Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Anvil

My younger son traveled across town and bought a used anvil two days ago. The seller told my son that the anvil originally came from a farm in Kansas. The anvil, manufactured by Peter Wright & Sons of Dudley, England according to the classic "London Pattern," was made of wrought iron faced on top with Sheffield steel.

The date of manufacture of my son's anvil is no earlier than 1860, when Peter Wright went to a stacked logo:


Sometime after the 1891 McKinley Tariff Act and perhaps as late as 1910 (according to a hasty internet search), Peter Wright began adding the word "England" beneath the logo. With the aid of a flashlight I could make out the stacked logo, although the first letters of Wright were almost completely effaced. My son's anvil lacks the "England" marking on the body; so the anvil is at least a hundred years old. Under the logo are the words "SOLID WROUGHT" stamped in a circle.

The numbers ( 1 0 10) stamped on the body of my son's anvil indicate the anvil's weight under the old hundredweight system. The first number tells how many hundredweights (112 pounds or one-twentieth of the British long ton of 2240 pounds); the second number (inside the SOLID WROUGHT circle) tells how many quarter-hundredweights (28 pounds); and the third number tells how many remaining pounds to add to the total. Therefore, my son's anvil is 112 + 0 + 10 or 122 pounds. It was advertised on eBay as a 120# anvil. Allowing for wear and tear and a bit of rust over the last century, the anvil's hundredweight numbers check out nicely.

The anvil marks another step in my son's preparation for violin making. He is currently learning to repair violins using a core tool set of planes, chisels, gouges, and knives. His set is a miscellany of well-made modern tools and also antique tools manufactured in the early twentieth century, when the quality standards for toolmaking were much more stringent than those currently applied to the cheap junk on the Home Depot racks. He plans to forge additional tools himself. There is precedent for doing so. Antonio Stradivarius used many specialized scrapers. Their shapes ranged from thin scalpels to wide teardrop-shaped blades.

No doubt my son will experiment with all sorts of oddball designs until he is comfortable with how a tool feels in his hand.

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