Rural Missouri - February 2014 - (Page 36)

N E I G H B O R S T by Jason Jenkins o untrained eyes, it's just a chunk of iron or steel. Cold to the touch. Unwieldy. Blemished by time and tools. Most have been relegated to the corner to gather dust, a seemingly obsolete implement in a hightech world. But it's a different story for Bill Bench. When he sees an anvil, he sees history. He sees beauty. "If these anvils could talk, there's no telling what kinds of stories they could tell you," he says as he gazes down a line of farrier's anvils in his home workshop outside of Rogersville. "Just look at that one. Now that's a beautiful anvil." For the past 20 years, Bill has collected the tool once responsible for making all other tools. Today, his collection comprises nearly 200 anvils of all shapes and sizes, varying from less than a pound to 750 pounds. "I've always been around tools," says the master mechanic who retired from City Utilities of Springfield after 24 years. "Tools made me a living, and I just wound up getting into these things." Bill's foray into anvil collecting began in the mid-1990s after a trip to the Tennessee theme park Dollywood. Among the attractions is an area devoted to traditional craftsmen, including a master blacksmith who created a tomahawk from Bill Bench of Rogersville has traveled the nation for the past 20 years, bringing home anvils of all shapes and Damascus steel that caught Bill's eye. sizes. His collection of nearly 200 anvils contains many styles produced in both the United States and Europe. "I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," says the Webster Electric Cooperative member of the smith's handiwork. "I wanted to learn how to make something like that myself, so I started getting into blacksmith stuff." Bill assembled the tools for his home blacksmith shop, including a forge, hammers, tongs and of course, an anvil. As he delved deeper into his new hobby, two things became clear. "I'm not a very good blacksmith, I found that out real quick. There's a whole lot of work attempting to prevent their enemy from Fords, certain models look really involved. I guess I still like using all the modern repairing equipment. neat to you." ways," says the 60-year-old, who maintains a The size of Bill's collection has varied Bill is particularly fond of Amermembership with the Blacksmiths Association of over the years. He estimates he curican-made blacksmith and farrier's Missouri. "But I did like the look of that anvil." rently owns about 120 anvils weighing anvils produced between the 1870s and Pretty soon, a second anvil found its way to 25 pounds or more, with another 50 1920s. His favorite anvil manufacturer is Bill's shop. "When I got the second one, my wife, Rogersville weighing less than 25 pounds. He Hay-Budden, which made wrought anvils Judy, said, 'You're addicted,'" he recalls. "I said, * says miniature anvils produced for during this time period in Brooklyn, N.Y. 'No I'm not. It's only two.' Well, it turns out I may watchmakers, jewelers and others His collection also includes other Ameribe addicted just a little." are highly collectible, as are small can nameplates, along with English, GerWhile he may not fish or hunt, Bill certainly replica anvils that were used as salesmen's samples man and Swedish brands. began hunting anvils. He'd attend auctions and and promotional items. "In the miniatures, you Over the years, Bill has hauled anvils back to estate sales, scour flea markets and pop in on do have to worry about counterfeits," he says. the Show-Me State from machine shops and other Like other collectibles, the price for antique as far away as Maine and businesses where anvils anvils is dependent on the condition and qualFlorida. He once chased might be hiding. At first, ity of each anvil, as well as the number available. a 575-pound Swedish he says, anvils were anvils. The largest and smallest anvils were produced Kohlswa anvil for nearly "You just didn't want one in smaller quantities, so they command higher five years as it changed that was broken," he quips. prices. While a "working" anvil costs about $1 hands, finally buying As his knowledge of per pound, Bill says he's seen miniatures go for as it this past June from a anvil manufacturing grew, much as $1,500. Recently, a rare large anvil was collector in New Jersey. he learned to be more disrumored to sell for $10,000. Part of the fun of colcerning and began to develEventually, Bill would like to own a small, lecting is hearing the stoop his own taste, something medium and large version of each of his favorite ries behind the anvils. Bill he likens to car collectors anvils. "They don't eat much, and you don't have has heard all sorts of tall having varying affinities for to take them to the vet," Bills says jokingly. "All tales, from an anvil placed different automotive manuthey need is a little oil, a little rub, and it doesn't on the railroad tracks facturers. hurt to tap them with a hammer once in a while to derail a train to three "How do you get interto make sure they're still alive." anvils fished out of a well ested in collecting anymore than 100 years after thing?" he asks. "I don't Miniature anvils, such as this Fisher & Norris, You may contact Bill Bench at 417-840-1142 or they had been dropped know. They just catch your are highly collectible. Bill says counterfeits are in by Civil War soldiers eye. Just like Chevys and something of which collectors must be aware. Amassing Anvils For Rogersville man, it's more than just a heavy hobby 36 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2014

Rural Missouri - February 2014
Ministering to motorists
A mid-winter read
Fighting more than fires
Out of the Way Eats
Metal & music
Honest Abe
Hearth and Home
The Missouri Dinosaur
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - February 2014