Anvil: Wikis


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A blacksmith working iron with a hammer and anvil

An anvil is a basic tool. In the simplest terms it is a block with a hard surface on which another object is struck. The inertia of the anvil allows the energy of the striking tool to be transferred to the work piece. In most cases the anvil is used as a forging tool. Before the advent of modern welding technology, it was a primary tool of metal workers.

The great majority of modern anvils are made from steel though other types exist.

Because anvils are very ancient tools and were at one time very commonplace, they have acquired symbolic meaning beyond their use as utilitarian objects.



An anvil at the medieval construction site Guédelon in Treigny, France.

In the past anvils were first made of stone, then bronze, and later wrought iron. As steel became more readily available, anvils were faced with it. This was done to give the anvil a hard face and to stop the anvil from deforming from impact. Many regional styles of anvils evolved through time from the simple block that was first used by smiths. The majority of anvils found today in the US are based on the London pattern anvil of the mid-19th century.

The wrought iron steel faced anvil was produced up until the early 20th century. Through the 19th and very early 20th centuries, this method of construction evolved to produce extremely high quality anvils. The basic process involved forge welding billets of wrought iron together to produce the desired shape. The sequence and location of the forge welds varied between different anvil makers and the kind of anvil being made. At the same time cast iron anvils with steel faces were being made in the United States. At the dawn of the 20th century solid cast steel anvils began to be produced, as well as two piece forged anvils made from closed die forgings. Modern anvils are generally made entirely from steel.

The concept of an anvil may predate humanity. Chimpanzees have been observed using large sticks as hammers to crack nuts, using logs as anvils.

There are many references to anvils in ancient Greek and Egyptian writings, including Homer's works.

Anvils have since lost their former commonness, along with the smiths who used them. Mechanized production has made cheap and abundant manufactured goods readily available. The one-off hand-made products of the blacksmith are less economically viable in the modern world, while in the past they were an absolute necessity. However, anvils are still used by blacksmiths and metal workers of all kinds in producing custom work. They are also essential to the work done by farriers.


A single-horn anvil
A top view of a well used London pattern anvil.

The primary work surface of the anvil is known as the face. It is generally made of hardened steel and should be flat and smooth with rounded edges for most work. Any marks on the face will be transferred to the work. Also, sharp edges tend to cut into the metal being worked and may cause cracks to form in the workpiece. The face is hardened and tempered to resist the blows of the smith's hammer so the anvil face does not deform under repeated use. A hard anvil face also reduces the amount of force lost in each hammer blow. Hammers should never directly strike the anvil face, as they may damage it.

The horn of the anvil is a conical projection used to form various round shapes, and is generally unhardened steel or iron. The horn is used mostly in bending operations. It also is used by some smiths as an aid in drawing out stock, "making it longer and thinner". Some anvils, mainly European, are made with two horns, one square and one round. Also, some anvils are made with side horns or clips for specialized work.

The step or pad, commonly referred to as the table of the anvil, is used for cutting; its purpose is to prevent damaging the face by conducting such operations there, although most professional smiths shun this practice, as it can damage the anvil.

The hardy hole is a square hole into which specialized forming and cutting tools, called hardy tools, are placed. It is also used in punching and bending operations.

The pritchel hole is a small round hole that is present on most modern anvils. Some anvils have more than one. It is used mostly for punching. At times, smiths will fit a second tool to this hole to allow the smith more flexibility when using more than one anvil tool.


An anvil needs to be placed upon a sturdy base made from an impact resistant material. It requires being fastened firmly to the base so it will not move when struck with a hammer. A loose anvil is extremely unsafe, as it can fall off the base. Common methods of attaching an anvil are spikes, chains, steel or iron straps, clips, bolts where there are holes provided, and cables. A smith would use whatever was at hand, as long as it held the anvil firmly in place. It is a poor idea to weld an anvil to a base or drill holes into it, as many anvils are antiques; when properly used and cared for, they can last generations. The anvil should be placed as near to the forge as is convenient, generally no more than one step from the forge to prevent heat loss in the work piece.

The most common base traditionally was a hard wood log or large timber buried several feet into the floor of the forge shop floor. This was done to make the anvil immobile when heavy forging and bending were done upon the anvil. In the industrial era cast iron bases became available. They had the advantage of adding additional weight to the anvil, making it more stable while making the anvil movable. These bases are highly sought after by collectors today. When concrete became widely available, there was a trend to make steel reinforced anvil bases by some smiths, though this practice has largely been abandoned. In more modern times many anvils have been placed upon bases fabricated from steel, oftentimes a short thick section of large I-Beam. In addition, bases have been made from dimensional lumber bolted together to form a large block or steel drums full of oil-saturated sand to provide a damping effect.


Anvil of a farrier
A silversmith's anvils, 1981

There are many designs for anvils, which are often tailored for a specific purpose or to meet the needs of a particular smith. Such designs have originated in diverse geographic locations.

The common blacksmith's anvil is made of either forged or cast steel, tool steel, or wrought iron (cast iron anvils are generally shunned, as they are too brittle for repeated use, and do not return the energy of a hammer blow like steel). Historically, some anvils have been made with a smooth top working face of hardened steel welded to a cast iron or wrought iron body, though this manufacturing method is no longer in use. It has at one end a projecting conical bick (beak, horn) used for hammering curved work pieces. The other end is typically called the heel. Occasionally the other end is also provided with a bick, partly rectangular in section. Most anvils made since the late 1700s also have a hardy hole and a pritchel hole where various tools, such as the anvil-cutter or hot chisel, can be inserted and held by the anvil. Some anvils have several hardy and pritchel holes, to accommodate a wider variety of hardy tools and pritchels. An anvil may also have a softer pad for chisel work.

An anvil for a power hammer is usually supported on a massive anvil block, sometimes weighing over 800 tons for a 12-ton hammer; this again rests on a strong foundation of timber and masonry or concrete.

An anvil may have a marking indicating its weight, manufacturer, or place of origin. American-made anvils were often marked in pounds. European anvils are sometimes marked in kilograms. English anvils were often marked in hundredweight, the marking consisting of three numbers, indicating hundredweight, quarter hundredweight and pounds. For example, a 3-1-5, if such an anvil existed, would be 3x112 lb + 1x28 lb + 5 lb = 369 lb ~= 168 kg.

Cheap anvils made from inferior steel or cast iron, which are unsuitable for serious use, have been derisively referred to as "ASOs", or "Anvil Shaped Objects"[1]. Some amateur smiths have used a piece of railroad track as a makeshift anvil.

Top quality modern anvils are made of cast or forged tool steel and are heat treated for optimum hardness and toughness. Some modern anvils are made mostly from concrete. While the face is steel, the horn is not and can be easily damaged. These anvils can be hard to recognize because the gray paint used is the same shade as the steel face. They tend to weight about half as much as a comparable steel anvil.[citation needed]

A metalworking vise may have a small anvil integrated in its design.

Anvils in art and entertainment



Anvil firing is the practice of firing an anvil into the air using gunpowder. It has been popular in California, the eastern United States and the southern United States, much like how fireworks are used today. There is a growing interest in re-enacting this "ancient tradition" in the USA, which has now spread to England.[2]

Traditionally proving a smith apprentice's anvil was tested by placing one (old) anvil upside down.[citation needed] The small concave hole[citation needed] in the base of the anvil was filled with gunpowder, and a taper set to be struck by a hammer to one side. The apprentice's own anvil was set on top. On St Clement's Day, 23 November, an apprentice would attempt to be made up to Master Smith[citation needed] by having his anvil "proven". The apprentice's wrought iron anvil would "pass" if it did not fracture, and therefore so would the apprentice. A trip by the men of the village/town would around the local inns through the night, the apprentice dressing up as "Old Clem", singing traditional St Clement songs on the first night of winter.

Women would celebrate their own first winter's day on the 25th November St Catherine of Alexandria's feast day.

Television and film

A typical metalworker's anvil, with horn at one end and flat face at the other, is a standard prop for cartoon gags, as the epitome of a heavy and clumsy object that is perfect for dropping onto a villain. This visual metaphor is common, for example, in Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts, such as those with Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.

Animaniacs made frequent gags with this during the 1996-1997 season, even having a kingdom named Anvillaina, whose sole national product is anvils.

Gilmore Girls had a scene in Season 4 Episode 18 entitled "Tick, Tick, Tick, Boom!" where Lorelai Gilmore has a nearly 3 minute discussion about "where did all the anvils go?". This conversation included a description of what an anvil is and how common it must have once been because of its usage in Looney Tunes.

Anvils and ASO's were mentioned and shown in the Mythbusters episode on trying to see if hammers would shatter if made brittle enough. The Mythbusters spoke of the distinction between anvils and anvil shaped objects.

Musical instruments

Anvils are percussion instruments in several famous musical compositions, including:

See also


Further reading

  • Andrews, Jack (1994). New Edge of the Anvil. ISBN 1-879535-09-2. 
  • Hrisoulas, Jim (1987). The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press. ISBN 0-87364-430-1. 
  • Postman, Richard (1998). Anvils In America. ISBN 0-9663256-0-5. 

External links

Wikisource-logo.svg "Anvil". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
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From Wikisource

The Anvil
by Rudyard Kipling
First published in A School History of England (1911).

England's on the anvil — hear the hammers ring —
       Clanging from the Severn to the Tyne!
Never was a blacksmith like our Norman King —
       England's being hammered, hammered, hammered into line!

England's on the anvil! Heavy are the blows!
       (But the work will be a marvel when it's done.)
Little bits of Kingdoms cannot stand against their foes.
       England's being hammered hammered, hammered into one!

There shall be one people — it shall serve one Lord —
       (Neither Priest nor Baron shall escape!)
It shall have one speech and law, soul and strength and sword.
       England's being hammered, hammered, hammered into shape!

PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

the rendering of the Hebrew word , "beaten," found only in Isa. 41:7.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

Simple English

An anvil is a hard piece of metal which is used as a workbench when making things out of iron or steel. An anvil is used by a blacksmith when he needs to hammer hot iron to bend it into the shape he wants. A blacksmith can make new shoes for horses.

Small anvil

Anvils were known in the Bronze Age and possibly earlier. They were used in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. They are still in use today, although not nearly as much as 100 years ago when there were many more horses.

Anvils are extremely heavy. They are made in different sizes. The 17th century writer John Bunyan was a tinker (someone who mends pots and pans). He walked around the villages of Bedfordshire with a small anvil and a few tools on his back. His anvil was wedge-shaped, so that he could knock it into the ground when he needed to do a repair. His anvil is now in the John Bunyan museum in Bedford.

= Use as a musical instrument


The anvil has sometimes been used as a percussion instrument because it makes a very loud sound when hit by the hammer. Usually musicians use a metal bar mounted on a sound-box. This sounds just as good as a real anvil (which would be very heavy to carry around).

Verdi wrote some famous music called the Anvil Chorus in his opera Il Trovatore. Wagner asked for 18 anvils in Das Rheingold in the scene which takes place below the earth where the Nibelungs are working at their forges. Johann Strauss II wrote an Anvil Polka, Varèse used an anvil in Ionisation, Walton uses an anvil in Belshazzar’s Feast and there is an anvil in the orchestra in Howard Shore's music for the The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

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