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  • Shopmade anvil...

    Hey Guys, I use a small chunk of train track rail as an anvil that works great for me. My co-worker asked if I had any source for more of it so I went to my junkyard to see what they had and while they had some chunks of track (kind of short, height-wise), they also had a lot of I-beams of various sizes.

    Does anyone use I-beam for a small anvil?...It's flatter and wider than the rail but lacks the thickness in certain areas.

    Just wondering how well the I-beam would hold up to "regular dude in his basement" occasional use.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

    John

  • #2
    I-beam is pretty soft for anvil use. You could weld a piece of 1/2" hardened tool steel on the top, though.
    Kansas City area

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    • #3
      The problem with I-Beam is you are pounding on unsupported metal. It will flex and waste most of the energy of your hammer blows. Train track is the same, but to a lesser degree because it has a thicker web. Of course it depends on what you are doing. Forging out heavy tools and that train track will eat you alive, but its fine for flattening out or shaping thin pieces of cold rolled sheet or thin bar once in a while. I have three pieces laying around the shop that I beat on from time to time, but not for forging. You would be better off to look for a big solid offcut of some kind. Find a 4x12x12 (or bigger) drop of 4140 and you are golden. More so if you set up a furnace and oil to heat treat it.

      Used train track likely has a work hardened surface, but if you mill it flat you have low carbon steel that's relatively soft underneath now exposed. You can't heat treat it either. Its low carbon.
      *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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      • #4
        Depends on what you mean by anvil. If you mean "flat surface to occasionally ha!!er something on", sure, it'll work, pretty much anything will. Personal favorite of mine for that it brake disks, nice and heavy, plus there's a machines flat surface.

        If you mean " something that'll stand up to blacksmithing work", I beam probably won't work. Not enough mass, plus its soft enough that it'll probably absorb most of the impact from hammer blows

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        • #5
          I made one years ago from I-beam. I did add plates top to bottom on the outside edges of the flats, then welded layers of steel on top (topmost hard) and have beat the hell out of it! The only problems are with my welding. At the time I didn't have stick and I didn't pre-heat or cool slowly so I got some cracked welds, but they haven't been a problem.
          Southwest Utah

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          • #6
            If you do use an I beam be sure to find some with fairly narrow and thick caps that is fairly close in shape to a piece of railroad track. Some beams with wide thin caps will be very poor to use as an anvil because the width of the cap will flex and bounce too much.



            If the goal is to actually forge stuff there's some great videos on You Tube which simply use a big solid hunk of offcut steel. A foot long piece of 4x6 rectangular stock, for example, is likely to be a far better anvil than a poorly chosen piece of I beam. In fact I'd suggest that such a hunk of solid steel would be far and away better than even a good piece of I beam.

            And with a piece of solid bar like that if later on he wants a horn off the end or a pritchel hole at the other end or a harder face this is all easy enough to weld onto the core metal.
            Chilliwack BC, Canada

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            • #7
              Railroad track might typically be medium ( 0.4 to 0.7 %) Carbon, with around 1% manganese.
              http://rails.arcelormittal.com/produ...al-composition.

              It can be selectively heat treated to form fine pearlite around the rail crown.

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              • #8
                Actually I do NOT like rail as an anvil, if I can avoid it.

                I have in the main shop an 8 x 8 chunk of 80 lb plate steel, and a 5" cube of steel to set on it. That works very well as a backup to a bench block, or for general hammering. Out in the engine shop I have a chunk of heavy shafting that serves the same purpose. and a 75 lb actual anvil if I need that

                Both "chunk anvils" have a LOT more mass behind them than the rail does. I bought a rail anvil for a buck or so at a sale years ago, and it is all kinds of wimpy by comparison. Maybe if you have a LENGTH that will stick up above the bench, and you use the END of that as an anvil (the end of the thick head).... I can see THAT being very good.

                A lot of rail seems to be toughened and hardened by the beating the head takes... so as an anvil, the more you hit it the better it might get.
                CNC machines only go through the motions

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                • #9
                  All of what JTiers is saying above is also what I found were the points given against using pieces of rail among the blacksmithing videos too.

                  I'd always thought that any anvil also needed a hard face. But here again there's a lot of the "beginner's blacksmithing" videos that give a lot of good and valid reasons for beginners and once a month anvil users to go with just simple mild steel. Or at most a moderately more durable grade but not all the way up to top end tool steel.

                  The one thing that ALL the videos share though as a single most important point is weight. Lots of it. More than you get with any I beam. 50 lbs in a small chunky block is a good start. More is better. For making something like small forged knives something like a 35lb square lump isn't bad. But if you start going for larger items or want to use a 3 lb hammer then you need much more weight in the anvil.
                  Last edited by BCRider; 11-17-2017, 05:01 PM.
                  Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                  • #10
                    Ditto above and even worse for an I-beam. That thing will wake neighbors a block away. Even if you welded gussets it'll ring like a 20" bell. You just can't beat mass. The more, the better. My "chunky block" is 97 pounds. More often than not though, it rests on my press as a spacer so I don't have to move the bed.

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                    • #11
                      I use RR rail but add plates under the head to stop flex and give it weight.

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                      • #12
                        Pretty much everything I've read regarding rail for anvils is to stand a good length of it on end so all the mass is directly under the striking surface.


                        No experience with it though, I've lucked out a found a few traditional anvils for my use.

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                        • #13
                          Paul, is that your anvil or did you swipe the picture from some website? I love the adjustable height trick! ! ! But what's with the cable?
                          Chilliwack BC, Canada

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BCRider View Post
                            If you do use an I beam be sure to find some with fairly narrow and thick caps that is fairly close in shape to a piece of railroad track. Some beams with wide thin caps will be very poor to use as an anvil because the width of the cap will flex and bounce too much.



                            If the goal is to actually forge stuff there's some great videos on You Tube which simply use a big solid hunk of offcut steel. A foot long piece of 4x6 rectangular stock, for example, is likely to be a far better anvil than a poorly chosen piece of I beam. In fact I'd suggest that such a hunk of solid steel would be far and away better than even a good piece of I beam.

                            And with a piece of solid bar like that if later on he wants a horn off the end or a pritchel hole at the other end or a harder face this is all easy enough to weld onto the core metal.
                            Keep an eye open for big machinery parts on scrapyard. 6” roller bearing roll would make decent anvil but you don’t come up with those every day.
                            Location: Helsinki, Finland, Europe

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                            • #15
                              Thank you all for the valuable input...lots of useful info!!

                              John

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