Hammer Control and Your New Anvil
Here are some tried and true methods for keeping the face of your new or used anvil in good condition. These methods and tips will keep your face looking good for years to come, I mean your anvil's face.
- Draw out square or pointed tapers on the far edge of your anvil's face. By working close to the anvil's edge you can forge a more pointed end or thinner edge and prevent hitting the face of the anvil with the edge of your hammer.
- In the book "The Hand Forged Knife" the author Karl Schroen, a 4th generation blacksmith, says that the hammer head and the anvil should never come in contact with each other, since both are hardened steel (page 15). Master Bladesmith Wayne Goddard says in his book, "The Joy of Knifemaking" to beware of overly hardened hammer faces. If a hammer isn't properly tempered and left too hard, it can shatter and send out sharp pieces of steel that can easily pierce flesh. One of his students in an American Bladesmith Society class was standing next to him when he suddenly grabbed his neck and blood was dripping from a cut. Wayne checked all of the hammers with a new file and found that some were too hard and one had shattered off a chip of hard steel. (Another good reason for alway using eye protection). You can check your hammer with a file. It should be able to cut the edge of the face of the hammer. If it doesn't, use a heat source to turn the face blue, polish and go back to work.
- With the above in mind, Draw out all tapers with edge of the hot stock on the far edge of the anvil, NOT in the middle of the anvil's face or you WILL dent the face of the anvil over time.
- If working on the flat of the face of the anvil make sure your hammer face is hitting the stock &, not tilted on edge so much as to strike the face with the edge of the hammer with every blow. This can produce dings in the anvil face.
- Anvils were designed for working hot steel. By using your anvil for working only hot steel you will protect the face of your anvil. Some cold work can be done, just make sure that the steel isn't medium or high carbon or it could dent your anvil.
- Avoid allowing inexperienced strikers using heavy sledges to swing into the face of your new anvil or used anvil. I've seen a Peter Wright anvil in perfect condition get a big ding on it's face, because the strikers weren't coordinating their strikes. This is an avoidable problem.
- Lack of hammer control and using a hammer that is too heavy are some of the major causes for putting dings in your anvil face. Avoid heavy hammers that are too difficult for you to contol. Contol is the goal. Using a heavy hammer doesn't make you more of a macho smith. It only makes your work look worse.Work up to a heavier hammer. There is nothing wrong with a 2 lb hammer or an even lighter hammer, if that's what you need for accuracy.
- One of the best way to practice hammer control is to get a small square or rectangular piece of wood and practice hitting it in the same spot on the anvil with each strike. You should not be chasing the hot steel around the face of the anvil and hope to be able to score a bulls eye each time you hit with your hammer. The stock should be in the right place on the anvil for the type of stock displacement your're attempting.
- Should you ding your anvil face (most anvils will eventually get a ding or two) you can lessen the size of the ding by lightly hammering the high points of the ding with a small ball pein hammer. Rotate the ball pein 360 degrees around the area you are striking with the ball pein. Old World Anvils work harden as you use them, because they are a high carbon, manganese alloy. The manganese helps in the work hardening process.