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I Forge Iron

How do I finish my railroad spike knife?


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I finally got all the stuff together and made a rought railroad spike "knife." Much harder than it looks on YouTube. Or at least it's uglier than theirs. What do I do now? I took my angle grinder and got the rough stuff off. There's lots of indentations where the hammer hit. I switched from a cross pein to a smaller ball pein to try and hammer out some small areas, but it left the marks. I have a bastard file I just barely hit it with to see if it scraped it (it did :)).

But now it's just a hideous frame that looks like a knife. What do I do now to finish it off? Thanks again for all the help.

side note. I can say working with coal was interesting. Once they burned off the tar or whatever it is, they worked well. I think that's the coke. I don't know. I figure out when things got hot enough you beat on the metal, throw it back in, use the air (mine was a hair dryer), comes up to temp pretty quick, repeat. Once it got up to temp (30 minutes maybe), all I had to do was keep hitting it with the air for about 30 seconds or so, hit again. Bright coals.

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Dear Learning,

I'm assuming that you didn't try to harden (intentionally of unintentionally) your knife. That is you didn't quench it while it was at red color or higher. If you did, reheat it to about medium red and let it cool in the air. Then, your file ought to bite.

If that is not the case, you're going to have to use at least a bench grinder. Because grinding wheels are curved it is hard to get a good final finish. I'd suggest doing the best you can with the grinder and then using progressively finer files and emery paper. Before I got a belt grinder I would put a belt or orgital sander upside down in my vise. Worked OK but a little scary with the belt sander. It would be real easy to slip and sand off a part of yourself that you didn't want to lose. Wear good gloves.

RR spikes are fairly low carbon and won't harden much if you don't use something like super quench (look it up). If you want to try to harden it I suggest that you wait until you have removed all of your forging marks but still have fairly course filing/grinding marks. Heat it to a medium red heat high in the fire with a slow air flow because that will produce less scale. Then quench it in water. Use the sander or a sanding block with emery paper to get it as fine as you care to.

Good luck.

George M.

PS You can sometimes get a good effect just by removing the scale with a wire wheel and leaving the forging marks.

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A few suggestions: In the tool section i took a new cheap hammer and redid it so it would be useable for general or knife forging. Look at the way the face is redone to help with the problem you have. And keep in mind that hammer skills do not come overnight. Quality time at the anvil adds to ability to eliminate hammer marks as well as the thoughts above. If you jjoin a grouip in your area it will pay off big time. Anything you do at this point that is incorrect,,,if you do it long enough it will become real tough to change later when they have become habits. For finishing there is a lot of information in the knife sectrion under finishing. In the knife section there is information on our new series called knife chat. Look it over and join us.

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