4 Anvils for Under $400

4 Anvils Under $400 - Brown County Forge

Last time we talked about 5 forges for under $500. In this series of posts, we’re going to slowly build the basics of a blacksmith shop:

  • Forge
  • Anvil
  • Hammer
  • Tongs
  • Metal

I’ll be drawing on my personal experiences over the years using a variety of equipment.

Today, we’re going to focus on Four Anvils You Can Buy for Under $400. (All prices current as of this posting: 1/5/2021)

1. TFS 70 lb. Single Horn – $397.00

TFS 70 lb Single Horn Anvil Review - Brown County Forge
Screenshot from centaurforge.com.

Coming in just under the limit (before shipping) is the Texas Farrier Supply 70 pound single horn anvil.

My experience with TFS anvils goes back almost six years now. One of my past shopmates had a 200 pound TFS Smithy Special Double Horn.

Plenty of weight to push against. The downside is the price: $1,310.00, shipped by Commercial Truck (read: expensive).

However, you get the same quality manufacturing that TFS is known for in the 70 pound single horn.

SPECS:

Ductile Iron. Hardened to 50 Rockwell. (Their anvils over 150 pounds are hardened to 48 Rockwell, meaning slightly “softer.”)

Face: 3.5″ x 12.25″

Horn: 3.5″ x 9″

Height: 7.75″

Base: 8.5″ x 9.5″

1″ Hardie hole. 1/2″ Pritchel hole.

Made in the USA.

Ships for $29.95 Flat Rate from Centaur Forge. (centaurforge.com)

Why are anvil dimensions important?

The Face size tells you how much space you have to work. Having a nice wide face makes it easier to hit (or not hit) your mark. More room to play.

The Height tells you how tall you will need to make your anvil stand. To figure out the overall height you:

  • Measure from your closed fist to the floor.
  • Subtract the height of your anvil.
  • That’s how tall your anvil stand should be. This keeps you from overextending as you swing your hammer. Too much over-extension and you’ll blow out your elbow.

The Base dimensions tell you how wide you need your anvil stand to be to fit it.

If you’re using a tree stump for an anvil stand, you want it to be larger in diameter than the base of the anvil.

Let’s keep making our way down the list. Next up…

2. NC Tool Company 70 lb. Knifemaker Anvil – $355.00

NC Tool Company 70 lb. Knifemaker Anvil Review - Brown County Forge
Screenshot from centaurforge.com.

Of the NC Tool Company line of anvils, this is the closest in style to the pair in my shop.

The hardie and pritchel holes are in their standard locations in the heel of the anvil. I’m noting this because many of the newer NC anvils feature the hardie (the square hole) through the horn.

It should also be noted that NC Tool Company anvils are made with farriers in mind. That doesn’t mean other blacksmiths can’t use them, but you might have to navigate past anatomy like clip horns and turning cams.

SPECS:

Face: 3.25″ x 11.375″

Horn: 4″ x 8″

Height: 9″

Base: 8.75″ x 9.125″

1″ Hardie hole (takes a 7/8″ hardie). 1/2″ Pritchel hole.

Made in the USA.

Ships for $29.95 Flat Rate from Centaur Forge. (centaurforge.com)

Why I like these anvils:

At 70 pounds they can do a lot of work while still being light enough for one person to lift.

If you’re working in your shop alone, being able to shift and move your anvil is important.

This is particularly true if you have a mobile stand for it. For example, I need to be able to shift both anvils depending on how many people are in a class and depending on what I’m making during the week.

I’ve used my oldest one since November 2015 when I bought it from a local farrier supply.

The second one has been in use since mid-2016.

With proper care, they’ll keep on ticking for generations to come.

Note: These will come with a painted face. You  will want to remove this paint before doing any hot work on it.

It’s there to protect it in storage before its final owner starts using it.

How do you remove the paint from an anvil face?

Flap disks in an angle grinder do a great job. But be careful. It’s easy to start chewing away at the steel underneath the paint. Use an 80 grit flap disk and go lightly at first.

Wear a mask and eye protection to ensure you’ll be around to forge for as many years as possible.

3. Kanca 44 lb. Drop Forged Double Horn – $299.00

Kanca 44 lb. Single Horn Anvil Review - Brown County Forge
Screenshot from centaurforge.com.

I’ve never used a Kanca, but some of my students have. From what I can tell they like them.

This one is on the lighter side, but the next size up (77 pounds) comes in at $475. It doesn’t fit the criteria for this post, but still worth a look.

SPECS:

Southern German designed double horn drop forged anvil. Surface hardness between 54 – 62 HRC (Rockwell Hardness).

Face: 3.15″ x 11″

Horn: Not provided.

Height: 6.10″

Base: 8.75″ x 9.125″

7/8″ Hardie hole. 3/4″ Pritchel hole.

Forged in Turkey.

Ships for $29.95 Flat Rate from Centaur Forge. (centaurforge.com)

Why you might like this anvil:

If you’re doing smaller work and you have a strict budget of $350 or less, this anvil will do the job.

Kanca is a large supplier for the automotive industry so you can feel comfortable that they know their stuff.

Blacksmith’s Depot (blacksmithsdepot.com) compares them to the classic Ridgid-Peddinghaus anvils, but much less expensive

4. Iron Mountain 18 lb. Anvil – $105.00

Iron Mountain 18 lb. Anvil Review - Brown County Forge
Screenshot from piehtoolco.com.

Should you buy an 18 pound anvil for around a hundred bucks?

Can you do anything with it?

My answer, to paraphrase the late, great John Lennon (and Jack Nicholson in The Departed):

“I’m an artist. You give me a tuba, I’ll get you something out of it.”

Meaning: It has more to do with you and your skills than it does the tools.

You could forge a sword on the back of a bench vise if you had to.

It would take a while and it might not be pretty, but you could it.

SPECS:

Ductile cast iron (poured into an anvil-shaped form and then ground).

Face: 2.75″ x 7″

Horn: Not provided.

Height: 6″

Base: Not provided.

7/8″ Hardie hole. 3/4″ Pritchel hole.

Made in the USA.

Ships from Pieh Tool Company. (piehtoolco.com)

What would I do with an 18 pound anvil?

First, I’d make sure it’s secured to a nice solid bench or anvil stand. At 18 pounds it’s gonna wanna walk on you as you hit.

I’d definitely use it for small things. It would be right up a coppersmith, silversmith, or tinsmith’s alley.

If you’re really strapped for cash, I’d buy this anvil before one from Harbor Freight. It looks cool and it’s solid iron.

What Do You Think?

Which anvil of the four we covered would you buy and why?

Would you wait, save up more money, and go for something larger?

If so, what would you get?

Leave a comment below.

Cheers,

Terran Marks - Blacksmith - Brown County Forge
Terran the Blacksmith

9 Common Blacksmith Terms to Know

Common Blacksmith Terms - Brown County Forge

If you’re familiar with Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, you’ve come across blacksmith terms before.

The coyote is always scheming to drop an anvil on the roadrunner, but ends up getting flattened himself.

In this post, I’m going to lay out 9 common blacksmith terms to know.

1. Blacksmith Terms #1: The Anvil

Now that blacksmiths are a lot less common, our first introduction to anvils probably came from watching Looney Tunes.

It seems like some cartoon character was always getting turned into an accordion after being flattened by an ACME anvil.

For blacksmiths, the anvil is one of the most essential pieces of equipment.

It’s where all the work gets done.

All traditional anvils have a similar shape:

  • Horn – for bending hot metal
  • Face – the flat area where you do most of your work
  • Hardie – the square hole used for tools with square posts that fit into the anvil
  • Pritchel – the round hole used for punching holes and making holes wider through drifting
  • Neck – the center mass of the anvil
  • Feet – the base of the anvil

2. The Forge

Blacksmith's Forge - Brown County Forge

This blacksmith term can be confusing sometimes because it refers to two things:

  1. A forge is the blacksmith’s shop, the building where he or she works.
  2. The forge is also the contained fire that the blacksmith uses to heat up metal. (The above photo is of a propane forge in my shop.)

Brown County Forge refers to the blacksmith shop where I work.

Inside that blacksmith’s shop, there are a couple of forges I use to heat the steel I hammer on.

Forges can be coal, gas, charcoal, or wood-fired.

The two most common fuel types for forges are coal and propane.

Charcoal and wood are less common because they aren’t as efficient. Meaning they don’t get hot enough or they burn up too quickly.

3. Blacksmith’s Tongs

Tongs of all types are used to pick up things that are too hot for your bare hands.

Whether it’s a steak on the grill or steel from the forge, it’s the same idea.

Blacksmiths rely on tongs in two ways:

  1. To keep distance between their hands and hot metal.
  2. And to grip the hot metal securely while they hammer on it.

There are many, many different styles of tongs out there. Each type is suited to picking up and holding a particular size of steel.

Some tong types are more versatile than others, meaning they can be used for many different projects.

The type of tongs I use most often in the shop are V-Bit Bolt tongs. They have square jaws that make it easy to pick up round, square, and flat pieces of steel.

I use them for 98% of the things I make in the shop.

4. Blacksmith’s Hammers

Blacksmith's Hammer - Brown County Forge - Terran Marks

Blacksmith’s hammers are a little different from common claw hammers:

  • They weigh more: 2-3 pounds vs. 1-1.5 pounds.
  • They have a cross peen on the back rather than a claw for pulling nails.

You don’t need a cross peen hammer to hammer on steel, though.

As long as your hammer is at least 2 pounds and it’s manageable for you, you’re good to go.

Common phrase that we use today: To go at something “hammer and tongs” means to be fully committed and working hard.

5. Drawing Out

Drawing things out means to make them longer.

You’ve probably come across this term in everyday life if you’ve been frustrated that someone is drawing out a process that you think should already be finished.

That blacksmith term comes directly from blacksmithing.

To draw out a piece of metal, you:

6. Upsetting

If drawing out makes things longer, upsetting is the opposite: it makes things shorter and often thicker.

You upset steel to make corners and to bulk up pieces that are too skinny.

7. Hardening and Tempering

Tempering Steel - Brown County Forge

Hardening and tempering are the two components of heat treating.

First you harden. Then you temper. Always in that order.

If you only harden your steel, it will be very tough, but also very brittle.

To make it useful you need to temper it to relieve some of that brittleness.

You’ve heard the phrase “to lose your temper.”

This comes from blacksmithing.

If you lose your temper, you’ve probably gotten your piece of steel hotter than you meant to. You’ve lost control.

The same is true when we lose our tempers. We’ve lost control.

If you’ve ever been in one of my classes, you’re familiar with a couple types of tempering:

  1. The soft back draw temper which is what we do in class.
  2. The oven tempering process – something you can do at home.

8. Losing Your Heat

As blacksmiths we need the metal to be nice and hot to be able to work it effectively.

If you lose your heat that means the metal has gotten too cold – usually around cherry red in color.

When you’re first starting out this can feel kinda stressful, but it doesn’t need to be.

If you lose your heat, you just put the steel back in the forge and heat it again.

There’s never a rush in blacksmithing. If you’re rushing, there’s something wrong.

9. Quenching

Quenching is an essential part of the blacksmithing process.

Contrary to movies and TV shows, you don’t quench everything that comes out of the forge once you’re done hammering.

Quenching is a controlled, intentional cooling of the metal to get a specific result each time.

When you quench a knife, you mean to harden it so it’s nice and tough. This is the first half of the heat treating (hardening and tempering) process.

If you quench part of a hook to make a bend, you won’t necessarily want to leave it hardened. So you will heat it back up to reverse the quenching process.

What do you use to quench?

The quenching liquid that we use will vary depending on the project:

  • For fast localized quenching, we use water. This is common when you’re making hooks and other decorative items.
  • In knife making, we use oil. Motor oil is common, but I prefer vegetable oil. It’s a good, inexpensive quenching oil. It also smells a lot better than burning motor oil.

9 Common Blacksmith Terms

Common Blacksmith Terms - Brown County Forge

The world of blacksmithing is full of blacksmith terms, but there’s just a handful to get you started.

From the anvil to basic tools to quenching, there’s a lot to get into.

If you’d like to keep learning more, check back on this blog regularly for new posts!

You can also send me questions at the shop email address:

browncountyforge@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!