Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014 - May the Fourth Be With You! (and homemade anvils...)

Sorry, being Star Wars Day (5/4 - May the Fourth), I had to throw that in to this otherwise non-typewriter related post.

Courtesy of inspiration from this site on making your own anvil from rail road track, I set about to legally acquire some virgin RR track, and fabricate my own anvil. Largely because actual, quality anvils of a size that makes them useful (300+ pounds), are prohibitively expensive.

There are a few ways that folks have used RR track for anvil purposes, but most are considered "anvil shaped devices" that really do not serve the purpose of an anvil in the sense of its ability to absorb and impart force on metal due to its mass.

So those little pieces of RR track that have been cleverly ground into an "Anvil Shaped Device" are not what I have been after, but rather, something approximating the mass and characteristics of a fully fledged blacksmith's anvil.

So, how do you turn this:

Into this?
image courtesy of:

The fact of the matter is that you cannot. But that said, there are ways to get you close, you just have to weigh your compromises.

In my research, there was one design that really caught my eye. It ingeniously uses the mass of the vertical track segment to "simulate" the body and mass of an actual anvil. The "sweet spot" (where the center of mass of the anvil seems to be) is much, much smaller on this anvil, but with that compromise, you also gain space and mobility. This 100 pound anvil ACTS like a 350-500 pound anvil.

image courtesy of :
This is NOT your average "I made an anvil from a hunk of RR track" anvil, which usually look pretty great, but are actually very (very) poor anvils (because they lack mass and are springy) - they tend to look like these.

With my design roughly planned out, I set out to LEGALLY acquire the requisite RR track. I finally located a local railway repair depot, where they had a lot of scrap and the foreman was willing to let me have a couple of pieces because I was using it for a legitimate project (not just trying to flip the steel for a buck), and last night I set about grinding and welding the mating surfaces.

The track segments have been in my barn for about a year, and inspired by the inquisitive nature of one of my sons, namely his question, "Why haven't you done anything with the anvil project?" I decided to do something about it.

Sorry for the bad pictures, it was dark when I finished and the iPhone seems to have focused to infinity, but here are the initial pics (9 welding rods later):

The next steps will be mating the vertical segment into a tree stump base, so that I can work with it, and then cutting and grinding the head into something looking more like an anvil.

The RR track I got has the added advantage of not having been hardened/heat treated, so I did not need to cut-and-flip the rail, and could use it as-is. So I have that going for me ....... which is nice. :-)

Ultimately this will help me with some typewriter repairs. I have carefully hammered out dents from typewriter shells and frames, using the sorry excuse for the anvil-ends of my bench vises, but having this nice big hunk of steel around for serious metal working, will be a welcomed addition to my workshop - once it's finished.


  1. I hope you were listening to Heavy Metal while doing all this! :)

    1. Hah! In reality, I was just mumbling to myself a lot. :)