Introduction: How to Make a Railroad Spike Knife?

Picture of How to Make a Railroad Spike Knife?

Railroad spike, a special nail widely used in the railway industry, is an important component of rail fastening system. Among the railway system, the railroad spike is usually used to fasten the rail track. Besides fastening, the railroad spike can also be made into some metal artworks such as knife, bottle opener, furniture and so on with reprocessing.

Step 1: Heating the Railroad Spike

Picture of Heating the Railroad Spike

Step 2: Forming the Handle

Picture of Forming the Handle

Step 3: Rough Shaping the Blade

Picture of Rough Shaping the Blade

Step 4: Drawing Out the Blade

Picture of Drawing Out the Blade

Step 5: Shaping the Blade Outline

Picture of  Shaping the Blade Outline

Step 6: Forming the Blade Edge

Picture of Forming the Blade Edge

Step 7: Curving the Handle

Picture of Curving the Handle


newjorik (author)2016-05-22

they call that the power of forging, it's kinda what this whole instructable is about

deus ex (author)2016-02-19

reminds me of improvised trench knives of world war 2 where soldiers would have a trench spike flattened into a double sided blade and have the rest of the bar folded into a hand guard.

rpelletier1 (author)2016-01-13

can be found at McMaster - Carr or MSC I believe

rpelletier1 (author)2016-01-13

Caseinite A product for case hardening steel. Comes in a can in granular form. just cherry the item to be hardened and stick in a couple times should do the trick. Also known as case hardening. made a cold chisel in junior high metal shop. worked well

for years. case hardening is surface only. not sure of depth but should work.

for years.

Midgaardssmeden (author)2015-11-24

Very nice letter opener.

Unfortunately, that's all it is. RR spikes are classed as low-carbon steel, which means they can't be heat treated, which again means that they can't hold an edge. But nice work.

2 weeks later, I think of a better "comeback" :-)

For over 2000 years of bladesmithing history, BRONZE was the very best knife metal available. And it worked quite well.

In terms of hardness, a good bronze is in the mild steel range.

agree and disagree, on many levels.

COMMON railroad spikes(like they use in actual railways) are as you say. Though their edge retention is better than you may expect. Even low carbon, un-hardened steel can hold a pretty good edge for a usable length of time. And in the tradition of boyscout knives everywhere, a quickly dulling knife gives you great practice in sharpening. at least that's MY theory on why they make the official pocket knives out of whatever type of steel(possibly just really hard butter) it is.

To add fuel to the fire, I know of at least one smith who got a hold of a die set for forging RR spikes and produced them in both 01 and 440 in small quantities, and then made knives from THAT. And also, at least on company in china that was making drop forged "china stainless" knives from barstock, that were then dressed and "sharpened" to LOOK like a hand forged spike knife.

leeroystake (author)ironsmiter2015-11-30

nice jobe mate. Im a suburbanite but have had some great results using a 20gal drum/concrete spiral forge out in the workshop with a blowtorch.
raw spikes need a shedload of grinding to be up to scratch though.
these would make an amazing steak knife set with some filing too!
definitely got the skills that pay the bills.

cronosamv (author)2015-12-03

Great concept, beautiful and simple blade, well done!

tecton47 (author)2015-11-26

I wish I had the equipment and skills necessary to do projects like this. It's a safe bet that my landlord would frown on me setting up a forge in my living room and the neighbors would complain about the constant banging. Blowing glass has always fascinated me too but again we have that forge problem.

Pan Zijin (author)tecton472015-11-26

Same, I don't have the space either. :/

TimA13 (author)Pan Zijin2015-11-29

Sure you could try, I've heard of people using arc welders on a Harley in a unit before, nothing is impossible.

Leathaldose (author)tecton472015-11-27

you don't need a forge for glass blowing, just a torch and some patience.

ironsmiter (author)2015-11-25

I have one I got as a Christmas present, and several I have now made.

The biggest step from "neat knife" to "Holy Awesomeness" has been the addition of 2 passes of chrome-manganese weld bead onto the blade edge, before sharpening.

Most railroad spikes are "steel" in much the same way re-bar is "steel", but not quite as bad. The addition of a hard-facing material to the blade edge takes only a few moments(mostly setting up the welding equipment) and gives an infinitely superior edge retention to the finished product. At least when used as a real tool, rather than a decoration or weapon(yes, weapons can afford softer blades. straighten and sharpen them after the fight, at your leisure, provided you win).

You COULD forge-weld a piece of blade steel into a groove before shaping the blade bevel. A once common practice in ax making. Reserving the good steel for JUST where you need it. But a welding machine, and a proper rod are faster, and easier.

In your finished product(first step) we see a nice standard twisted square handle, but in your final step, you are putting a curve into the non twisted handle. For the edification of non-smiths out there, would you add the twisting step in, and for the sake of completeness, an image of your finished curve-handle blade?

P.S. Nice hammer!

Verga (author)ironsmiter2015-11-27

You can avoid that step by purchasing High carbon steel spikes. They are available on e-bay and have HC on the end.

ironsmiter (author)Verga2015-11-28

actually, no you cannot. The hc spikes are NOT knife grade high carbon steel.

Non HC spikes are a MAXIMUM of 0.12% carbon.

HC spikes are a MAXIMUM o 0.30% carbon.

This, by definition, makes them both mild steel. Can they be case hardened? Sure. Will they ever be mistaken for a 'true' knife steel? No.

Standard knife steel is between 0.8% and 1.5% carbon. Plus, the alloying metals will be different too.

If ebay isn't your thing, McMaster-Carr still carries them. $2 per spike, in a 5 pack.

TimA13 (author)ironsmiter2015-11-29

yeah the high low carbon thing, throw the hot nail in oil, called Bluing, that will increase the carbon.

mjursic (author)ironsmiter2015-11-26

Where would I get chrome-manganese filler rod?

ironsmiter (author)mjursic2015-11-28

also called surface repair rod, or hard face rod.

Any welding supplier should have some in stock. Most welders will have a few sticks in their rod storage area. Amazon, ebay, mcmaster-carr, google shopping, farm/tractor supply stores... all should turn up results quickly.

manicmonday (author)mjursic2015-11-26

Considering that high carbon steel blanks can be procured at low cost, why not just start there?

Gordyh (author)mjursic2015-11-26

I assume he is talking about Hard Surfacing rod. Construction companies weld beads of it on the sides of equipment buckets to keep them from wearing down in rocky soils. Any good welding supplier should have it or can get it. It comes in at least 2 hardnesses grind-able and non grind-able.

treymartin82 (author)2015-11-26

Any written and/or video directions?

Lucia Sun (author)treymartin822015-11-26

You can see more on youtube, There are so many videos on it ~

JaydenLawson (author)2015-11-26

Nice! Inspired by Logan Pearce's Railroad Spike Knife?

I bought one - it's a work of art

mjursic (author)2015-11-26

This is AWESOME! I didn't know the chrome-manganese weldbead trick. Would that be TIG welding? Would any welder have that on hand, or is it a specialty material, and if so, any idea where I would get it?

ianscott8992 (author)mjursic2015-11-26

I know hard facing is done via 'stick weld'

kas227 (author)2015-11-26

Wow, brilliant Ible. Prob beyond my ability so just need to find someone to make one for me. :)

nick72126 (author)2015-11-26

A lot of narrow gage railroad spikes are low carbon, but newer spike from standard railroads have the litters "HC" on the top and are much better steel and will harden.

nick72126 (author)2015-11-26

A lot of narrow gage railroad spikes are low carbon, but newer spike from standard railroads have the litters "HC" on the top and are much better steel and will harden.

DonaldJ3 (author)2015-11-26

Great Idea, I just might try to do this,

jjdebenedictis (author)2015-11-24

Gorgeous-looking knife, even beyond the "cool" factor of it being a railroad spike! I love your design.

Ultra-Indigo (author)2015-11-24

pretty and cool!

andreinour (author)2015-11-24

Great instructable! It would look really nice as a home/garage/workshop decor item. It doesn't need to actually cut/slice anything. Thank you for showing the whole process of actually shaping it and turning something rusty into a shiny knife!

DCA (author)2015-11-24

Well I think it is very nice work! It's a talent to be able to look at a piece of steel and see a new object in it. Very well executed!

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