Saw shop tech: Selecting an anvil.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

It’s true, anvils aren’t just for hot forging in blacksmith shops anymore! From tightening rivets to straightening blades to setting teeth, a good anvil is an indispensable part of the sharpening shop. In this post, I’ll touch on the uses of the anvil and how to choose the right one.

When most people think of anvils, they picture red hot bars of steel and showers of sparks from a brawny blacksmith wielding a heavy hammer. Most blacksmiths would be horrified at the though of striking a piece of cold steel on the anvil, but that’s precisely what we do. Some of the tasks I use my anvil for include tightening the rivets in knife handles, straightening bent knives, chisels, and saw blades, and setting the teeth on heavy crosscut saws (competition, 1 man) and cordwood (buzz) saws.

Almost any American or London pattern anvil (the classic anvil shape) that is not cast iron, is in good condition, and of suitable weight would be appropriate for the saw shop. I use a 196lb London pattern cast steel anvil in my shop. This anvil is a bit of overkill for the weight, but it happens to be a family heirloom (my great grandfather’s blacksmith anvil) so I keep it ringing :). Most saw shop work won’t require anything heavier than 100lbs. One advantage of the heavier anvil is that the face is long enough that I can lay a cordwood saw on it with the arbor hole over the anvil’s hardy hole and drop a hardy tool in to hold the blade in place while I set the teeth. If you’re just straightening chisels or tightening rivets, you can certainly do with a lot smaller anvil.

One of the important parts of choosing an anvil is that, unlike blacksmithing, you don’t want a perfectly flat face. Since bent blades need to be bent back beyond straight so they’ll spring back to straight, an anvil with slight negatives (dips) in the face is the ticket.

Finally, forget most modern anvils with the exception of some (expensive) European types made of forged steel (anything made in China is an immediate reject). As long as there aren’t any large chips missing or severe face damage, it’s hard to beat a vintage anvil!

Stay tuned, in one of my next posts, I’ll be talking about hammers and accessories for use with the anvil in the saw shop!

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

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