Review by Fred Holder
What do you say about a book that
measures 8-1/2” by 11” by 1-1/8” thick and contains 550 pages of
information about anvils. Probably not much, unless you are a
Richard Postman has done extensive research on
the subject of anvils and has assembled an impressive piece of
work on the subject. Will this book help you to do a better job
of blacksmithing? No. Will it help you to understand more about
that anvil that you hammer your hot iron on? I believe so. This
is a great reference and research book for people wishing to
know more about anvils in American and in the world. Richard has
put together a vast amount of information on anvils, how they
were made, how to determine when they were made, who made them
and where. There are hundreds of pictures of anvils and dozens
of old anvil advertisements reproduced for your reference and a
lot of explanatory text that is interestingly written. At least,
I found it interesting reading.
This book began in 1982,
when Richard Postman was setting out to teach a newly created
class in hot metals, which included hand forging. He says:
I thought it best that I learn a little of the
history or background of the anvil to pass on to the students.
Our metal shop had two anvils of one hundred pounds each,
bearing the name Vulcan and an Arm and Hammer trademark like
that on a baking soda box. This trademark was cast in relief on
one side of both anvils. I had often wondered how old they were,
who made them, and where they were made.
“The library at the University where I taught has more than one million volumes.
Certainly among all of these books there would be one on anvils,
or at least a book on blacksmithing containing a section on the
history of anvils. I looked through the card file for
ANVIL ... NOTHING!
Among those million volumes, Richard
found one book on blacksmithing: the American Blacksmithing
Toolsmith and Steelworker’s Manual
, it didn’t answer his
questions. His searching did not turn up any book on anvils or
any book that had any significant amount of information on
anvils. He says”
With all the books on every conceivable
subject in this world, surely you would think that someone would
have written a book on an implement as old and important to the
Iron Age and so historically relevant to our age. Sure there
were snippets here and there, but nothing of any magnitude has
been compiled. I still find it hard to believe. However, the
more I talked to smiths and people who own anvils, including
anvil collectors, the more I discovered how little is known
about them. Thus, I began collecting information on anvils to
satisfy my own curiosity, later I thought of sharing it with
The result is the book that I’m reviewing. A book that
was long promised and slow in coming, but I believe well worth
Richard begins his book by defining the parts of
the anvil. Lot’s of books have done this to some degree, but
this book defines 17 distinct parts to an anvil. This is
preparatory to talking about the anvil and not having to define
what you are talking about when you say “Heel”. Then
he discusses weights of anvils and how they were generally
marked. English anvils used the hundredweight designations using
three numbers: the first was the number of hunderweights (112
pounds), the second the number of 1/4 of a hundredweight, and
the third the odd number of pounds. This was designated as the
“stone” weight system in which 8 stones equaled one
hundredweight. Other methods were used to designate weight and
not all English anvils were so marked.
From there he goes
into a discussion of how to date an anvil and gives some pretty
good guidelines for fixing the time frame of manufacture for
some of the old anvils. He devotes several more pages to general
information about anvils, their shapes, weights, their features,
like a fifth foot, and discusses why these things may have been
used. He then begins a discussion on Anvil Patterns and Types
and clarifies greatly why some anvils were shaped as they were.
From there he goes into the materials used and the methods of
manufacture of the various anvils, including: solid wrought
iron, cast steel, and cast iron. Finally, he closes Chapter 1 by
discussing briefly how anvils were repaired.
begins the discussion of early American anvils and various
European Anvils. Well, obviously, early American anvils were
going to be very close in form and method of manufacture to
those made in Europe, because the people making them likely
learned their trade in Europe.
In Chapter 3, he discusses
English Anvils and the various anvil manufacturers of the anvils
that tended to come to America. Chapter 4 talks about American
Cast Anvils both cast iron and cast steel. Chapter 5 deals with
American Wrought Anvils and their manufacturers; American, Arm
& Hammer, Hay-Budden, and Trenton.
In Chapter 6 he
discusses Miscellaneous American Anvils including some
unknown and miscellaneous anvils and some special and unusual
anvils. The main part of the book ends with Chapter 7 talking
about Anvil Odds and Ends and Trivia. Some of the trivia is
The last 100 or so pages of the book are
devoted to the Appendices: A through P providing a lot of useful
information that just didn’t fit into the seven chapters, but
important information nevertheless.
Can I recommend this
book? Without question! If you are a blacksmith, someone
interested in blacksmithing tools, or a collector of
blacksmithing tools including anvils, this book is a must for
your library and that is especially true if you are a collector.
The book is a bit pricey at $65.00 plus $5.00 shipping and
handling, but I feel the quality of the contents and the amount
of information provided more than justifies the price.
If you want to order one of these books, send Richard Postman a check for $70.00.
320 Fischer Court,
Berrian Springs, MI 49103.
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20, 1998 / September 18, 2008