Archive for March, 2012

A “proper” anvil!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Hooray! I’ve got a real anvil!

Not that there was anything wrong with my crane rail; in fact I’ll be holding onto it too. But I’ve been looking for so long with no luck, that I wasn’t going to pass this up. The opportunity to buy this anvil came up quite unexpectedly, and so I jumped on it.

It’s only a little guy, weighing in at 100 lbs. The gentleman I bought it from thought that it was about 80 years old, and that it was made by Record tools in Sheffield, England. There are very few markings on it, and I’ve not found much information on Record anvils. However, it still has traces of blue paint on it, that is in the ‘classic’ Record shade (which on older tools, was the fairly dark RAF Roundel Blue).

I happen to have a commemorative miniature anvil that I know was made by Record, produced for their 100th anniversary … My anvil, and the miniature look virtually identical (other than size). Not that that means anything, but it does offer some support that this may have been made by them too.

Looks like I made that stump just in time!


Well, I sure was new to the world of anvils when this superb little piece of kit came into my life.  It has become my ‘daily driver’ and I absolutely adore it. However, that rumoured identification was *way* off.  I’ve found no information on Record tools ever having produced anvils. And very early on into my education about English anvils makers, this guy’s identification became very obvious … It’s a John Brooks.

Most of the Brooks anvils I see are marked with the word “BROOKS”, where as mine is marked with “JB”. I have no idea why. Perhaps that indicates which foundry it came from, or was intended for a specific market (i.e. domestic vs export). But it really doesn’t matter much. The thick heel, shape of the horn and shape of the feet just scream Brooks – who also used blue paint.


Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Until I had to do it, I never would have guessed how hard it would be to find a tree stump!

I asked friends and family (in person and via facebook) to let me know if they had ideas on where to find one. I called around to wood lots and tree trimming companies, none of which were helpful. Even after a major wind storm, when there were trees down all over the place, I couldn’t find anyone with an anvil-stand sized stump.

But after my first few forging sessions, using the steel work table under my crane rail, it was obvious that I needed something. And so, I made one myself out of 6″x6″ pressure treated posts.

And I can tell you, it is a vast improvement! The rail feels like a proper anvil, now that it’s on something solid. I’ve got it set a bit higher than the ‘knuckle’ height that’s recommended for an anvil – but I’m doing light work, and find it more comfortable.

Aladdin’s Cave

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Speaking of the various and sundry bits of treasure squirreled away by my late father-in-law, I found an arc welder hidden in he back of the garage.

The original box for it was tucked up in the rafters (full of mice nests and large, nasty spiders); but the welder itself looks to be in good shape. I’ll have to buy myself a new helmet, and see if I can find someone to give me a crash-course in welding 101.

Raining on my parade

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I’ve discovered a problem with my current set-up … rain.

I have my forge, table with anvil, etc. tucked just inside the garage. When I want to do some smithing, I open the garage and pull everything out into the driveway. It’s a fairly sheltered area, with easy access to utilities (lights, water, power). At the end of the day, it’s quick and easy to move everything back inside.

Everything, except the forge. Being cast iron, I can’t actually extinguish the fire, because the thermal shock would crack the forge pan. So, I leave it outside to cool down overnight. What I wasn’t prepared for, was an early morning downpour.

Water plus wood ash equals a nasty mess, with the potential of being quite caustic.

Searching through the garage for something to cover up the forge when it’s outside, I found this:

It’s a dome, made of fairly heavy gauge stainless steel. What can I say, my late father-in-law was both a world-class scrounger, and a pack rat. It’s just about perfect, but a little bit too small (it fits just inside the lip of the pan).

I thought about trying to flare out the bottom of the dome to fit, but from what I understand, that would be really tough to do. I’m now thinking that I’ll make some form of an adapter ring out of mild steel.

Sparking the forge!

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

This afternoon was the inaugural sparking of my new forge!

I was so busy forging, that I forgot to take any pictures until afterwards.  Guess I’m not much of a blogger, eh?  But this was the set-up.  I’ve got a sturdy steel work table that I put the crane rail on.  The table already has a heavy vise (as I don’t have a post vise yet, it’ll have to do for now) mounted to it.  I put my tools (hammers, tongs, punches & chisels) on the shelf underneath.

I burned hardwood lump charcoal as the fuel for the forge.  It was good & hot, with little to no smoke, but the sparks (a.k.a. “fire fleas”) were intense.

To get the forge ready, I had to make a new cover for the ash dump.  I just cut a piece of 18 gauge sheet steel to fit.  The blower needed a new belt.  I was able to make one from a 60″ leather belt.  Beyond that, a light wire brushing to get off the worst of the rust and I was in business.

… yes, I said a 60″ leather belt, as in to hold up your pants.  Apparently they do make them that large.  The guy at the store where I found it (a small shop in the mall that repairs shoes, sells belts, wallets, etc) said that in all his years, he’s only sold 2 – and that I didn’t look anything like the first guy.

Despite tightening up all of the fasteners on the legs & bracing, the forge still has an annoying wobble.  Will have to take the time to look into what’s causing that.

To mark the occasion, we made a family day out of it.  My wife, kids and parents all came over to watch me do a bit of smithing.  Made my mom a bunch of drive hooks for using in her garden.  We had a small picnic dinner afterwards.


Now, I know some smiths may think this sacrilege, however …

When I was done barbequeing steel for the day, the forge had a nice hot bed of coals in it (I’d been using plain old hardwood charcoal don’t forget).  So rather than firing up the BBQ, I threw a grate over the forge pan and cooked up some “Forge Dogs” for the kids.  Don’t think I’ll make a habit of it, but my son in particular, thought that was just great.

… Forge Dogs.  If anyone actually reads this site, I’ll take a bit of ribbing over that one for sure.