid brand peddinghaus models discussed earlier are the way to go. If you are shelling out a large sum of money for a large anvil, make sure to go for quality.
Fun fact, as of the time of this writing, these peddinghaus models have free shipping. Although honestly I suspect that some of the shipping costs are baked into the product costs. Still, this is one less thing to worry about.
If you are looking at buying another brand, make sure to double/triple check shipping fees…you don’t want to accidentally add 30% to your total price just because you weren’t watching shipping fees.
Best Steel Bench Block For Jewelry Making and Metalwork
Steel faced anvils are quite expensive. If you are a jeweler who is working with soft metals and soft hammers, you may consider using a steel block instead.
They are not perfect, and I wouldn’t recommend them for blacksmith work as they will likely get dinged up. But they are a cheap alternative for those of you just needing a hard surface to strike pieces on.
What makes these steel bench blocks great is their sheer simplicity. They are easy to setup, and easy to put away when you are finished with them. They are portable, and great for work done while you are on the move.
Best Anvil For Jewelry Making
While I come from a blacksmithing background, it’s clear to me that many people purchasing anvils are doing so for the purpose of jewelry making.
People looking for jewelry anvils will in general have the same worries and concerns as people looking for blacksmithing anvils. You will want steel faced anvils if at all possible. Sadly, most jewelry anvils are made of cast iron. With this in mind, I would recommend you avoid missing and hitting it too hard.You should consider only working with softer metals.
Luckily for the jewelers among us, anvils for jewelry making are SIGNIFICANTLY smaller, therefore significantly cheaper.
I actually highly recommend the steel blocks discussed earlier for jewelry making as well,however if you need the anvil horn, you will have to look at other alternatives.
I would avoid the 50lb and 100lb, as they are still made of cast iron and will likely deteriorate over time.
From what I have heard, you will most likely have to modify the hardy hole if you plan on using hardy tools with this model.
Best Tiny Anvil
The 9lb anvil above makes for a great tiny anvil. I have not personally seen a smaller anvil size than this. Some people are using this as a paper weight or a door stop, which I find hilarious – and awesome!
Still, this is a good starting tool for jewelry making, and is a popular seller on amazon. This should be able to easily handle softer metals such as brass, copper, and tin. If you are looking into a small anvil for jewelry making, this will get the job done.
This one contains a smaller hardy hole measuring in at 9/16”. This will be a bit small for traditional blacksmithing tools, but it may be the case that jewelry hardy tools come with a smaller taper.
If not, you can always enlarge the hardy hole, or taper the hardy tools that you buy.
This is another great jewelry anvil.
The last one on our stop. This anvil is heavy, made of metal, and will get the job done for smaller jewelry projects. My main gripe is that it doesn’t have a hardy hole. If you don’t need a hardy hole, this will work fine.
Best Anvils for Knife Making (Bladesmithing)
Making knives aka bladesmithing is basically a subset of blacksmithing. As such, any of the above blacksmithing anvils will work fine for your knife making purposes.
In some ways knife making is actually less demanding than traditional blacksmithing when it comes to anvils. You don’t need to worry about scrollwork or elaborate curves and edges. This makes your job easier when looking for a bladesmithing knife.
You can use the anvils mentioned above. You can also use one of the steel plates mentioned above, or you can just use whatever scrap metal you have lying around. Knife making really has a pretty low barrier to entry. Have fun with it!
Best Farrier Anvil
Farrier anvils are really quite similar to blacksmithing anvils. The main difference is that farrier anvils have a little less mass under the striking plate, and have a little more mass on the horn. This is because the bulk of the metalwork done by farriers is bending the horseshoe to a round shape.
Some farrier anvils also have a few more features than blacksmithing anvils. These features include clip horns and turning forks. Farrier anvils also tend to come in lighter sizes, as many farriers need to carry it to the field with them.
I have actually already reviewed one farrier anvil in this article. It’s of solid construction and will get the job done.
What Are The Parts Of An Anvil Called?
Anvils are pretty simple tools. At the bottom of the typical London style anvil is the “base.” Most anvils have four “feet” that help provide stability. These feet often have holes that allow you to stake your anvil into the ground. People will often stake their anvil to a variety of materials such as tree stump, the earth itself, or the concrete floor of their shop.
Above the base and feet sits the waist. The waist is exactly what it sounds like. It features a reduction in width that allows the tool to have more weight where it matters: the base and the striking surface. Above the waist is the featureless blob of metal known as the body.
Above the body is the plate that is used as the striking surface. This plate is often called the face of the anvil and is the part of the anvil that we want to be made out of high quality steel to avoid breaking/chipping/denting. On one end of the face, there sits two holes.
One hole is a square hole, usually 1”, that is known as the hardy hole. The other hole is a smaller rounder hole that is known as the pritchel hole. Hardy tools have square shanks and go into the hardy hole. The pritchel is a little more versatile. It is a tool in itself, but some tools such as holdfasts/holdowns will go into the pritchel hole as well. The pritchel hole is often used to punch holes through metal.
In most anvils these two holes are placed by the heel. Some heels feature two forks which are used for bending. On the opposite end of the striking plate is the anvil horn. Most horns are slightly tapered, to allow the smith to bend rings of multiple circumferences. It’s important that the heel and the horn of the anvil balance each other out. Otherwise the anvil may tip sideways when you use the horn or the heel.This is especially important in anvils that will not be staked down.
Finally, there is a lot of small variations among anvils. For example, some feature a small “Step” in between the face of the anvil and the horn. You could argue that this step can be used to form notches in metal, or that it improves the aesthetic quality of an anvil…but I think it has more to do with how the anvil itself is made. Some anvils also have “Porter holes”, which are tiny holes that go through the waist of the anvil.
Regardless, there are lots of little variations that you will hopefully learn to appreciate as you progress in the craft.
Different Types of Anvils, and Alternatives To Anvils
I have already gone over some of the different types of anvils. Anvils can vary in composition (steel, cast iron, etc), but they can also vary in shape, form, and function. The most common type is known as a London pattern anvil. The London pattern is most likely the first design that comes to mind when you think about blacksmithing.
But there are many alternatives. It might be more accurate to think of them as compliments to the London style anvil. One such type is actually called a swage block. Swage blocks are big chunks of metal that contain cavities of varying shapes and sizes in the surface of the block. These cavities are used for blacksmithing functions such as bending, forming, and cutting.
Many smiths custom make their swages blocks, and as such, these cavities are often thoughtfully design to fulfill a specific purpose for the blacksmith. For example, if a smith finds himself making a spoon or ladle of a certain size over and over again for commercial purpose, it makes sense for him to make a cavity the size of the spoon so that he may make it very quickly.
If you come from a machining or industrial forging background, these cavities function a lot like a forging die.
There are also anvils known as hornless anvils. The name says it all. These babies lack a horn, which is convenient in workshops with tight spacing. They are also easier to transport, so if you know that your projects won’t need any significant bending, these can make a lot of sense.
There is also the steel blocks we discussed earlier.
To finish up this section, there is also the humble anvil-shaped-object, also known as an ASO. These anvils are any hunk of steel that get the job done. A Common ASO is made out of railroad track, but they can be made out of any piece of scrap metal. I will mention that there are odd legalities involved with railroad tracks, so be careful if you go this route.
There are many more types that I have not mentioned, but it is beyond the scope of this article to go over them.If this sounds interesting to you, I highly recommend the books Anvils In America and Anvils Through The Ages.; these books make this article seem like light bathroom reading.
These are the most comprehensive resource on anvils that I have ever seen, they are great!
If you plan on buying a used anvil, these books are a must. They will give you the information you need to keep from getting ripped off.
Another type you may come across in your travels is known as a stake anvil. Stake anvils are small tools with stakes at the bottom of its base. These were popular back when most people lived on farms, as they could easily be staked into the dirt or a tree stump; this provided a stable base for the anvil while the owner did field repairs.
Seeing as how the demand for these has dried up, I don’t find many new stake anvils being manufactured. I do however find them quite a lot when I go looking for antique anvils at auctions and garage sales.
Finally, there is the bench anvil. Bench anvils are small tools usually under 50 pounds that sit on a bench. This makes them small ,portable, and handy for small projects.
To sum up, there are a number of different varieties including:
- Swage Blocks
- Stake Anvils
- Bench Anvils
- Farrier Anvils
- Forging Anvils
- A wide variety of anvil compositions (cast iron, steel)
- A wide variety of anvil designs including: London Pattern, German pattern, Austrian Pattern, and many more
What Is An Anvil Made Out Of (Composition)
I think I have covered this pretty thoroughly. Basically an anvil just has to be harder than the material that is being worked – assuming of course that you never miss or accidentally hit it with your hammer!
This means that most are made out of cast iron or cast steel.
How Heavy Of Anvil Do I need For Forging?
As always, the devil is in the details and it depends. You can use an extremely small mass of metal assuming it’s hard enough, and it’s securely fastened. Generally though, larger anvils are better…unless of course you are traveling : )
I have seen a number of rules of thumb, rules such as an anvil must be at least 20 times the weight of your hammer, with an ideal ratio being closer to 50 times your hammer weight. But again, this is just an ideal.
Remember, you can use some pretty ghetto rigs when blacksmithing. For example, one time I went camping, and I made a shepards hook using a carpenter’s hammer, a campfire, and the earth as my anvil…so don’t overthink things.
History Of The Forging Anvil And The Blacksmith
The anvil is most likely as old as blacksmithing itself, and blacksmithing is a craft that goes back millenia. This is one of my favorite things about blacksmithing. In a time when technological progress is rapidly accelerating, I love having one hobby that is likely to remain consistent throughout my life.
And it will stay consistent. Blacksmithing has changed very little over the centuries. It was probably most different in the B.C era. These ancient smiths most likely didn’t use anvils as we think of them today, as this would be a waste of valuable iron!
Ancient smiths would have used any sufficiently flat surface they could find as an anvil, most likely a slab of rock.
Depending on the region of the world, iron was incredibly valuable, and it didn’t make sense to use iron/steel as a swage until technology progressed and it became more affordable to have a ferrous anvil.
This means that affordable steel/iron was one of the first big technological breakthroughs. Once it became economical to make iron/steel anvils, smiths no longer had to rely on soft/brittle surfaces as they could use iron itself as a striking face
Once ferrous anvils became common, they again changed very little for centuries. The next big leap in anvil technology was the idea of standardization during the industrial revolution. Prior to this, it was not unusual to find these tools in all shapes and sizes. This caused problems, as often they would have different sized hardy holes, so it became difficult to quickly and easily interchange parts.
Since that time, anvils have changed very little. Now obviously this was a very abbreviated history of these tools, as the the technology and resources available varied drastically in different places at different times. Still, I think the history of anvils is worth a brief mention.
Frequently Asked Questions About Anvils & Trivia
In this section of the article, I will go over frequently asked questions and explore some fun anvil trivia.
What is the square hole in an anvil for
This was answered earlier, but it get asked often enough by new people that I thought I should explicitly answer this under its own heading.
The square hole is the hardy hole, and it is usually 1” by 1” square. It is used primarily for fitting hardy tools into the anvil, although it can be used for bending stock and punching holes.
The pritchel hole is the small round hole. It tends to be a bit smaller and serves a similar function.
Why Do Anvils Have Horns?
As mentioned earlier, the anvil horn is used for bending metal into a circular shape. The horn must be balanced out with the heel of the anvil otherwise the whole thing will be lopsided. These horns usually come with a taper that allows the smith to make rings of various sizes.
If the anvil horn is not enough to get the job done ,blacksmiths have other options such as the mandrel tool. A mandrel is just a tapered cone that serves the same function as the horn. Mandrel tools can come in the form of a hardy tool or a self standing floor mandrel. Unlike the horn, they can be pointed straight up which is handy in some situations.
What Is The Largest Anvil Ever Made?
The largest solid steel anvil that I have come across is a 6500lb one made by J.D. Napier
Whenever you start talking about world records, you have to be very careful and precise with your words. When people do an extreme optimization for one factor (such as weight or size), they begin thinking and talking like lawyers.
I say this because there are larger sculptures in existence, but they use materials other than steel.
What Are Anvils For?
Anvils provide a hard surface and act as a base for metal working. They are used in a number of crafts ranging from blacksmithing, tin smithing, coppersmithing, jewelry making, and knife making.
Anvils In Art
Anvils get used in a variety of art forms. As mentioned earlier, there are some truly massive anvil statutes that have been made, usually commemorating historical forges/foundries.
They have also been used as percussions instruments, as striking one creates a unique sound. For example, they are used in Richard Wagner’s DAS RHEINGOLD which is the first of the four DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN operas. On a more modern note, they are also featured in Judas Priest’s 1990 song “Between the Hammer and the Anvil.” How metal (lol) is that?
Back in the days before anything and everything became a legal liability, many towns across America would celebrate certain holidays by stuffing a blacksmith anvil full of gunpowder and blowing it hundreds of feet into the air.
This was done by placing an anvil upside down and filling out the hollowed out base of the thing with gun powder. A second anvil would be placed squarely on top of the first one with a fuse set between them. Once the lit fuse hit the gunpowder…BOOM, the top one gets launched like a rocket.
It’s hard to imagine something like this being done today!
What Is A Farrier
A farrier is someone who is knowledgeable about both blacksmithing and horse care. They use this knowledge to ensure that horses have healthy hooves. Historically, blacksmiths were farriers and vice versa, although today they are seen as distinct specialties.
You can actually see this ancient amalgamation of the two specialties in the word itself. Farrier is based on the middle french word ferrier (blacksmith), and from the Latin word ferrum(which means iron).The influence of ferrum is widely felt and can be seen any time people talk about ferrous materials (iron materials).
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