Anvils are material forming tools, providing a durable impact surface for worked parts. Made from a large, hard source material like stone or metal, they support material—often metal—part-work activities like chiseling, hammering, and forging. Most modern anvils are made from heat-treated cast or forged steel.
The primary work surface of the anvil is the smooth, hardened-steel face. The surface is smooth so that any marks on the face will be transferred to the work.
The horn of the anvil is a conical projection used to form various round shapes and is usually unhardened steel or iron. The horn is used mostly in bending. Anvils may have a single horn or double horn; double-horn types are more common in Europe than elsewhere.
The table is the soft area of the anvil between the "horn" and the "face" used for cutting. The purpose of the table is to prevent damage to the face area of the anvil.
The hardie hole is a square hole into which metalworking tools are placed. It is also used for punching and bending operations.
The pritchel hole is a small round hole, mostly used for punching, that is present on most modern anvils. Some anvils have multiple pritchel holes.
- Forging anvils—also known as blacksmiths or general shop anvils. These range from 75 pounds to 500 pounds.
- Cast iron anvils—Popularly called ASO for "anvil shaped object." They are typically lower-quality. Cast iron anvils are soft, brittle, and will chip or break even under normal use.
- Farrier anvils—Highly specialized type of anvil. Put a high proportion of the mass in the horn and often have just enough in the heel to balance the anvil. They range from 100 to 150 pounds. They have special features such as "clip horns" for forming toe clips and turning cams for ease of adjusting a horse shoe. These anvils are primarily used by farriers and are usually made from cast steel or hardened ductile iron.
- Stake anvils—Heavy use types that are now seldom available. Small stake anvils are available and are designed for sheet metal and artistic iron work. Dozens of shapes are available and weigh around 15 to 20 pounds.
- Bench anvils—Small anvils that range from 5 to 50 pounds. They are used on benches for supporting work to be hammered.
- Jewelers anvils—Are used in watch making and jewelry. They have a squarish body and long slender bicks. Some have stakes to embed in a bench and others a large base. Weight ranges from a few ounces to a few pounds.
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