How To Log

I thought I’d sell my old anvil and get a new one. The surface of the anvil was pretty pitted, and if I tried to forge down an edge, the steel often picked up the pits. Also: new anvils are pretty!

So, I listed it on craigslist and had a buyer in 20 minutes(!). The fellow showed up that evening, and handed me money, then we tried to pick the anvil up and I that was when I remembered that a certain someone bedded the anvil into the log/stand with a tube of silicone adhesive. Smart, by half.

We stood around a bit thinking and he said, “can I have the log? I need one anyway.”

Brilliant! Then, we tried to lift the 150lb anvil, bedded into its monster log (probably another 100lb) into the back of his truck. Not a chance. It’s not the weight it’s that there’s no good way to lift something like that, normally. If we had been prepared, with a big board or two, we could have flipped on its side and rolled it up, but I’d forgotten about that part.

I sucked up my pride and ran down to the neighbor who was, coincidentally, getting into his tractor. His tractor has a front bucket. I asked nicely and 10 minutes later we slid the log into the bucket and then transferred it gently to the back of the pickup truck and it was off on its way to its new home.

Amazingly, there are industrial equipment suppliers like Grizzly and Grainger, that have shipping warehouses all over – they can practically overnight you an anvil. I ordered a lovely Rigid brand pettinghaus anvil (from Germany! Oo! Maybe there is steel from a panzer tank in it…) and, I kid you not, the trucking company called me 2 days later, not having made any arrangements for me to be anywhere. But it happened that the trucker was 2 miles from my shop, where I was, so we transferred the anvil to the back of my truck.

In the course of transferring the anvil, I backed up my (new to me) Silverado – a great gorgeous red and black monster that I traded the Tahoe in for – into the rear guard of the semi. Now the top of the tailgate is slightly customized. It’s hard to see, and I’m probably the only person who slaps himself inside whenever he notices it’s slightly kinked.

I backed up to the door of the shop, set up some jack stands – I am not bending my 59 year-old back with the weight of an anvil – and hugged it to my chest, staggered into the building, set it down. Steel is amazing. Steel has this ability to just make me happy. My brain goes “tilt!” when I pick up something a bit larger than a cinder-block, and it weighs 170lb. There’s some part of me that just goes, “no, that can’t be right.” Anvils are slippery and don’t have handles that aren’t slippery and my subconscious kept screaming that it would be really easy to drop this thing on my foot.

Then I went back to the shop to get my spare log. What, don’t you have a spare horizontal section of a mighty oak tree? Of course I do (or did) – it’s why my middle name is “packrat”. When the neighbor, 4 years ago, now, it would be, was parting out an oak tree for firewood, I bought my log from him, and he put proud work into making it the straightest, flattest, most perfectly cut log any anvil has ever rested on. I’m serious. It was an amazing log. It still is. But when he cut it, he cut another one and gave me that as a bonus because it was also an amazingly beautiful log. I rolled it back into the faculty office of my building, painted it with linseed oil, and let it age. Because I’m a packrat and packrats do things that way. There’s a strong young fellow next door and I asked him if he could give me a hand and we put a big sheet of plywood up the back of my truck, and rolled the log up into the bed. Carefully. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the guys on failblog who roll a log into their truck and it takes out the rear window? That’s not me. Not with this truck.

So, I put some other asskicking gear into the truck and carefully (not braking hard!) got back to the hot shed [some Marcus nomenclature: “the studio” is my 1957 elementary school, 10 miles from my house. “the shop” is my newish steel building where I do all the things involving fire. It is also sometimes “the hot shed”]

One great thing to have handy if you do any task that involves templates is pvc foam flooring. It’s cheap, tough, thick, and easy to cut. It takes sharpie marks like a dream. Mice won’t eat it. It’s pretty much impossible to tear. I have a roll of about 12 feet I bought back when I was doing a lot of leather-work, and I was able to make and keep all my patterns by rendering them in flooring, then punching a hole in the corners of all the pieces and looping them with a metal hoop to keep all the pieces of a given hat, or whatever, together. Did I mention I am a pack rat? I have hat patterns for hats I made 15 years ago, in case I ever need another one.

Put the anvil on a piece of the flooring. Trace it with a sharpie. Cut it out with scissors. Put it on the log and trace it with sharpie. This minimizes the amount of anvil-moving that has to go on.

I really hate freehanding stuff with a router, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and make chips. Obviously, that picture was taken partway through.

Having the flooring template means that I don’t have to move the anvil to test anything! And, as a bonus, I can now inlet any number of 170lb pettinghaus anvils without having to move them. I will keep this template on my “shelf of templates” which is about as much of a mess as you probably think it is. “hat, hat, hat, knife sheath, anvil, hat, hat, armored shoulder piece for a biker’s jacket, …”

I was getting pretty exhausted by the time I finally got everything in place. I had to move the log into position, then the anvil into the log, then move the anvil again so I could take the template out from under it, then move the anvil again… A cold beer came to mind, but I have to avoid the beer because of gout. Home to the next best thing: a hot shower and some pickled beets and hot tea!

Shall we discuss my vices next?


  1. moarscienceplz says

    New anvils ARE pretty, and good on you for providing an anvil to someone who needed one, but in the spirit of packrattery, wouldn’t a 60 grit belt and a belt sander have dealt with that pitting?

  2. moarscienceplz says

    “What rolls down stairs
    alone or in pairs,
    and over your neighbor’s dog?
    What’s great for a snack,
    And fits on your back?
    It’s log, log, log

    It’s log, it’s log,
    It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood.
    It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good.”

    (I had to go there)

  3. brucegee1962 says

    You should have ordered it from Acme Co. According to a nature documentary I used to watch about predator/prey relationships in the American West, Acme can deliver anvils with pinpoint accuracy to mailboxes in the middle of the desert within seconds of mailing an order, so they should have been able to get one to you with no problem.

    Or maybe not. Those deliveries never seemed to end particularly well for the anvil recipient.

  4. Jazzlet says


    Both the log and the anvil. Glad you managed the exit of the old, and the placing of the new with no damage to you or anyone or anything else.

  5. lochaber says

    Pierce R. Butler @2
    I have no idea what this individual was planning, but when I was looking for an anvil in the early 90s, I think a lot of them were being sold off as scrap metal or garden decorations.

    I believe if one has the right equipment and skills, they can weld a new face on to the anvil, and then grind it down flat, making it nice again. I have no idea on the specifics or difficulty of that…

  6. dangerousbeans says

    ooh, yes, lets discuss vices. i really need a post vice.
    nice anvil!

    that seems like the sort of thing that is possible, but also the sort of thing that makes me just call the local anvil dealer.
    Arc welding would require laying beads from the centre 10cm out, which is a lot of welding. You can do it, but that’s a lot of gas, wire, and time. Forge welding requires getting the entire thing hot and squishing it, which is hard for 75kg of anvil.
    explosion welding is fun…

  7. says

    I believe if one has the right equipment and skills, they can weld a new face on to the anvil, and then grind it down flat, making it nice again. I have no idea on the specifics or difficulty of that…

    To do it correctly, it’s nuts. Welding ruins the quench of the surface, so you have to weld it, then anneal it, machine the deck flat, then bring it to normal temperature and quench it, then fine-finish the top with a milling machine or horizontal scraper. Basically, fixing an anvil can be harder than making a new one.

    Many anvils are yard decorations but you’ll usually see those on a stone instead of a log.

    I could have kept using the old one except I wanted a new one and why not? I actually was trying to order a Titan anvil but the guys who run that business are disorganized gits (who make good anvils) and it’s very hard to get them to actually sell you an anvil. So the pettinghaus was a good alternative.

  8. says

    ooh, yes, lets discuss vices. i really need a post vice.

    My post vice is ridiculous. I also have an antique one but the damn thing’s got all kind of kitsch value but the jaws don’t line up. I decided to replace it with serious overkill. I’ll tell that tale here eventually.

  9. says

    You should have ordered it from Acme Co.


    Apparently they are dropping their current inventory on Russian soldiers in Ukraine, so they’re back-ordered.

    Now, if you had the front armor from a tank, you could water-jet cut it into layers for an anvil, weld them together, and um… never mind. “Shurap” (Yevgeny Shevchenko) has the coolest anvil – it looks like a 1930s collectivist factory workers’ piece and has some soviet neo-realist logotage on the side. It’s probably made of melted artillery.

  10. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#2:
    What use does Craigslist Guy have for a pitted anvil?

    Starter gear. Unless you have a lot of money, it’s good to start out with less than top-notch gear. In the case of an anvil, a bit of pitting doesn’t really matter unless you’re making jewelry or your hammering has progressed to the point where you are trying to go directly from hammering to quenching.

  11. says

    In the spirit of packrattery, wouldn’t a 60 grit belt and a belt sander have dealt with that pitting?

    Not precise enough.

    In fact, I could have dressed the wheels on my surface grinder (which I never use) and precision-ground the surface. Why didn’t I do that? Because spending days working the wheels on the surface grinder sounds like more than $1000 worth of pain.

    Some people use the top of the anvil like a slightly less precise surface plate.

  12. dangerousbeans says

    i wonder if you can use hard facing rods to resurface the top of an anvil? might not be as good as new, but could be an option for fixing one. still needs to be milled/ground afterwards

  13. lochaber says

    I know absolutely nothing about welding, so…

    But I wonder if the sheer mass (and also thermal mass…) of an anvil may make the annealing process maybe a bit easier? Like, weld a fuckload of appropriate material onto a dinged up anvil face, drag it out back, and build an epic bonfire over it, have a party, and then drag it back into the workshop and grind down the face?

    (If it’s not abundantly clear, I have no idea how this is actually done or anything…)

  14. benedic says

    Have you tried allopurinol.? Could bring back beer permissibility.
    From Fifty years experience.

  15. Owlmirror says

    I guess I’m the only nerd who looked at the subject line and thought that the topic would be computer security — logging penetration attempts, port scans, SQL injection attempts, and like that.

  16. says

    Are you dead?

    Nope, I’m fine.
    I have some updates; I’ve just been too busy doing some things and I just felt like taking a few days off.

  17. Owlmirror says

    Are you dead?

    What would you do if I said I was?

    I would become hyperimaginative, hypercurious, and hypernosy.

    (“OK, so is supernaturalism true (you’re a ghost), or is transhumanism true (you’re an AI upload)? Ooh, or maybe both? (AI uploads only work if they’re instantiated by the spirit of the recently dead person who was uploaded)”)

  18. kurt1 says

    “What would you do if I said I was?”

    I wonder how many people will come across this post looking for programming how-tos.

Leave a Reply