Anvil Preferences and Features:

Anvils Part 9 - Which style is best for you?

Although we do not have a complete range of choices today there are features that a smith gets accustomed to on the anvil they learn on. On the "standard" London and American pattern anvil the step at the cutting table is very handy for bucking work and making bends. The current crop of double horned anvils do not have this feature. In the past several manufacturers made double horned anvils with double steps. Personaly I find the step very handy but it is what I learned on.

Another feature missing from the current double horned anvils is the pritichel hole. However, the "Hofi" anvil and for a while the Euroanvil came with multiple round punching holes of farious sizes to make up for not having the small pritchel hole.

Carriage maker's anvils had a side clip (small thin rectangular table) on one side of the anvil. This is currently standard on the Euroanvil and at one time you had a choice of it being on the right or left. Dean Curfman (maker of the Big BLU) prefers this feature so much he added one to his Peddinghaus anvil. The side table was sometimes set below the face and other times level with the face. Today they are all level to the face.

The European/Austrian pattern has a sloping far side along the face. It is about 30 rather than vertical. The slope blends into the radius of the horn at the shoulder of the anvil. I am sure this feature has a purpose but I do not know it. However, the far side of the anvil gets the most abuse from both the smith working on the edge and from strikers missing the work. This results in many anvils with heavily chipped edges. The 120 edge of the European/Austrian style anvil is much less likely to chip and is nearly impossible to slump or mushroom.

One of the biggest differences in anvil horns is the cross section. Most old anvils had an eliptical section or oblate section almost showing corners as if a dressed triangle section. These were partialy by design but mostly a manufacturing effect from back when anvils were hand forged. The purely conical horns of the German style anvil such as Peddinghaus, Refflinghaus and Euroanvil was designed to be machine finished so are perfectly round (although none are now machine finished). Some smiths strongly prefer the horn with corners and are quite vocal about it claiming the round horns as worthless. To me the only difference is that if you want a different radius you move horizontaly on the round horn rather than roll on the oblate. Most of the farrier's anvils have oblate horns. The only heavy forging anvil I know of that has the oblate horn is the new Haberman anvil (not the clones).

On many modern cast anvils and even a few forged anvils the oval has the long axis vertical rather than horizontal. This is more pronounced at the body and fades to round near the tip.

In the 18th century before anvils became a multi-purpose tool it was commmon for a smithy to have a plain hornless forging anvil and seperate bickerns or stake anvils for other types of work. For punching a bolster plate was used.

Practiced smiths use every feature and almost every surface of the anvil. I have even seen the depression in the base of an anvil (not all have it) used like a bowl shape in a swage block.

When you look at the global variations in anvils you will see that there are many local styles that are prefered. Once you learn on that style anvil you generaly prefer it. They all work. Today in this era of cheap ASO's it is more important to purchase an anvil of good quality than a specific shape.

- guru - Tuesday, 04/05/05 10:05:57 EDT

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Copyright © 2004 Jock Dempsey,

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