Historic Blacksmith Anvils

Historic blacksmith anvils – embodying the history of Germany and the western world

Historic blacksmith anvils include the Church Windows anvil, the field anvil or stake anvil, old vintage and Antique anvils, and early more primitive forms. Click the photos below for more information.

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How to use a church windows anvil

In the video please observe the mid section width of this anvil. As we see most of the top plate has perfect support. This anvil is essentially a solid block with a couple short heals and a sophisticated front surface. With this in mind listen closely to the hammer blows. Perhaps you can hear the “splat splat” sound of the blows to the metal.  Especially listen to how solid the blows are on the edge above the sloped chest of the anvil.  With easy blows I’m mashing that metal!  Hammering on this sloped edge is more efficient than on a 90 degree edge. Also this edge is at least twice as durable as the right angled edge on more modern anvils.

Of course many if not most of these historic anvils can still be used to great effect today. As we see in this video we can lay them down on their back and shape thin plate in the window cavities. In fact the back side of many of these early church windows anvils is flat – perfect for laying down. On it’s back the anvil is more stable than standing up (middle photo below). Undoubtedly medieval blacksmiths worked these anvils this way making armor and weapons. Although I have seen and handled many swage blocks I can’t think of any that have such such versatile and useful cavities for armor.

German church windows anvil dated 1688 – with evidence of how they were used

Intriguing History of this anvil

On the chest of this most historic blacksmith anvil we see a chiseled border. Also it has a Runic arrow in the middle and the date 1688. The base and sides of this anvil came to me coated with black pitch. At first I was cleaning it off. Then I remembered that blacksmiths use pitch for forging intricate repousse leaves and other decorations. In fact this anvil was in use during the period when German blacksmiths produced the finest decorative ironwork in history.  I stopped cleaning!

Observation, clues, and hypotheses – the versatility of the church windows anvil

In this first image above the base of the anvil is wider and 3 times heavier than the top working surface. 17th century German anvil makers had a radically different concept: the top of the anvil was not the focal point. In the second image we see absolutely beautiful impressions for making armor and just about anything 3 dimensional. Also please note that the heavy ends of the feet stick up like rock solid stake anvils. In the third image we see the flat anvil back, covered with chisel marks. Clearly the blacksmith did all his chisel work with the anvil lying backside up. Early blacksmiths rotated and worked these anvils in several positions.

Historic blacksmith anvil for sale - German church windows 1688 swage tool

Historic blacksmith anvil for sale – German church windows 1688 swage tool

Clues from the French Diderot Encyclopedia – anvil as a base for special tooling

According to 18th century prints from (Diderot – Serrurerie – Outils de forge) hornless anvils served primarily as holders for swage tools!  Here is the missing concept that explains early church windows anvil geometry.  As shown above the two short anvil heals serve to anchor the swaging tools on top of the anvil. Of course blacksmiths used the top of the anvil for general forging as we do today. However it was also indispensable as the base for special tooling. This meant teams of men furiously hammering  hot bars into the swage impressions. For this reason early anvil makers forged these anvils with huge bases. Later on anvil shops extended the heals and added horns. Hardy holes on ancient anvils like the one above were small.  Today we anchor tooling to the anvil with the hardy hole. In my opinion the ancient lost method pictured above is far superior for heavy forging.

historic blacksmith anvils for sale - knife forging

knife forging on the slope of an anvil saddle

Understanding use of the saddle on historic blacksmith anvils – just a glimpse

The top surfaces of many old vintage and antique anvils are heavily saddled. Of course this is often the result of generations of blacksmiths hammering out mountains of work. These blacksmiths used these anvils up to the very end. Perhaps they couldn’t buy a new anvil.  In fact however many experienced blacksmiths actually prefer an anvil with saddle.  For one thing the saddle holds the work in one place much better than a flat surface. Here we see 2 drawings of forging a knife blade bevel using the slope on one side of the saddle. There are many  way to use the saddle on these old or antique and historic blacksmith anvils.

Anvil collecting – the essence of history

I love, collect, and enjoy these anvils to the edge of poverty. Now I will share/sell some of them. Certainly Historic blacksmith anvils include anything made  before 1919 ( the first World War). Here we will also add  German anvils produced from 1941 to 1945 for War II. Therefore some of these anvils are also double horns. In this instance  these anvils have historic value as well as useful value.  Also these hand forged anvils are also sculpture, singular works of art, and craft masterpieces. From the beginning everything including weapons came from a forge shop made on anvils. In fact William Penn brought a German anvil with him to  Pennsylvania in 1681. Penn’s anvil was dated 1680 and looks just like the anvil dated 1688 above. Truly historic blacksmith anvils are at the root of Western Civilization. Adopting one of these beauties is preserving our history.

historic blacksmith anvils for sale, German church windows and stake anvils

historic blacksmith anvils for sale, German church windows and stake anvils

 

In this photo you can see Church windows anvils from the 20th century back to the 18th century  (2 pieces: German dated 1741 (back center), and French 1751 (far left))  and a couple anvils that are much older.

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The Greenwood Colonial American Anvil Collection

You can see some of our architectural blacksmith work at  Greenwoood Ironworks