How to Repair a Rusty & Pitted Blacksmith Anvil

Written by edwin thomas
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How to Repair a Rusty & Pitted Blacksmith Anvil
This anvil needs some rust removal. (blacksmith anvil image by Lijuan Guo from

Iron is virtually synonymous with durability but also with rust and corrosion, so an old, disused blacksmith's anvil is sure to come with a rusty, pitted surface. Whether the anvil is desired for decoration or for real use in a workshop, restoring the surface is a necessary step. While repairing a rusty old anvil isn't a complicated task and involves few specialised skills, it is sometimes hard work and involves a considerable investment of time.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Power hand-sander
  • Closed-coat sandpaper
  • Wire brush or scouring pad
  • Phosphoric or oxalic acid
  • Stove black
  • Paint brush

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  1. 1

    Sand out the pits in the anvil's surface with a power hand-sander using closed-coat sandpaper. Use 80- to 120-grit sandpaper for tiny pits and 40- to 60-grit sandpaper for deep or large pits.

  2. 2

    Restore a smooth surface to the anvil if removing the pits left behind a scratched surface, which is likely if you used sandpaper rated below 100 grit. Sand any scratched areas again with 120-grit closed-coat sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Continue sanding the anvil with the medium-to-fine 120-grit sandpaper (or finer sandpaper, if you have it) to remove the rust. If you did not need to remove pits, use a wire brush or wire scouring pad to remove the rust instead.

  4. 4

    Wipe the surface of the anvil down with white spirit.

  5. 5

    Apply a coat of phosphoric acid or oxalic acid cleanser to the entire anvil. This will eliminate any remaining rust from the surface and in the nooks of the anvil by turning it into a black, crusty substance that is easily wiped away. Wait overnight and then wipe the crust off.

  6. 6

    Apply a coat of stove black with a paint brush to the outside of the anvil to protect it from moisture and restore a neat, black appearance.

Tips and warnings

  • Plan ahead and expect sanding away a pitted iron surface to take much longer and require more sandpaper than sanding wood or masonry.
  • Remember to repair the underside of the anvil as well. This might require removing whatever bolts fasten it to a work table or stump.
  • Wear rubber gloves, safety goggles and a respirator mask and work in a well-ventilated area with oxalic and especially phosphoric acid. Either substance can give off caustic fumes, and should be used with caution.
  • If the anvil will actually be used for blacksmithing, do not use Rustoleum or a similar rust-removing paint instead of stove black. Even heat-resistant Rustoleum is not proof against the temperature of red-hot iron.

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