hans138

RR spikes, are they the red headed step child of metal stock?

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so prob the most abundant and easily obtained "stock" in the smithing world are RR spikes. they are good practice to make knifes and you can make some sharp looking ones if you put somethought and execution into it, but they dont hold an edge well. also tomahawks but same prob with its edge hold quality's. but what i like to do is use them to practice stuff like splitting, scarfing and forge welding, drawing out in various cross sections. even basket twists. 

i taught a few class's out of my garage and the humble spike was used as free fodder for the flame. i like it cause i lived right by the tracks. and not only the spike but there are all kinds of big bolts, large plates (what the spikes are hammered into) clips (holds the tracks in place via the plates) and various parts that fell off the trains. 

now one project i started but never finished was a giant hand ad arm made from whole spikes minus the head(although i used some of the discarded heads as knuckles on the fingers really looked better than i had hoped). the sketch looked promising (which to me says a lot cause i cant draw to save my life) and had a nice robotic, boxy look to it. i was only about 39% done and man was it heavy. prob close to 60 lbs. ( 27 Kilos or so) but i lost interest before i finished, and now i am interested again i no longer have it. my problem when it comes to projects is i come down on my self cause the project does not seem good enough for me to attach my name to it, but in reality its perfectly fine, maybe even actually cool to cool as xxxx according to friends. (you beginners out there head this advise, do not be like me... no matter how tempted you are. i tend to not finish pieces out of self consciousness and it hurts my progress. SEE YOUR WORKS THROUGH FROM CONCEPTION ALL THE WAY TO IT BEING BIRTHED INTO THIS HARSH BEAUTIFUL WORLD. your advancement and growth as an artisan will benefit greatly. 

but seeing as spring will be here sooner or later its time for the farmers market, and i am brain storming now all the diff RRS items i could make. and seeing as up cycling is so popular no i def want to keep the silhouette of the spike intact so customers can see what it started life as. one thing i want to stay away from in over done stuff like bottle openers. i am gonna do a few oyster shuckers to send to my chef pals out on the pacific coast but those wont do well here as i am in the midwest. Gonna do a few cork screws and maybe some candle holders where i flatten out the head so ittl sit steady on a table then dish out the spike part to make kind of a curved well for the candle to sit in. ad a mirror finish to the dish so it reflects light nicely but i bet its gonna need a looooot of tweaking to be an item that will catch folks eyey. 

also gonna do some door knockers and stricking plates, now i think those would look great on a nice big wooden door, or decorating some ones man cave. 

also latches for live stock gates and barn doors id done right could be darn cool, well have to see if my vision excedes my talent, which it usually does but thats good because it forces me to try harder and make the dream a reality.

what about you guys what are some of your ideas i can steal...errr i mean admire. i guess really nothing is origanal in the smithing world. think how long its been a profession 9 (i call it the second oldest profession) and how many people have chosen it or been chosen my it, now add up all the diff projects folks have done and you can see why i belive there really is not much if anything a person could do that hasnt in some capacity been done before. sounds bleak and depressing huh... i should just give up now. 

man i depress my self... 

any who what are some out of the box ideas yall have done or have thought of doing. 

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America has lots of track, and every time somebody replaces 1 mile of track, 10,000 spikes are scrapped along with two miles of rail.

Somebody is legally recycling all that metal. Find out who does in your area.

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Note that much of the world does not use railroad spikes as they use concrete sleepers and so your first line is erroneous---thus throwing the rest of your comments into question.  Suggest you learn more about the smithing world before you make such broad statements.

I would think that automobile springs would be much more common all over the world and actually make good knives! Practicing on materials that actually can show the effects of decarburization and problems with temperature control is my suggestion. Though students do have to pay more attention working such materials.

May I also suggest not admitting to any possible felonies on a public forum?  You can buy spikes new by the barrel and some smiths will resell smaller quantities. They are also easily found at my local scrapyard; but asking for a receipt  does not endear you to the scrapyard owner...I went to the scrapyard Saturday morning and picked up one coil spring that will make 24 starter pieces for knives, also over a foot of 7/8" stock from a large coil spring and a pandrol eclip as it's the first one I've seen out this way! Finally over 20' of 1/2" square spring sock in an odd spring found in the pile.   All for US 20 cents a pound.  I'm cheap but find buying stuff sometimes to be way cheaper!

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Pandrol clips make great chisels and punches, once you straighten them out.

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I think the railroad spike can make a lot of things, but good knives would not be one of them.  There's so much spring steel out there why risk getting arrested for a few railroad spikes.  It's like breaking into the bank to steal rolls of pennies instead of dollar bills.  Look around for a spring shop and humbly go in there and tell them what you do and then ask really nicely if you can look through their scrap bin offering to pay them scrap prices.  That's what I did, and he said I could take what I wanted.  So I resisted the urge to be greedy and took a nice leaf spring set and thanked him.  He said to come back and show him what I was doing.  I did go back, but the owner wasn't there so I plan on going back to show him what I'm up to and give him something.  Now I just stop in and the guy tells me if there's anything good in there.  If there isn't and I have time / they aren't busy I'll chat with them a bit.  Doing this I learned that all the newer u bolts they are getting are case hardened and not worth picking - good knowledge to have.  The last time I was there I resisted the urge pick some new leaf spring drops because the guy was busy and I don't want to tie him up so that every time I stop buy he says to his hired help "Oh great, here comes that blacksmith guy and I don't have time to mess with him today."  I try to cultivate those good free sources rather than risk a good reputation by lurking on the railroad tracks.  Make your scavenging time count.  You get a good scrap yard or a good spring shop and you can spend 15 minutes there and come away with good stuff vs. walking miles of track lugging around what you find in a bucket or backpack.  Just MHO.

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I've had a student that got hassled by the Railroad Police.  They have some very unpleasant powers dating way back and with the modern fear of terrorism they haven't been truncated any!

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On 2/6/2018 at 2:05 PM, JHCC said:

Pandrol clips make great chisels and punches, once you straighten them out.

Sorry to ressurect an old thread.

Any tips for straightening out Pandrol clips? Do they need to be softened first?

A friend of mine works on the railway and can get me scrap clips easily. I haven't even tried straightening one yet though.

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Pandrol clips are pretty tough and not thin, so it takes some oomph to get them straight. I've straightened them over the anvil, which is a pain, but the best method I've found so far is to heat them up, clamp one end in a vise, slip a heavy pipe over the other end, and use the pipe as leverage to bend it straight without hammering. See what works best for you and your gear.

If you don't have a vise and have to hammer them straight, make sure you have a good pair of tongs that's properly sized. It takes a fair amount of pounding to get a Pandrol straight, and you do not want it bouncing around or even flying through the air because you couldn't hold it solidly.

Annealing beforehand is unnecessary; heating to working temperature in the forge will make previous heat treatment inconsequential.

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I live in a rail road town.  the local market that sells some of my stuff can't get enough of rail spike items.  I don't make knives.  so far steak turners, grill fork, twisted crosses and bottle openers.   the important feature seems to be that you leave the spike head relatively intact as a tell of what the parent stock was.   I've got ideas for coat hooks,, and back scratchers on the board.  a steak turner costs me an investment of about an hour and a half.  Bottle openers are quicker.  

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I doubt the photos are still around but many smithing groups have had "what can you make from a RR spike" meetings where everyone displays what they came up with---hundreds of ideas.

On straightening Pandrol-clips; I think the important thing here is that it's done at forging temperatures; not cold!  Also beware of contact quenching (put it back in the fire while it still glows, don't set it on a cold metal surface to cool or leave it in a cold vice, etc.)

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I had to google pandrol clips - never seen one of those. Our steel sleepers have a different fixing.

Here are a few ideas for rail spikes. These are mild steel spikes - not the older wrought iron ones which are much harder to forge.

rail spikes.JPG

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Ausfire,  nice collection!  Especially like the little backscratcher hand on the left!  I've made mostly hook style bottle openers, along with a few churchkey style openers.  I haven't done the long drawn out items like the fork and poker.  Another time......;)

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On 5/25/2018 at 4:43 PM, ThomasPowers said:

On straightening Pandrol-clips; I think the important thing here is that it's done at forging temperatures; not cold!  Also beware of contact quenching (put it back in the fire while it still glows, don't set it on a cold metal surface to cool or leave it in a cold vice, etc.)

(Here's a heap of idiot newbie questions sorry.... ) Whats the problem with contact quenching? Isn't quenhcing kind of "reversible", once the metal is glowing hot again its soft? If I were to take a piece of hot metal, quench it, then return it to red hot, is it just as workable as before?

On 5/25/2018 at 3:34 PM, JHCC said:

Pandrol clips are pretty tough and not thin, so it takes some oomph to get them straight. I've straightened them over the anvil, which is a pain, but the best method I've found so far is to heat them up, clamp one end in a vise, slip a heavy pipe over the other end, and use the pipe as leverage to bend it straight without hammering. See what works best for you and your gear.

If you don't have a vise and have to hammer them straight, make sure you have a good pair of tongs that's properly sized. It takes a fair amount of pounding to get a Pandrol straight, and you do not want it bouncing around or even flying through the air because you couldn't hold it solidly.

Great tips, especially the "pipe and vice" trick. Thankyou! I'm going to end up an expert in straightening these things as its probably my easiest source of free, good quality steel (legally!!!!).... thats assuming I don't lose any limbs or eyes in the process.

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38 minutes ago, Jon Kerr said:

Whats the problem with contact quenching? Isn't quenhcing kind of "reversible", once the metal is glowing hot again its soft? If I were to take a piece of hot metal, quench it, then return it to red hot, is it just as workable as before?

If the metal has enough carbon to harden, any quenching can create stresses. Stresses lead to stress cracks. Stress cracks lead to failure. Mmmm, yes. The path to the Dark Side, unnecessary quenching is.

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Understood, thanks. :D Can we have all our metallurgy lessons in Star Wars references? I'll understand it better! :D

 

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Confused you are?   Read the pinned HT sticky's you should, Better understand you will,

Steal RR parts  do not

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Without strong moderation IFI would make Mos Eisley look like a cub scout day camp!

As mentioned: if your piece cracks or even  shatters due to contact quenching it's hard to put it back in the fire and recover. (not impossible; but hard). This is more often seen with knifeblades and cold postvises.  So much so I have been known to demo it to students.

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Got it. Quenching = somewhat reversible. Cracks and shatters due to excessive quenching= significantly less reversible.

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This is one of the reasons why we consider bladesmithing a more advanced skill---tons of "gotchas"---like; in thin section, some steels will harden  with a slower quenchant---eg: some oil hardening alloys are bad about hardening just in air providing an unpleasant surprise.

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there are 3 major things that can effect hardening, alloy content, hardenability and dimensions, which is why we have a separate section for heat treating blades

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I remember one of the big names in bladesmithing who had one of the standard industry books on heat treating various alloys of steel and had an enormous number of sheets of paper stuck in it dealing with heat treat of knife sized sections rather than the standard 1" x 1" x 1" cubes.

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So, as a railroader i have to say dont pick up anything around tracks because it is actually a felony but there aren't many railroad cops and just dont try to sell any of it as scrap ever. Also, there are a few points for consideration there. Yes, the scrap from refurbished is processed but you wont be able to buy it until its processed into stock so you wont save any there. Those big flat plates are called tie plates and they are tempered and the used ones make awesome striking anvils for lots of heavy work. If you happen to "acquire" some spikes and stuff its a great idea to show it off after you've moved the metal into a different shape but not before. Used rail is waaaay better for small anvils than new rail because of work hardening. Last but not least a lot of railroaders love seeing stuff made from spikes.

Hope this helps in some fashion!

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