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To all those smiths who told me railroad spikes were useless

Forging Carver

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I finally watched the "My answer to . . . spike knife . . ." video. Shortly after starting I muted it and skipped a lot of parts. Sooooo, I missed a 2 x 4 chop or shaving parts. Was I watching the wrong video?

However there were a few points that jumped out at me. He was using more than two blades while he was showing us how they performed OR he was doing a lot of switching between the two and sharpening. When he made the little bow and arrow. he chopped the arrow shaft and that blade would hardly strip bark off a green stick and suddenly a little Camera Angle (CA) change and it was stripping bark easily for almost 1/3 of the stick then it was dull and CA change and sharp blade. Same when he cut and striped the bark of the "bow" it took him both blades and a hand stand to notch it for the string. Notice when he cut the string it wasn't a clean cut, a little better than a can lid shred.

Anyway, I saw a lot of work for mediocre at best edges. Worse I saw what I'd call "special" effects to prove his point that a spike will make a "good" knife. If you have to spend more time sharpening or changing blades out to do a 5 minute job they aren't good blades. PERIOD. My Old Timer, Cattlemans would've made the bow and arrow shaft without needing ONE dressing but it's a real knife.

I also didn't see him forge a flint striker from a spike and will admit I may have missed it but I watched ALL the forging I mostly skipped the talking.

The one test I will call outright dishonest is his "proof" a HC marked spike is high carbon by snapping it in the vise. You can make mild steel brittle by leaving it at high temperature to long and it will have the same grain growth as the spike he snapped in the vise.

That test was outright dishonest and a perfect example of "Confirmation Bias" that Lou brought up. The gentleman has a belief to express and tailored his tests to bear them out, then exaggerate them. His little bit of gum flapping about spikes not being the "best" blade steel is just butt covering so when called out on his BULL he can SAY he qualified his examples so he isn't really a liar.

You can make a blade out of anything. After I discovered the old piece of plywood I was slapping when cleaning my resin brushes had become hard as stone. Cleaning polyester resin with acetone then slapping it off on an old piece of plywood. The acetone made a vehicle that carried the resin all the way through 1/2" plywood and when it evaporated the resin set.

My buddies and I were repairing our surf boards and making skim boards. This trick let us fiberglass plywood so it wouldn't delaminate without destroying the plywood, our skim boards lasted forever instead of a month or two. Anyhow we were talking about all the things we could do with our superwood recipe and I joked about a balsa wood knife. So we made one, the polyester resin wasn't very hard and you had to wet sand the blade or it just gummed things up. I had a can of epoxy resin and xylene at work so I stabilized a piece of balsa and that blade would shave, slice paper and whittle soft wood.

Thinking about it just now I'll bet this would work on paper, pattern laminated poster board knives! I'd better start a video blog, I'll be rich and famous WOO HOO!

So yeah you can make a sharp "blade" from most anything if you work at it enough. And at one point the guy hit why RR spikes ARE a good stock source one I've made many times. Everybody recognizes a RR spike and can see the transition from familiar to something new and different without any expertise in forging. It makes spikes a marketable product, stock source.

However if hearing that the blade shaped objects will NOT perform crushes your delicate feelings then perhaps that person needs a new hobby blacksmithing isn't going to salve the feelings of a delicate flower, if you fail you learn adapt or become a failure yourself. Unless of course you're out to con folk into believing a lie.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I liked the video!!!!

I love this site...I have learned so much on here...Including you better be thick skinned cause the gum bangers (self indulgers) on here will let you know everything about everything, wether you want to hear it or not....Bunch of dang ole curmudgeons for sure! Lol

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  • 3 years later...

To all the guys saying a rail road spike is mild steel you might want to research what they are made of. They are typically made of Q235 high carbon steel. Is it the best or easiest steel to work no, but it's certainly not mild steel.

Mod note: actually Q235 is mild steel having a maximum of only 17 pts carbon

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If you had read the thread you might have noticed this:

(and HC on the spike DOES NOT MEAN HIGH CARBON STEEL; it means it is a spike at the upper limit of carbon for a spike which is just about the boundary for low carbon/medium carbon steel. )

Perhaps you should have taken your own advice.  Q235 steel has a MAXIMUM  of 17 points of carbon.  That is solidly in the mild steel range.

RR spikes are actually quite easy to work compared to true high carbon steel.

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3 hours ago, I8flyod said:

To all the guys saying a rail road spike is mild steel you might want to research what they are made of. They are typically made of Q235 high carbon steel.

You may want to take a look at the AREMA website. It's the official right of way engineering maintenance association and it has the up to date specifications for all materials used on a freight/passenger train right of way. The rail fasteners designated with HC on the head means it has a maximum of twenty five points of carbon  iirc. When I worked in a hump yard I didn't have any reason to pay attention to what fasteners are made of or what they really need the steel to do until I started blacksmithing. Why would a freight company want to use true high carbon steel as an anchor? The trait that right of way engineers want in a fastener is toughness not hardness. Tough fasteners bend before failure while hard fasteners fracture without much bending. The last thing you'd want is the outside rail in a curve having multiple fractured anchors.    Here is a post with the AREMA standards. https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/63932-new-standards-for-railroad-spikes/.  

Rail anchors work just like mild steel at my forge, meaning they move easily. Not at all like high carbon or even med. carbon. 





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8 hours ago, I8flyod said:

To all the guys

Welcome aboard... I suggest reading this to get the best out of the forum  READ THIS FIRST -   It is full of tips like editing your profile to show your location and others some of which may help in staying under the moderators radar.:)

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