Here are 6 ways I used on a recent project to hold hot material on the anvil while forging, with varying degrees of success. And gnashing of teeth. From the left, the first is a T-shaped piece, which acts as a stop. This idea is in Lorelei Sim’s book “The Complete Blacksmith”. It is a very useful accessory. The second one is a wishbone holdfast: the two arms serve to grip the work to some extent. I am very pleased to have thought of this and use it very frequently. The conventional “shepherd’s crook” holdfast was forged from a big tyre lever. It was too stiff. Really it should fit the Pritchel hole, but there is none in this anvil. However, the anvil is secured to 4 cast iron lift counterweights, each of which has 2 holes through. The grip is really provided by a beech slab beneath. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to bore through it. Now I have thinned out the curve, it holds better if knocked down hard but the hole is really too far below the anvil’s face.
Next is a homemade G clamp, with a shank welded at right angles. This is ok, but the block I was forging was a rhomboid and tended to ride up and out. Next, was, I thought, a very clever way to mount an F clamp, but I was wrong. I doesn’t grip at all and just gets too hot to manipulate the cam. The sixth piece is chain. I can just pile this on top, and can be used with a stop, but it’s just in the way a lot and tools get lost under it. And it’s a tripping hazard.
This I made specifically to hold the block flat. It was cut from a garden gate. It did not work terribly well. Every blow of the set hammer would dislodge it, but a couple of taps would clamp it up again. This was moderately successful and you can see I have begun to fuller out the bick. If I had had a third hand I would have gripped the block through the hole on to an arm, with tongs.