LOOKING FOR MR. WRIGHT
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
"Hello, I'm calling about the anvil."
There a few phrases I never thought I would utter, and that was one of them. Not because it’s a silly thing to say but because honestly, I never thought I would need an anvil. Who does, really? No child ever asked Santa for a 200 lb solid wrought Hay Buden instead of a G.I. Joe. And as an adult, it wasn’t like I had horses to shoe or moonlighted as a village blacksmith at the local Renaissance Festival. No, an anvil was a remnant of a bygone era that modern day me had no use for. That all changed after I went down the bladesmith rabbit hole.
I am a craftsman at heart and working with fire and heat and hammers and tongs and wood and metal really struck a chord with me. To pursue making knives with any sort of conviction I needed to set up shop. And I needed an anvil, badly. Up to that point, my knowledge of anvils came from Saturday morning cartoons. You know, the hapless coyote always getting crushed by an ACME anvil once the Road Runner turns the tables. (Note: ACME does not make anvils but they did make a fine beer in early 1900’s San Francisco).
My anvil education commenced. From online sources and discussions with veteran blacksmiths, what I found was that almost universally a vintage Peter Wright anvil was held in the highest regard. Sure there were others, but a Peter Wright had prestige and pedigree in the eyes of most.
“Yes, nothing but a Peter Wright would do.”
Even though this was to be my first anvil, I convinced myself I needed the Cadillac. Maybe the root of all this was my romanticized idea that a vintage Peter Wright was waiting, after years of dusty neglect, to be reborn by an inexperienced smith just learning his way around a forge–kind of like a magic lamp who’s powers could only be unleashed through the hammer blows of its finder. Whatever the cause, I knew in my soul that, yes, nothing but a Peter Wright would do.
Living in Minnesota and in close proximity to Wisconsin and Iowa, I started an obsessive three state search for the holy grail of hammering. I scoured auction sites without end, scanned countless message boards, and picked through antique stores in far flung places. The more I looked the more I heard, as sweet as a siren’s song, the resonant ping of hammer meeting metal, calling to me in my dreams.
Most anvils found were sway backed and in sorry shape. A common condition for anything that’s 150 years old. So I kept at it. And at it. And at it. Appearing as if it were foretold in Craigslist legends, there it was. A vintage 155 lb Peter Wright located on the rural outskirts of Rochester, Minnesota. The seller was an elderly man who had pulled the anvil out of his machine shed when they had sold the farm years earlier. In his garage, it sat unassumingly between an old washing machine and a dilapidated bedframe. “Time to get rid of it,” he said, “need to make some room.” He got the room and I got Mr. Wright.