A Tool for the Ages

With more than 40 anvils of different sizes and shapes, this is but a small portion of the over 400 anvils in the original museum collection. Anvils play a major role in the world of blacksmithing and farriery, and are often the most noted ‘icon’ associated with the trade. Anvils vary widely across size, weight, and even shape and number of tips (called horns). Each customization can help an anvil play a specific role for a farrier or blacksmith. Five common types found are forging, farrier, stake, bench, and jewelers (often the very smallest!).


The largest of these are typically forging anvils, and are often seen with blacksmiths. You can tell a forging anvil by looking for a flat face, round horn, with a small round punching hole. Frequently, farrier anvils tend to be smaller than forging anvils. This is particularly true in modern times, as the majority of modern farriers travel to their clients – so the anvil must be portable to be useful to the farrier. 


Anvils themselves can be cast or forged. Though they may seem indestructible, anvils can take wear and tear that can make them less useful over time, and must be maintained and cared for. Anvils are typically priced by the pound in the market, with premiums for top brands or pristine conditions. Effectiveness of the anvil is marked by how well the anvil responds to the blow of a hammer – excellent anvils are ‘responsive’ and helps the user from becoming overly fatigued. 



The first anvils, as we recognize the tools for their functionality, were used by the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks! 


See the videos below for some short clips about the history of anvils, how antique ones can be identified. With relatively little anvils in circulation today, proper identification and care is important.