What's new
What's new

550 pound anvil origin question.

johansen

Stainless
Joined
Aug 16, 2014
Location
silverdale wa
I have my grandpa's 550 pound anvil.

Problem being the outer surfaces are too smooth for a cast steel anvil, my grandpa (deceased in 2005) bought it from a blacksmith shop that was closing in Fowler California around 70+ years ago.

It appears to be wrought iron forged steel, with a wrought iron tool steel top plate forge welded to the anvil as was common 100 years ago. The top plate has a grain to it and will not grind to a polish, the metal has a lot of slag in it, as does the body which has a low carbon spark pattern when you take a grinder to it.

My dad's thoughts are that someone ground it down to get rid of the makers mark and serial number...because someone stole it.

No markings whatsoever can be found and the body looks as smooth as the later period cast steel anvils, but it was definitely forge welded at the waist.

I 'm academically curious as to how do I chemically etch the surface to bring out what I think should be a standard hay budden makers mark on the side. It looks exactly like any other hay budden anvil you can find photos of online. The proportions are slightly different because it is 550 pounds than many of the lighter weight anvils.
 

cyanidekid

Titanium
Joined
Jun 4, 2016
Location
Brooklyn NYC
yup. but writer gets what etches/reacts first, and why, wrong. and the magnaflux process as well. still these are the top ways. don't know how well they will work tho.
my Hay Budden 125 IS a beauty! love them.
would try an etch first as that would take a LARGE ultrasonic, bigger that my Bransonic 7000 to do.
magnaflux is optimized to find cracks, not so much differences in hardness, so not sure about how well that will work.
what is contained in the metal "memory" under a stamp mark after apparent surface removal is differences in hardness from where the stamping work hardened it. I think ultrasonic with abrasive just slightly harder than the un-stamped metal would produce the best results.
im sure the firearms and tool marks examiners trade association has info on this, and they might find this an interesting diversion, and test case. I'd try to contact them.
interesting project, keep us updated!
 
Last edited:

trevj

Titanium
Joined
May 17, 2005
Location
Interior British Columbia
I know a couple guys with similar sized anvils, and they came out of Railroad shops. Given your location, I would not doubt it was in a naval or commercial shipyard or similar such, or in a shop supporting old school Logging operations on the West Coast.

Rather than going with that the anvil was ground off to deface it's origins markings, consider that it may have been through a fire, or laid unloved and unwanted, out back in the weather, and someone thought it needed a cleanup!

Probably a little late in the time frame of things to be worried about much other than that the surface has good liveliness to it, and that it gets put to use once in a while. YMMV.

Did read a funny, a few years back, about some thieves trying to steal one. They had a big ol' beater sedan, backed up to the anvil and heaved it into the trunk, where the horn promptly punched through and dug in to the ground. Apparently they got all of about twenty feet with it!

Check with anybody remotely like a engine rebuild shop. A Parker Probe is a pretty common tool and not expensive, and is used to Magnaflux heads and cranks for cracks. Simple to operate, just pick your area, powder the surface with iron filings (or use the particles suspended in a solvent (more money) and place the probe ends on either side of where you want to check, and push the trigger button to magnetize between the surfaces. Even at the cost of a can of particles suspended in solvent, it's a relatively cheap and fast way to see if the surface has any notable impressions or changed grain contours.
 
Last edited:

blcksmth

Cast Iron
Joined
Nov 17, 2006
Location
Bowling Green, Ohio
My anvil is about 400# and has no visible markings. I suspect it may be a Hay Budden, but I really don't know. I'm not sure that all factory anvils were marked. I have seen several anvils at blacksmith conferences that were unmarked where folks observing made statements like, " It looks like a Hay Budden."

Bob
WB8NQW
 

hvnlymachining

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Location
St.Onge
Don't forget back in them days foundries and large forges we're much more common, nearly every large production business had both since trucking hadn't come along yet. Any tool they needed, they made. And anvils we're a common tool needed in every metal working shop, stable, barn etc. The gold mine in this area made thousands of them, no makers name on any of them that I've ever seen. If it's a good anvil treat it decent and it'll make it to your grand children!
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
Lots of companies, both here and in the UK, made wrought iron anvils with forge welded steel plates. Many companies also made cast iron bases with steel plates. The two piece welded base would lead me to suspect its wrought, not cast.

Lots of info here, although, since the host of the site died a couple of years ago, its not updated. https://www.anvilfire.com/anvils/

this guy's videos are made using the expensive book about anvils, Anvils in America, which you probably dont want to buy, but he has.

 

Milland

Diamond
Joined
Jul 6, 2006
Location
Hillsboro, New Hampshire
$75 isn't too bad for a good specialist book, but it does intrigue me that there's such of following for anvils that a book like that has a market.

OTOH, there's something so iconic about a smith at his forge - will there ever be a book about a man and his CNC machine? Watch him sweat as he sits at his desk, his sinewy arms pounding on the keyboard as the red-hot code streams forth! Sparks fly as the facemill whacks into the vise! Hammers (or was that long drill bits?) burst through LCD screens!

(I picked a bad day to try LSD...)
 

blcksmth

Cast Iron
Joined
Nov 17, 2006
Location
Bowling Green, Ohio
Anvil history and collecting has a big following these days. There are blacksmith groups all over the USA, and the world, keeping the blacksmith's craft alive. Anvil prices are out of sight for an anvil in good shape. I think there is factory in Michigan making new cast steel anvils that are not for the financially restricted.

Bob
WB8NQW
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
There are probably at least 20,000 amateur blacksmiths, and hundreds of professionals. Plus there are anvil collectors who dont use em.
But anvils have never been cheap- 100 years ago, an anvil cost real money, too.
There are at least a half dozen US companies making full size anvils, and another half dozen making much smaller farriers anvils.
I own two anvils- a 125 Arm and Hammer, from Ohio, and well before WW2, which is a wrought iron anvil with a steel plate forge welded on, and a 250lb Nimba Centurion, which is a cast steel anvil made from 8640 nickel/chromium/molybdenum steel. The Nimbas are now around $1800 plus shipping, new. And I know the man who makes them, and, believe me, he is not getting rich at that price.
Cast steel in smallish quantities is at least $5.00 a pound for the unfinished casting. Add in milling the tops flat, reaming the round and square holes true, and hand grinding and sanding the casting, and $1800 sounds pretty cheap to me.
Anvil history and collecting has a big following these days. There are blacksmith groups all over the USA, and the world, keeping the blacksmith's craft alive. Anvil prices are out of sight for an anvil in good shape. I think there is factory in Michigan making new cast steel anvils that are not for the financially restricted.

Bob
WB8NQW
 

johansen

Stainless
Joined
Aug 16, 2014
Location
silverdale wa
Image link:
Writing on the top plate is in stainless steel and it's B Dyson. Some guy who was strong enough to lift the anvil off the back of a truck and carry it into a barn, in 1988.

I'm mostly interested in understanding why the top plate has a grain to it.

Found what I had read before;

By 1860, there were over 3000 puddling furnaces in Britain, but the process remained hindered by its labor and fuel intensiveness.

One of the earliest forms of steel, blister steel, began production in Germany and England in the 17th century and was produced by increasing the carbon content in molten pig iron using a process known as cementation. In this process, bars of wrought iron were layered with powdered charcoal in stone boxes and heated.

After about a week, the iron would absorb the carbon in the charcoal. Repeated heating would distribute carbon more evenly and the result, after cooling, was blister steel. The higher carbon content made blister steel much more workable than pig iron, allowing it to be pressed or rolled.

Blister steel production advanced in the 1740s when English clockmaker Benjamin Huntsman while trying to develop high-quality steel for his clock springs, found that the metal could be melted in clay crucibles and refined with a special flux to remove slag that the cementation process left behind. The result was a crucible, or cast, steel. But due to the cost of production, both blister and cast steel were only ever used in specialty applications.
 

Mud

Diamond
Joined
May 20, 2002
Location
South Central PA
Except for size, it looks very much like mine.



anvil101-1024.jpgDSC02229-640.jpg
 

G-ManBart

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 17, 2016
I'm an anvil nerd and stopped counting how many I've owned at 100, so I've spent a LOT of time identifying old anvils. Each company had subtle details that were different from others, even within a standard pattern such as yours, which is a traditional English pattern anvil. Little things like the ends of the feet, the curve and shape of the depression in the base and side between the front and back feet, the way the body blends into the horn, and the horn proportions are all key elements. Then you get to things like the construction method, number and placement (or lack of) handling holes in the base, waist, etc. So while Mud posted a picture of a beautiful Swedish Soderfors (one of my favorite brands) and it's generally very similar in profile to yours, to an anvil nerd they are actually quite different.

Your anvil is definitely a wrought iron body with a tool steel top plate going off a number of things. I would bet more than a paycheck it's a Peter Wright.

In many cases the markings on the side were fairly shallow to start with as they were stamped by hand. Then you had people testing punches and chisels on the side of anvils, plus all other assorted issues over the years and it's not uncommon to find nothing visible on the side. In your case, I'd wire wheel the side you show and then put a coat of boiled linseed oil on it...that will often bring out enough of the markings. If not, get it clean/dry and try rubbing chalk on the face and dusting it off. Also, clean the vertical face of the front foot with a wire brush and look for marks. PW often put inspector's stamps on the front foot, some of which are pretty well documented.

As far as the grain to the top, I'm guessing you're looking at the grain on the sides of the top, not the actual face of the top, right? Peter Wright seemed to pride themselves on hiding the line between the wrought sides and the actual top plate by blending the two together. That's why many folks will be tricked into thinking a really nice PW is one piece...no obvious blend line. That also leads to grain from where the wrought is blended to the top plate. If it's the face of the top plate you're talking about (can't see it in the pic) I would expect some sort old corrosion/pitting might be the culprit.

All I would do to that anvil would be to bring the horn back to a point because the point is incredibly useful, wire wheel the whole thing clean, then put a coat of boiled linseed oil on it and use it. If it's going to sit a long time after cleaning just wipe a heavy coat of transmission fluid on the face and horn.

Nice anvil!
 
Last edited:

G-ManBart

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 17, 2016
Except for size, it looks very much like mine.



View attachment 378864View attachment 378865
That's a really nice Soderfors! I've had four of them, and kept the two nicest examples that I have no intention of ever selling. I've been working on a database of Soderfors markings and years. The oldest date stamp I have found was 1900 and the newest is 1939. Before 1900 they had completely different markings with an entirely different logo. Yours has markings that are exactly the same as the other 1929 examples have. Does it have anything on the other side or on the feet?

The one anvil I hunted for a long time was a 200lb Soderfors and just never got one...you got lucky, for sure!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mud

johansen

Stainless
Joined
Aug 16, 2014
Location
silverdale wa
I'm an anvil nerd and stopped counting how many I've owned at 100, so I've spent a LOT of time identifying old anvils. Each company had subtle details that were different from others, even within a standard pattern such as yours, which is a traditional English pattern anvil. Little things like the ends of the feet, the curve and shape of the depression in the base and side between the front and back feet, the way the body blends into the horn, and the horn proportions are all key elements. Then you get to things like the construction method, number and placement (or lack of) handling holes in the base, waist, etc. So while Mud posted a picture of a beautiful Swedish Soderfors (one of my favorite brands) and it's generally very similar in profile to yours, to an anvil nerd they are actually quite different.

Your anvil is definitely a wrought iron body with a tool steel top plate going off a number of things. I would bet more than a paycheck it's a Peter Wright.

In many cases the markings on the side were fairly shallow to start with as they were stamped by hand. .... PW often put inspector's stamps on the front foot, some of which are pretty well documented.

As far as the grain to the top, I'm guessing you're looking at the grain on the sides of the top, not the actual face of the top, right? Peter Wright seemed to pride themselves on hiding the line between the wrought sides and the actual top plate by blending the two together. That's why many folks will be tricked into thinking a really nice PW is one piece...no obvious blend line. That also leads to grain from where the wrought is blended to the top plate. If it's the face of the top plate you're talking about (can't see it in the pic) I would expect some sort old corrosion/pitting might be the culprit.



Nice anvil!


What I mean by grain is that wrought iron has a grain that you can see, and a lot of slag... But so does the top plate. It doesn't grind to a polish the same way steel does, and certainly not polished like the stainless steel weld rod my grandpa wrote on the top plate with.

So I'm really just wondering how old it is. Is it 1920's era steel or 1880 era wrought iron tool steel made by the slow process of carburizing wrought iron.


I seem to recall finding a number on the side of one of the feet about 5+ years ago when I ground everything and painted it and.. did not find any markings at all except for a thin crack on both sides of the waist, at the locations of the key holes... which I thought was evidence that the anvil was made from 2 pieces forge welded together at the waist.

the Anvil is at my dad's house, for a while we thought my brother would take it but I'm closer and my wife and I just bought a house.

I can get more photos this weekend.
 

G-ManBart

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 17, 2016
What I mean by grain is that wrought iron has a grain that you can see, and a lot of slag... But so does the top plate. It doesn't grind to a polish the same way steel does, and certainly not polished like the stainless steel weld rod my grandpa wrote on the top plate with.

So I'm really just wondering how old it is. Is it 1920's era steel or 1880 era wrought iron tool steel made by the slow process of carburizing wrought iron.


I seem to recall finding a number on the side of one of the feet about 5+ years ago when I ground everything and painted it and.. did not find any markings at all except for a thin crack on both sides of the waist, at the locations of the key holes... which I thought was evidence that the anvil was made from 2 pieces forge welded together at the waist.

the Anvil is at my dad's house, for a while we thought my brother would take it but I'm closer and my wife and I just bought a house.

I can get more photos this weekend.
The grain on the sides of the wrought iron doesn't surprise me at all...they often had a pretty ruddy complexion.

All of the major anvil manufacturers were using modern tool steel top plates prior to 1900 and your anvil's shape is pretty modern, so it should have a tool steel or alloy steel top plate.

Pics could help...one really square to the side you show is best to get the profile. Also, tip it back and look at the base to see if there's any sort of depression or if it's smooth. Definitely take a look at the front foot and the waist area under the horn.

It still looks like a Peter Wright to me from that angle, but there are a couple of other possibilities. Some of the earlier Hay-Budden anvils were quite similar as were anvils from Columbus Forge & Iron (what most people call a Trenton) and Columbus Anvil & Forge (what most call an Arm & Hammer).
 








 
Top