Solid Anvil Collection

Pound for pound, Texas man's anvil collection is rock solid.

| June 2005

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    Below left: A 300-pound oil field anvil.
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    Below: A 450-pound bridge anvil used mainly in railroad shops to make large, round, metal rings for boilers. The height of the anvil enabled the smith to loop the rings through the opening.
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    Left: A 120-pound Fisher anvil, with the eagle trademark visible.
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    Left to right: Three generations of Barkmans: Henry Barkman, Jake Barkman and Chip Barkman. Henry, who still farms the family farm, recalls the family anvil (a Fisher, shown here) from his earliest memories, nearly 70 years ago. Jake is Chip Barkman’s son; Chip is Henry’s son. Chip works as a millwright.
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    Left: A 156-pound English anvil, manufacturer unknown.
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    Right: A pair of Hay-Budden anvils.Above: A Peter Wright farrier’s anvil, with a tool in the hardie hole. This English anvil, which dates to the 1700s or early 1800s, is made of wrought iron with a steel-plate face for added hardness and durability. The table is 3/8- to 1/2-inch thick forge-welded steel plate.
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    Above: A Trenton anvil.
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    Below: A set of hardie tools. Anvils are manufactured with a variety of holes, performing a variety of functions. Square-shank tools such as these fit into the Hardie hole, typically located on the top surface of the anvil. Other holes include those under the anvil’s base, or in its feet (used to maneuver the anvil during manufacture); heat sumps, located under the base and extending nearly to the top, used to help distribute heat more evenly; and the Pritchel hole, a round hole usually adjacent to the Hardie hole, used in conjunction with a punch to punch holes in hot steel, drive out nails, or bend small-diameter rods.
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    Left: A Trenton farrier anvil.
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    Left: A 635-pound anvil on a 500-pound factory stand.
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    Below: A trio of Trentons. Old anvils vary in price. Big ones are rare and expensive. Smaller anvils can be found at relatively affordable prices. Many are sold by the pound, anywhere from $1 to $2 per pound.
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    Right: A Peter Wright anvil; Chip Barkman uses this anvil in his shop.
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    Below: A 134-pound Hay Budden anvil
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    Below: 140-pound EHC Hay Budden. The heyday of American anvil manufacture was from 1890 to about 1930.
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    Below: An EHC Hay-Budden. Hay-Budden made anvils for various companies which then put their own name on the anvil. This anvil, for instance, is marked “EHC”: the latter two letters stand for “Hardware Company.” The name of the hardware company is lost to time.

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For some collectors, a stationary engine is a portal to the past. For others, sentimental ties are maintained by preserving a tractor that's been in the family for decades. For Chip Barkman of Texarkana, Texas, an anvil used by his father and grandfather is a very solid connection to the roots of agriculture in America.

"We have an old family anvil that was my grand-dad's," Chip says. "Three generations have used it. Last year, we retired it. We regard it as a family heirloom now."

It's also the start of a collection that now numbers more than 30 anvils from the U.S. and abroad. Chip's dad began the hobby with a small collection; Chip has taken off from there. "About two years ago," he recalls, "I saw an anvil for sale, said 'What the heck' and bought it." His wife, Michelle, joined forces with her husband: She collects small anvils, the type used by jewelers. The couple is also interested in related tools: tongs, chisels and hammers.

Anvils were once common on the farm and industry. "Blacksmiths and farriers used large anvils to shoe horses," Chip says. "Anvils were used for all kinds of metal work and welding. They didn't have arc welders back then. Larger anvils were used in industrial shops - machine shops, shipyards and railroad yards."



Although a special anvil created for the Centennial Exposition of 1876 weighed in at 1,400 pounds, the biggest anvil produced by most manufacturers 100 years ago was in the 800-pound range. More typical was a piece at the other end of the scale, Chip says. "The typical Texas farm anvil weighed 100-150 pounds," he says. "Farm anvils in the north and east may have been bigger. With westward migration, people carried everything they owned with them on covered wagons, and they had to be more selective. Those big anvils were just too heavy to haul out here."

Specific anvils were used by makers of plows, coaches, saws and chains. Ultimately, as technology grew more sophisticated, the need for anvils diminished. "There was less dependence on horses," Chip says, "and at the same time, trip hammers and steam hammers replaced anvils in industrial use."



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