Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Recommended Posts

Thomas,
Yes anyone can make a web site and post anything they want. Many times it is factual information and many times it is something they have heard and are repeating in order to fill out the web space. The link Bob provided gives use one piece of information we did not have and a starting point to find out more. An interested party could contact the link and ask where they got the information and then pursue that reference trail.

Contacting RR people is another way to get information, as these are the people who most likely would know these things. It is their area of interest. The RR company and the spike manufactures, are other good contacts as they set the spec, and produce materials to that spec. Testing an existing spike is good, but gives only information on the material provided. The chemical content may be at the lower end or the upper end of the spec and still meet the standards. It may have am acceptable percent of known or unknown material and still meet the specs. At this point any information is one more piece to the puzzle.

The search continues .. .. .. ..

Link to post
Share on other sites

i too have several of the "MC" spikes and have wondered about content. in the same place i used to find lots of HC spikes i now find only the MC. seems to be more recent manufacture based only on condition and apparent age of spikes i've found.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 8 years later...

Hello 

I know it's been almost ten years but MC stands for medium carbon here is a link to the manufacturers website if you scroll down past there shipping information and weight it states in two small sets of text MC = Medium Carbon and HC = High Carbon  we knew that one hope this helps 

https://www.gerdau.com/northamerica/en/products-and-services/products/rail-spike#ad-image-0

Link to post
Share on other sites

Notice that their Medium Carbon spikes are 25 points C and their High Carbon Spikes are 30 points C  where in the general world 30 points C is the boundary between mild steel and medium carbon steel. (and for people not familiar 100 points == 1% C)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 years later...

I've picked up some spikes with the MC and $ on the heads. I found the following information in "AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering, Chapter 5"

"2.1.12 MARKING (2005) Raised lettering or branding indicating the manufacturer and also the letters "MC", indicating medium carbon, shall be pressed on the head of each spike while it is being formed."

And $ being the marking for Gerdau Ameristeel as they were once known.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do they list the carbon content? Because the HC ones are at the *lower* end of the standard medium carbon range.

Aha from the same document: Carbon, % .17 - .25   So mild steel;  just medium carbon for  RR spike carbon ranges.

What is it you want to use them for?  Should be OK for anything you would use mild steel for; that range correlates to 1018 to 1020 carbon ranges. (Other alloying elements differing  from the straight steels...)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Back in the day, I have to admit that I did make a few knives that sold very well at the craft shows we went to. The best sellers were leaf blade throwing knives and letter openers. I did advise the folks that purchased them that they were made from low carbon RR Spikes and would not hold a sharp edge. They didn't seem to care. Sadly I don't have any pictures of them though.

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Irondragon ForgeClay Works said:

 I did advise the folks that purchased them that they were made from low carbon RR Spikes and would not hold a sharp edge. They didn't seem to care.

It's weird but people really don't seem to care at all. I think it's the novelty of being able to tell it was something else before it was a knife shaped object. 

Pnut

Link to post
Share on other sites

The attraction seems to be the RR origin of the knife.  Around here a lot of folk have connections with the Union Pacific, the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (formerly the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy, Great Northern, and the Santa Fe RRs), or the various Colorado mountain RRs.  Therefore they are attracted by the RR connection.

Oddly enough, many folk look at a RR spike knife and say, "Oh, railroad ties," meaning, of course, "railroad spikes."  I have no idea why this juxaposition happens in people's mind but it is not uncommon.  I usually say something like, "No, railroad spikes. Railroad ties are the wooden things that you pound the spikes into. It would be beyond my skill to forge something out of wood."

When I do make RR spike blades I quench them in super quench which doesn't make them as good/hard as higher carbon steel but does improve the hardness.  Also, most people aren't going to be using them every day and needing to resharpen on a daily basis.

I also have made mild steel blades following the shape of medieval or older blades on the theory that mild steel is no worse as blade material than the original iron was.  Yes, I know that higher quality historic blades were made by edging with higher C steel or pattern welding to improve on plain wrought iron but many mid and lower quality, every day blades appear to have been nothing more than regular iron.  That is probably why whet stones are a common archaeological find.  When you are not doing anything else, sharpen you knife.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've noticed almost everybody recognizes a RR spike, so when we forge a thing from one and leave the head to identify it everybody can see the transformation of a known item to a new item. They can handle it and feel the transformation through plastic deformation with their own hands and see it with their eyes.

If you leave a couple spikes on your table your spike items will sell better. 

I agree with your assessment of iron age blades and heck probably common folk's blades until surprisingly recently. 

My ONLY complaint about RR spike knives is when people misrepresent them as good blades. 

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Medieval blades were fairly often edged with a higher C material; in fact one of the ways they categorize them is how the HC stuff was applied, (lapped, butted, cleft, etc).  "Knives and Scabbards, Museum of London" has over 300 knives found in a medieval dumping grounds)

Iron age does get to simpler low C stuff, but swords---a high end item, they did try to get a better material on the edges, ("The Celtic Sword" Radomir Pleiner)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thomas:  It has been my experience that the metallurgical evidence of carbon content, grain structure, etc. in historic blades is pretty thin on the ground because much of the analysis is by definition destructive and archaeologists and curators are pretty reluctant to do any testing that would damage the artifact.  That said, there may be more recent analysis techniques that are minimally invasive such as ablative lasers, etc.. I have seen some blades where the corrosion pattern between a low carbon/iron core and a high carbon/steel edge is different but not much where a blade was cut and polished to reveal grain pattern or actual chemical analyses taken.

I believe that I have the Museum of London book packed away and will consult it when it comes to the surface.  The whole MoL series on medieval finds in water logged conditions, particularly the ones concerning fabric and leather, are wonderful.  They used to be fairly expensive but maybe they have come down in price or are available now in electronic format.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."  

Link to post
Share on other sites

The lack of good modern data is why I'm quick to suggest sources that do have such examples.  Perhaps I should have thrown in "The Sword and the Crucible, A History of the Metallurgy of European Swords up to the 16th Century" Dr Alan William's  companion to "The Knight and the Blast Furnace, A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period" his huge work on the metallurgy of armour.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And there is the issue of sampling bias in looking at swords and high end armor.  A top end garniture of armor probably does not accurately reflect the quality of munition grade armor and I doubt that the quality of construction of most swords equates to the belt knives the ordinary person was using daily.

There is also the problem of the cost of this kind of testing.  My understanding is that this is fairly expensive and most museums and archaeology departments don't have the financial resources if they did have motivation.  And there are probably few folk around who have a serious professional interest and the qualifications to do this sort of research.  Sigh.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."     

Link to post
Share on other sites

Which Dr Williams did: skills, resources and access; he was at the Wallace collection and did his doctorate on the metallurgy of such items.  The Knight and the Blast F Furnace is a bit over 900 8.5"x11" pages IIRC.  Radomir Pleiner was very well respected in historical Metallurgy and his work is based on modern sampling and testing as well.

It is kind of interesting to compare it with things like "The Sword in Anglo Saxon England" which is based a lot on documentary work. (I use it as an example about how to research things when you only have access to legends, sagas, extent original writings on the subject.)  She does have an appendix covering Anstee's experimental archaeology work on pattern welding. (Interesting to see how far we have come from those days; he was hypothesizing the use of rods to forge Anglo Saxon blades.  Much harder to make the starting materials and harder to get good welds without cold shuts and the patterning we see in such blades can be accomplished with rectangular stock...)

IIRC JPH did his thesis on pattern welded blades as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall thinking about round rods when I read about Anstee's work.  I was thinking that it would be wasted work to produce round rods which are going to be forged into something else.  It is easier to produce square or rectangular rods/billets.  They would also pack tighter for shipping in a cart, box, or on a pack horse.  I wonder if that is what Anstee had available and used what he had.  I don't recall any discussion of the source of his material.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

Link to post
Share on other sites

And welding of cable has shown how the  resultant patterning would be different as well. However if we can see farther today; it is because we are standing on the shoulders of giants! (John: nanos gigantum humeris insidentes)  Anstee and his cheese weight, (improvised anvil!), did foundational work in experimental archaeology. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Martha, my late wife, was fond of pointing out that the meaning of the quote, "We are dwarfs, standing on the shoulders of giants" does not necessarily mean that we are inferior to those that have gone before but that the dwarf can see further than the giant because his eyes are higher than the giant's.

I do stand in awe of some of the work that was done by historians, metallurgists, and archaeologists in the 19th and 20th century who did not have the resources that we have today.  Sometimes it took them years or a lifetime to prepare something that would take much less time today.  It is unwise to dismiss something because it is a century or more old.  They may have gone down some blind alleys or come to a wrong conclusion but they got it right a lot of the time.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...