Blacksmithing anvils come in several shapes and sizes. Many are named after the country in which they originated or after the time period in which they were used. Either way you look at it, an anvil is used for one main purpose: to shape metal. The anvil provides a flat, hard surface on which to pound and shape hot forged metal into swords, tools or other metal objects. Most anvils are made of wrought iron, because it transfers the energy of a hammer strike more efficiently. Steel and other metals are too brittle to stand up to the constant pounding of a blacksmith hammer.
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The most common types of blacksmithing anvils are the square and double horn anvil. The square anvil is shaped like a square block, while the double horn anvil (most commonly known) has two points that are used to shape and emboss steel. Of these blacksmithing anvils, a few common types include stake or stump anvils, which have a stake for a base that can be pounded into a stump or block, and work bench anvils, which have their own base. Popular blacksmith anvils that are still used today include London-style anvils, Austrian style anvils and a few medieval anvils. Each reflects the style of design common to the time or country in which they were used.
A blacksmithing anvil consists of a face, which is the flat surface on the top where metal objects are placed to be shaped. On one end is a horn-shaped object simply called a horn, used for shaping rounded objects. The heel is the other end of the anvil. On the face, anvils have what is called a hardy hole and pritchel hole. Tools can be inserted into these holes to help shape the metal. Just below the body of the anvil is the waist, which tapers down to a base that has feet that stick out and provide stability. The area below the horn is called the shoulder, and that flat space between the horn and the face is called a table.
An anvil is used in a blacksmith shop as the main surface on which steel is pounded into shape. Hot steel right out of the forge is laid on the anvil face and flattened using a flat hammer. Rods could be laid across the horn and pounded to create a bend shape. Sheet metals could be embossed or concaved by being laid on the horn and pounded by a hammer as well. With additional tools inserted in the holes, rods could be shaped into various other objects.
Anvils come in all sizes and are generally sized according to weight. The smallest anvils weigh anywhere from 2.72 to 22.7kg. Larger anvils will weigh 100 to 260lbs. or more. Small stump anvils are as small as 1.5 by 1.5 inches. Typical dimensions of an anvil are about 1 foot high by 5 inches wide by 8 inches long.
Blacksmithing anvils have been used ever since the bronze age when metal working began. They have been referenced in Greek and Egyptian mythology and writings. The anvil was improved and developed during the Middle Ages when blacksmithing was extremely common. All over the world, different types of blacksmiths created anvils with variations that let them work more easily. Today, blacksmiths still use them to create handcrafted metal objects, but they are not used in industrial metal working.
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