Railroad Spike Bottle Opener





Introduction: Railroad Spike Bottle Opener

About: I am a hard working individual. I am into electronics and mechanics mainly but can get into anything if it has to do with making our lives easier or more enjoyable.

My friend gave me an awesome LP record for my birthday (I don't actually own any other records so this was very cool) so I decided to make something for his birthday. The idea I settled on was not an original idea, in fact, it was inspired from this Instructable. I've always wanted to make one and I thought this would be another good excuse to practice a bit of woodworking and the finishing involved.

Just as a heads up, there is a link to a short video in the final step on the display idea and how it works.

Step 1: Prep Work

The railroad spike that I found was pretty heavily rusted and pitted but with some persistence and an angle grinder, I was able to get back to a somewhat steel surface in short order.

Step 2: Layout and Drill

As per the Instructable I linked to in the intro, I drilled a 5/16" hole in the correct location.

It is probably worth the mention that the spike that I found was 5.5" which was about 1/2" shorter than the spike that the other Instructable was working on. In this respect, I changed the location of the center point about an 1/8" closer to the end. I still went with 3/16" from the side. I just felt like it looked better closer to the end of the spike, so I went with it.

I clamped it up on a piece of scrap wood and carefully drilled the hole.

Step 3: Finish the Opener

The other Instructable referred to drawing a 20 degree line. I don't know how they came up with the 20 degree angle, but I assure you it is about right. Basically, you just want set your angle gauge at 20 degrees and ride the edge of the spike until you line up with the edge of the hole on either side and make a mark at those two occasions. I've been into red sharpies lately but you could use whatever you like.

At this point, its a matter of removing the material within the layout lines cutting as squarely and with respect to the 20 degree angle as much as possible with whatever tool you feel most comfortable using. I chose my angle grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel and took my time. Actual time elapsed for the cut was about 10 seconds. Once the initial cut was made and the piece was removed, I squared the opening and smoothed out the cut with a bastard file.

The rest of the spike was still a bit too pitted for the look I was going for, so I went after it with a 60 grit flapper wheel and while I was at it, I took the sharp point off the end. The removal of the sharp point was not for safety reasons, it just looked better in my opinion.

The final picture shows a functional bottle opener with good amount of brutal that anyone would appreciate as a gift. You could stop here give it a clear coat and call it a day but I decided to take the project a step further and add a display/holder.

Step 4: Finding Your Parameters

I had the idea for a holder, I just didn't know what any of the measurements needed to be. So this step became what I like to call finding your parameters.

I knew I wanted to sink the spike into a block to create the "illusion" of it sort of driven in there but also to hide the fact that it was a bottle opener. I wanted someone new to come upon this item and be like "what the...?" Then shortly after they remove the spike from the holder be like,"ohhh...yep...(pause) .... brutal" That was the reaction I wanted to create because that's what I thought when I first came upon the other Instructable.

I had a chunk of hardwood in mind that came from the base of a washer machine packaging that I jointed awhile ago thinking that I could use it for a different project. At that time, I decided I couldn't use it for the project due to the lack of material.

Doing some measuring the idea started to form more fully, and thereby, I found my parameters. The spike was about a 5/8" square after all the grinding I had done. I wanted to sink the spike about 1/2 of the way into the holder. The board was about 3.125" wide and 3/4" thick but varying down to about 1/2" thick after the jointing. To make my life easier, I just set my rip fence on the table saw and re sawed the board to an even 1/2" thickness.

I could then cut about 3.125" length pieces on my sled using a stop block. These pieces would form a square block that I could trim down after the glue up to make perfectly flush with each other. The spike is about 5.5" long, so I cut 5 pieces that add up to 2.5".

Step 5: Drilling the Holes

Once the pieces were cut, I found center of all 5 pieces by drawing diagonals across the corners. Being that the spike was about a 5/8" square, I chose to drill 4 of the pieces with an 11/16" forstener bit. I went with 11/16" just because a 5/8" hole seemed a little snug and I wanted the spike to slip easily back in place. You wouldn't need to use the forstener bit but I like the way they drill wood, so I use them. I used a scrap piece underneath my clamp setup to prevent tear out when the drill was exiting the work piece.

Step 6: Chisel the Holes Square

I made layout lines by squaring off the edges of the holes with my combo square. I then began the arduous task of chiseling out the corners. I must say this was part of the reason I wanted to do this was for the chisel practice and it is way easier using chisels on hardwood rather than softwood. It does require patience and attention to detail.

I eventually got there with the four pieces. I'm pretty sure actual time elapsed just for that part was about 2.5 hrs. By the end of it though, I finally kind of caught on to how the chisels wanted to work. They aren't perfect square holes but, they will do for the glue up stage.

I picked an order of how I wanted the top 4 pieces to glue up at this point as well.

Step 7: Make the Tool "rest"

I tried the spike in the stack before the glue up and it seemed like it wanted to slip around a bit. I decided to remedy that with a bit more chisel work. I made a beveled hole in the bottom piece that will accept the point of the spike and that seemed to end all of the slipping problems. Now the spike sets in there pretty good and centered the first time.

Step 8: Glue Up and Square Edges

I proceeded to take the pieces and glue them up in a set of parallel clamps and let them dry overnight.

When I came back the next day, the glue up was a success and so I began squaring the edges. This was on the table saw and I wish I had done it a bit different but the result was still good. I just took really small cuts and worked all the sides down to 3".

I was then thinking about using another wood to add a mitered perimeter to the top edge of the piece. I think it could've worked out pretty cool but I finally decided that maybe sometimes less is more and I like clean and simple designs more often that not. I may keep fiddling with the idea in the future but at the time I felt like I needed to knock it out.

After squaring all the sides, I also fine tuned the square hole with a chisel just to make sure the spike fit okay and there weren't any steps protruding to catch on.

Step 9: Finalization and Finishing

The spike was missing something and I finally realized what it was; a personalized detail. I stamped my friends initials in the spike with some letter punches. I could've done an engraving in the block of wood or made a brass badge to affix to the block, but the way I see it, if the two ever get separated, you'll always know who the bottle opener belongs to. After that I sprayed it with 3 light coats of clear coat paint.

The block took a lot longer to finish. First I worked my way up through the grits starting at 50 on the bench belt sander. Then 80, 100, 150, and finally 220 by hand with a block. I could've rounded the corners but I like the crisp edges. I think it matches the square hole made for the spike and the spike itself. Lots of sharp corners and brutalness.

After the sanding was done I applied 3 coats of polyurethane mainly for durability and, because its really the only finish I'm comfortable with at this point. I know how it will react and what I can expect out of it. The last three pictures in this step show each coat all with 24 hrs in between. All of the coats had a light 220 sand in between as well.

Step 10: Wet Sanding and Done!

On my first ever polyurethane endeavor, the end grain glasses case, I had great results with wet sanding the final coat with 600 and then 1000.

I had a few imperfections in the final coat after it all flowed out smooth and I just don't dig the gloss as much as I do the satin-ish look. So, that's what I did. First I went over with 600 and a block. Then I went over with 1000 and a block. On the glasses case I used a polishing compound to buff the dullness out, but this time I just went straight to a coat of paste wax applied with fine steel wool. I really like the way this looks and feels finish wise. It has good depth but isn't obnoxiously glossy and feels really smooth to the touch. I could just be stuck in a rut though. I need to try different finishes.

The pictures in this step are the finished product. Sorry I don't have any pictures of the different wet sanding stages, my hands were wet and I spaced taking a picture.

If you're curious on how it works, I talked my friend into shooting a short video that I could edit to demonstrate how it works and the display idea. Thanks for checking this out!

2 People Made This Project!


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Looks like one of the best ways to open a home brew, might even put a spike head on the keg tap!

1 reply

Haha that could pretty cool...although...I mean...you have you're own keg tap so...I don't know, does it gets any cooler? Just messin.

If you do decide to do that, I'd like to see it. I think maybe you have your own Instructable to write up if that happens:D

Thanks for the comment and checking it out!

Good night! that shine on that spike is impressive. Great job, man.

4 replies

Haha I've never heard the expression good night used in that way. You're awesome:D Thanks for checking it out!

Usually I say, "Good night, Irene!" in reference to the old song, but that might be a bit much. But seriously, how the heck did you get such a nice shine on spike? I have some old ones in my garage and i can't get them that bright. Pray tell.

It took awhile, but basically I use a standard grinding disc on an angle grinder and go after the rust and pits until its mostly steel. What I mean by that is there is actually sparks coming off most of the surface. Then after I did the opener part of it, I could use a 60 grit flapper wheel on the angle grinder. I used to use the cheap ones but then it seemed like they would get played out fairly quickly so I switched to a high quality one (more expensive) and it really does make a difference. But you want to get that first grinding down to where there is hardly any rust left because the deep rust tends to clog the flapper wheels quickly and they become useless until you clean them out on a scrap piece. Literally all I did after the flapper wheel was wipe it down with a surface cleaner and spray 3 light coats of clear coat paint following the directions on dry time between coats. That probably does more to bring the flapper surface the depth and shine you're talking about. That was it! I let the paint cure for a couple days and done. I hope that helps!

Hey, I can do that! Thanks for the tips.

Although most beer bottles are twist-off now, since I have a couple of dozen old railroad spikes, I might make a couple of these. Nice Job

4 replies

@3wheels Thankfully lots of hard cider bottles still use the conventional bottle caps. An excuse to try some of them?? ;-)

... And I love hard cider

Also! I got so lost in thought on different products with different caps I forgot to mention that if you do end up making one or a few, I'd love to see your version!

I have to agree with you that the majority of beer caps are now twist off even though my quick internet search didn't yield any concrete evidence to support either side. This topic would be a good trivia fact to know. For the sake of discussion and as my opinion, I think that the relevancy of this pry off style opener for someone would correlate directly to their consumer preference on the flavor(s) purchased intended to savor and the majority cap style that said purchased containers have, rather than what is available as majority on the market. This would include alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic beverages in bottles. Having said all that, I personally enjoy the thrill of mistakenly prying off twist style caps. Each time it happens I exclaim,"you can't tell me how to live cap!" :D

Very cool. Just a thought from bottle openers I've used / made. You have made a classic "lift up" opener. If you turn the slot that you cut at the front of the spike around, then the opener is a "push down" type opener which can be much easier to use. Especially when the bottle is on a table / bar, you just hook the opener on the cap and push the lever down.

Neither is right or wrong, just a different way of doing it.

1 reply

Hey thanks! I understand the type of opener you're describing. As I referenced in the intro, the actual opener wasn't my idea and the other Instructable that inspired me was awesome. I had the working opener in short order. Maybe a second version should happen?? I have another idea for a different looking display base...

Thank you! Thanks for checking it out!

This is an awesome idea and it looks fantastic too! Great job and thanks for sharing

1 reply

Thank you! I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out:)