Friday, March 20, 2009

The Secret Life of Old Tools: Anvils

All anvils must be the same, right? How complicated can they get? There is a surprising amount of complexity and specialization behind a good anvil. In Field's Shop we have more than half a dozen anvils. They range from 40 to 220 lbs and from as old as 270 years to as young as 130.

The oldest in the shop is an English pattern colonial anvil. The shape and construction of this anvil dates it to the English colonial period and English manufacture. It is a classic English pattern anvil. The wrought iron body, the small horn, the tiny hardy hole, and the blocky shape points to this anvil being forged by a smith with a team of strikers with sledge hammers.

The main anvil at the front forge in the shop is a Peter Wright manufactured in England sometime between the 1830s and 1880s. It is the classic London pattern anvil. This anvil has a wrought iron body with a tool steel face. The side is stamped:

Peter Wright
Solid Wrought
1 1 12

It was manufactured by the Peter Wright Co. in London, England. The numbers tell the weight in hundredweights. It is not 1112 pounds, but rather one hundredweight (112 lbs), one quarter-hundredweight(28 lbs), and twelve pounds. That works out to be 152 lbs. It has seen more than a lifetime of use, and is wearing out. It will probably need to be retired after only another fifteen or twenty years of daily use. What other tools commonly last for centuries?

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