Originally made from stone then bronze, wrought iron and cast iron, most modern day anvils are made of cast or forged steel. Cast iron anvils are still available and there are many second-hand ones on the market but, with a tendency to crack or deform under heavy use, steel anvils with hardened faces are preferred over iron ones for serious smithing.
The Signs of a Good Anvil
It is generally considered that a good anvil will transfer most of the energy of a black smith's strike into the material being formed. This will result in what is known as rebound, where almost all of the smith's energy in the downward strike comes back into the hammer, therefore aiding its upward return. The sound of a good anvil is the ring it makes when struck.
The Parts of an Anvil
The classic anvil shape is made up of the main body, the surface of which is called the heel and a protruding beak (bick or horn) which is used for drawing or curving metal. Many anvils come with holes in the heel. If it's a square hole it's called a Hardie and if it's a round hole it's called a Pritchel. These holes take additional tools to help the blacksmith create specific end products.
Anvils come in many different weights, from lightweight jewellery and hobbyist variants up to 500kg or more for intensive blacksmithing. Anvils may have one or more Pritchel and Hardie hole, or none at all. In fact, there are variations for all kinds of blacksmith and metal workers, from general smiths to cutlery makers, coachbuilders and coopers. Double beaked anvils remain an essential part of the Farrier's toolkit.
Train Rail Anvils
Train rail anvils which are formed from sections of railway track. These anvils are often individually milled, treated and finished and can be suitable for smaller metal working.