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Rail Anvil

September 19, 2012

Hello there… long time, no see… Judging from the frequency of new posts here, it seems like I’m getting lazier and lazier. Well, it is partially true. Moving in the new house (and furnishing it) took away lot of my spare time. However, in this August, I started again doing creative projects, and I have new material to post (and great, new ideas for the future).

So, let me start with one of my summer projects… a new, portable ANVIL.

Doing small jewelry does not require much material, all the basics can fit in a small toolbox. The only exception is the anvil… not considering the large one I have (affixed to the ground), also the small one is heavy and difficult to carry, while most time a small piece of hard metal could be enough. During a recent work trip, in proximity of a train station I found a discarded piece of rail. It was a small piece, obviously the end of a newly installed rail, badly cut and extremely dirty. The metal used in rails is extremely hard and durable (it’s not difficult to imagine why), and may amateur blacksmiths have used discarded rails to build anvils (lots of info on the web, as usual). The piece I found was very small; so, i decided to clean it and use it as a portable anvil, using the top part of the rail as the working surface.

It is easy to find, near railway stations or junctions, old pieces of discarded rail: it is not a good idea to sneak in a large city station and try leaving it with a huge piece of metal picked somewhere on its premises, but on smaller train station, if you ask politely to the personnel, they may even help you…

As I said, the piece was incredibly dirty and badly cut (one side was very jagged). So, the first step was to clean it with an angle grinder with an 80 grit sanding disc. With this tool I was able to perfectly clean the surface, removing the jagged borders and bring to a new life the metal surface. Even with this harsh grit, the result was quite smooth and shiny (I just barely need to use a small piece of 100 grit sandpaper to polish it a bit).

An advice, always use a dust mask when doing this and work in open air: dirt on used rails contains a lot of nasty chemicals, oil and metal residues from the carriages, which gives toxic residues when using high-speed grinders on it. When grinding the head, I was also able to shape the two borders of the rail differently: one sharp and one curved. This task was made easier by the jagged border on one side of the rail. Having parts with a different shapes/angles in the anvil is quite helpful, since it is possible to pick the best spot to bend/flatten/shape your piece.

Then, I simply attached the anvil to a hard wood board (recycled from an old floor) using metal braces, nuts and bolts,to give a strong and stable support, able to withstand the hammering. Under the board, I glued&nailed two soft pine wood bars, to absorb vibrations without damaging the surface I would place the anvil on. I tried the new anvil to do some wire pendants, and worked splendidly!

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From → Materials, Project

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