Anvil Shooting: using explosives to fire anvils -- yes, ANVILS -- into the air

Comrades, I present to you the unheralded but noble sport of "anvil launching" in which a brave athlete puts a crapload of black powder between two anvils, lights a fuse and runs like the devil, then watches as the topmost anvil sails hundreds of feet into the air!

Gay Wilkinson is the world champion anvil launcher and in this brief video, he demonstrates his grace and athleticism and total disregard for commonsense or safety. Gay, you are a credit to the sport.

How to Shoot an Anvil 200 Feet in the Air (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Just a little memo to the Teeming Millions: all it takes it one tiny bit of black powder between the two anvils, and scooting/aligning it could be enough to initiate it. I’m sure that’s part of the reason for all that paper in there; that reduces the chances of unintentional initiation. But leaning over the flyer anvil when doing this sort of thing is tantamount to an obit that’ll make it to the front page of Fark someday. It’s only a matter of time.

  2. As an amateur blacksmith with a family history of smithing, I of course heard tell of how the village blacksmith, “back in the day” would put some gunpowder between two anvils and make a big bang for fourth of July festivities, etc. Somehow no one ever mentioned a 200 foot altitude gain of one anvil.

    They of course probably used bigger anvils (those look to be in the 90-100 pound range, my main anvil is around 275) and the natural cavity in the bottom which, on an old forged anvil, would have been smaller than the apparently milled-out hollows in the bottoms of those.

    Anvils are a beautiful hands-on demo in density – it is startling how ridiculously heavy they are, even when you are expecting them to be very heavy indeed – the thought of one coming down from 200 feet is more viscerally upsetting when you have picked one up a few times.

    Hmmm, where did I put my black powder?

    1. According to my quick and possibly erroneous arithmetic, that’s only about 27,088 joules, with an initial velocity of about 34.5 m/s (77 miles per hour), neglecting air resistance. More energetic, if you consider the air resistance.

  3. They had this on Wild Boys or Jackass quite a while ago.
    The guys from the show threw cash down on the ground where they thought the anvil would land. The closest one got to keep all the losers’ money.

    Pretty wild stuff though!

  4. Gay Wilkinson is the world champion anvil launcher

    Wait, there was a competition to determine the champion, and I missed it?

    I’m deeply disappointed.

    I coulda been a contender.

  5. Between this clip and the Omaha Beach veteran on gay marriage, my faith in humanity is temporarily restored.

    And yeah, I’d have parked my truck a few hundred feet further away as well. (I’ve seen that ‘car bowling’ video.)

  6. I grew up in Missouri. My parents would always drag us kids along to mountain man festivals. If you have never been to one, think of it as a renaissance fair celebrating fur trappers instead of knights in armor. About the only enjoyment I had at these things was the anvil shoot. I have seen this done dozens of times. It is completely safe. These guys know what they are doing. Black powder is not the nitroglycerin that people seem to think it is.

  7. “I need a new hobby, but all I’ve got in the shed are a couple of anvils and some black powder.”

    – three beers later –



    I was wondering how he would keep from igniting the powder while he set down the upper anvil. Glad to see the paper. I guess this has been done a few times before …

  9. If your parents do christen you “Gay”, becoming a champion explosive anvil firer is probably the best way of cmoing back from that.

    Assuming you’re a straight guy, of course.

  10. i don’t really watch sports, but HELL YES i would watch world champion anvil launching.

    could also be included in the “Explosive Arts” competition…

    now imagine the EXTREME anvil launching or the combo of the two ‘sports’…
    to quote the Jam,
    “That’s entertainment”

  11. As a guy with a name “Gaylan” I am very happy to see that someone else actually had it worse than I did in high school. Although, he might not have been teased if he was starting to do this way back then.

  12. Reminds me of my Dad, who was Irish, and his definition of American 4th of July fireworks. “Celebrate your nation, but blowing up a small part of it.”

    I think this guy should be giving demonstrations to grade schools. I can science this anvil into the sky!

  13. I assume after the Anvil Launching Contest he’s headed down to Key West for the Hemingway Contest. Guy must be busy.

    1. Yes, but that’s the end of his summer fun before he heads north to heard the elves back to the assembly lines.

  14. what i want to know is, WHERE DO YOU GET THE ANVILS? the anvil store?

    up until this video, i haven’t seen an anvil since the road runner cartoons of my youth. i find it odd that the anvil is one thing that everyone knows what one looks like, but rarely anyone sees them these days. they used to be integral to society. my theory was that they were all melted down for war efforts long ago, but bugs bunny cartoons has kept them alive in our memory. i had no idea you could still *get* anvils. so where do you get them??

    1. I suggest you check out ABANA’s collection of links, there are probably dozens of anvil vendors in there:

      If you buy an anvil from eBay or craigslist, it probably will have a ruined face. Better to buy from a reputable dealer unless you know exactly what you are doing.

      I got my big anvil when I bought my house (it was already in the barn, and leaving it there was a condition of sale) and my ~200 pounder was given to me by my mother.

  15. Some friends of mine have been doing this for years with bowling balls…they make a great whistling sound from the holes when they come down…

  16. Why, you get them at the anvil store, of course!

    But seriously, go find a blacksmith and ask them… they can tell you. I know one here… he’s got some seriously old gear as well as modern gear, pretty cool stuff.

  17. I misread the headline as “using EXPLETIVES to fire anvils”, which is still pretty close to the truth.

  18. Black gunpowder is not an explosive. It just burns very fast and anerobicly. To get an explosion out of it you must confine it–like between two anvils. It would be interesting to see what an actual explosive would do in this case. I wonder how much of the energy would go into deforming the anvils.

  19. I ran across this over the summer while looking for videos of July 4th in Northern California:

    We apparently missed this gleefully destructive activity while we were there.

  20. Launch at 1:33, landing at 1:39. 6s in air, so it’s at its highest point and no velocity at 3s. d=1/2*at^2, a = g = 9.8 m/s^2, distance = 9.8*3*3 = 88.2 meters = 288 feet. Nice!

  21. Oh my goodness. My grandmother has told me stories about her father, a blacksmith, doing this on the 4th of July. I thought it was a thing unique to my family. This is just fabulous. (I have his anvil.

  22. This guy is a pro, and uses anvils modified for the purpose with nice, flat bottoms and a milled powder reservoir. He gets a nice vertical flight. Too often, it’s done by guys who have had a few pops at a hammer in, using the hollow in the bottom of the anvil for the powder and some clay to seal the two anvils. Almost always just ends in good fun, but I have seen an anvil foot blown off and go like a cannon ball (nobody got hurt). Be careful out there!

  23. I love that even in this day and age men and women are largely divided on stuff like this. Like Wilkinson says, women hear about using explosives to shoot anvils hundreds of feet in the air and ask “why?” Men hear about it and ask “where can I buy an anvil and some black powder?”

  24. The kinetic energy delivered to the anvil, neglecting that lost in friction during its ascent, can be easily calculated by taking rikchick’s numbers one step further. Initial kinetic energy is converted into potential energy at max height, then converted back to kinetic during the descent. Gravitational potential is given by mgh; for a 45kg anvil that reaches 88 meters, we have 39kJ. Basically, a hand grenade.

  25. Those anvils are mostly too small for me. Otherwise I might be upset (no pun intended) that they are going to waste.

  26. That looks like about 1/2 lb of black powder and a pair of Trenton #80s.
    They don’t make anvils like that for much less than $600 anymore.

  27. When I was a kid, I volunteered at an historical museum in Nebraska (the Stuhr museum in Grand Island), which had a railroad town, complete with steam engine, blacksmith, tinsmith, cooper, and various assorted other skilled professionals of the mid 1800’s. Every 4th of July, the blacksmith would cordon off a section of field for the firing of the anvil. It was one of the most awesome (in both senses of the word!) experiences of my childhood.

    Alas, I went back there a couple years ago for 4th of July, and they no longer fire the anvil, plus the steam engine has been taken offline since it was too costly to maintain.

  28. What’s irritating, is that it took forever to download. It would go a few seconds, then I’d get this bunch of dots running around in a circle, then it would go for another few seconds, and I’d get the dots again. Not exactly what I’m paying Road Runner for.

    That being said, I would recommend replacing the black powder with an ounce and a half of C-4, and setting it up on the 50 yard line of the local high school football field. Mark the fields off into a few hundred squares, sell the squares at a buck apiece, and the person who has the number of the square the anvil landed on, gets the money. If it lands a few blocks away, and comes down through someone’s roof . . . . . well . . . . .

  29. This brings back memories of the “bolt bombs” of my youth. Here’s the recipe. Ingredients: 2 bolts ca. 4 inches long and an inch wide, 1 nut for said bolts, and plenty of gunpowder from unwrapped Black Cats or similar fireworks (the tips of “white-tip” matches will do in a pinch). Thread the nut on the first bolt just enough to keep it on. Fill the interior of the nut with powder. Ever so gingerly screw the second bolt into the nut. Not too tight! Throw the rig high into the air over a concrete or other suitably hard surface. Run like hell and pray the law of averages is on your side.

  30. that was cool. idid something similar when i was a kid,only it involved a blockbuster and a upside down steel 60lb refuse can. the kind you would use for a burn barrel. it went pretty high too, easy 100ft.
    Also I watched the exploding sledgehammer link, and those guys are idiots. too many people around who could get hurt by a 10 lb head falling on them.

  31. My Dad told me that he and his brothers were out and about one day when they came across a pipe sticking out of the ground. He figured out later in life it probably belonged to some mine, but to him and my uncles, it was an opportunity not to be wasted. They proceeded to load it with gunpowder and apples. When they lit it off, he said they blew apple sauce clear into the next county!

  32. My smithing teacher told me that this sort of thing (not with the 200 foot launch) was part of his journeyman ceremony.

  33. OMG, Bolt Bombs? We did that when we were teenagers and bulletproof. It was fun when they were small 1 1/2 long x 1/4 thick. Then we decided to try foundation bolts. BIG mistake. As my buddy was screwing it together it exploded in his hands and shredded them pretty bad, though he did recover. Or ears rang for 2 days too.. We never did find the 2 bolts or the nut.

  34. umm, cant u be arrested for that? i think i see homeland security in the back ground there, you better run.

  35. Gary is carrying on a fine tradition. Just shoot ours a few times for the 4th. CatDoc in Kansas.


    Have you ever shot an anvil?
    We want to hear from you!

    1 lb of black powder
    100 pounds of steel
    1 unforgettably explosive competition

    Farmington, Missouri, Chamber of Commerce Proudly Presents:
    Country Days 2011

    June 3-4, 2011

    Doug McDermott
    President/CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce
    Call: 573-756-3615

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