Introduction: Railroad Rail Lantern / Sign Stand Split With Axe.
My wife asked me to make a stand for a lantern / house number, to mark our driveway.
I thought that if its going to be a marker, then its better be something that takes the attention.
"Railroad rail split with an axe" ,isn't very common object. So, it shouldn't be easy to miss or mix with others.
At the winter time, stand is used for hanging a lantern. At the summer time lantern will be replaced with a sign with our house number.
Because its impossible to split a railroad with an axe.
First reaction when one sees it is: " what? ". That makes people to take a closer look to it.
Axe sticking from a log would have been more natural choice. Too natural, i think.
None would have been paid much attention to it.
That would have been "Just another forgotten axe sticking from a log".
This video shows the building process of the stand:
All cuts are made with an angle grinder, and welds done with a stick welder.
Used track is grade 54kg/m, overall height of the railroad part of the stand is 750mm ( 0.75 meters )
Step 1: Splitting the Track
Because it would be somewhat impossible to split and bend 750mm long piece of track, with the tools that i had in use.
I decided to do splitting and bending separately, and then weld parts back together.
Split section of the track is 270mm long.
For splitting i used 230mm angle grinder with 2mm cubitron 2 cut off wheels.
"Officially" max cutting depth with 230mm angle grinder that i used is 65mm. But on the right position, it reaches nearly 85mm deep.
I measured and marked the centerline around the track, and then made cuts around it following marked line.
After 30min and one and a half ( i used one wheel and about 10mm / 1/2" section from four wheels to reach deep enough ) wheels later, track was split in two pieces.( Those half used wheels wasn't waisted, i used them to make this small anvil. )
This video shows the splitting task in actual time:
Splitting video is really boring to watch, but you can notice that making that kind of cuts ain't time taking,or hard work at all. When using suitable tools and abrasives with a little experience you can get very accurate results too.
When making this kind of deep cuts with angle grinder.
Its important to keep the bottom of the cut groove warm from wide area as possible. Then groove stays in "expanded" stage.
When sides of the groove cools down, those start to shrink. That makes groove to shrink narrower than is the used cut off wheel. That makes cut off wheel to wear from the sides.
Finally, if groove gets too tight wheel bounces, jump, or stuck.
So, don't battle against the wheel. When you feel that cut off wheel starts get stuck, carefully lift it little upper and gently, after a while, push back down.
Let the wheel do the job, don't push it against the workpiece, that only makes wheels wear out faster.
With "sawing" movement, bottom of the groove stays equally heated and equally expanded. ( watch a minute or two from the video above to see the idea. )
Best alternative for splitting a track in this way would be a bandsaw ( it needs to be somewhat big thought ).
Plasma-, water,- or flame cutting wouldn't be possible, because of cutting depth.
Step 2: Bending the Split Sides.
Splitting the track wasn't enough to reach the impression that i wanted.
Parts needed to be bend to get them more separated and to get wider gap between them.
Because, even the half of the tracks we're somewhat thick, bending pieces with my 8 ton press wasn't possible.
I decided to use heat instead.
I heated the outer sides of the track, to shrink them.
Because metals expand during heating, i clamped pieces to vise, to minimize expanding.
That way, when steel starts to shrink when cooling down. It shrinks more when it doesn't need to "take back" that expanded distance.
On the video, and pictures too. It looks that i heated the whole area similarly, but that's not true.
Camera that i used seems to show all heated areas with the same colour.
Truth is that i heated the whole area to little reddish, and then several spline shaped sections to "white hot". Leaving short gaps between white hot areas.
These white hot sections works as a hinge. Actual bending happens in that area.
While track sections we're cooling down, i tightened the vise, keeping it really tight until track sections we're cooled down to room temperature.
Step 3: Plating Internal Sides of the Track With Stainless Steel.
I wanted to get, and also keep. "Freshly made cut" look to the split section.
Therefore i decided to plate internal sides with 1.5mm thick stainless 316 steel sheets.
Sheets are cut to same size with track halfs.
Then clamped firmly against the track pieces, and tack welded tightly around.
Tack welds are grind down to surface level before welding.
Welding result is neater ( better ) when surface is in same level.
Pieces are weld together using stick welder and Elga chromarod 309mol rods.
Because track is much thicker than 1.5mm sheet, i used 2.5mm rods and 90A amperage.
These rods are little too big for to be used when welding together 1.5mm sheets.
But when welding together thick and thin materials, you need to use high enough current to get thicker material melt too. Otherwise parts doesn't join together.
To prevent thinner material to melt too much.
Point the rod more against thicker part, and just guide it so that the edge of the melt area reaches and fills the gap.
Adjust traveling speed and arc length to adjust the width and height of the pass.
Guide the flow with a tilting of the rod. And you get solid weld with a good enough penetration.
In the area where temperature drops below zero during winter time. Its important that there is no holes or pores in welds.
Welds needs to be airtight. Otherwise water gets between the welds, and when it freezes during winter, it expands and separates plates. Even the smallest holes are too much, because water is sucked between plates capillary.
After welding, i grinded welds to surface level using angle grinder equipped with flap wheel.
Step 4: Polishing the Interior
To get nice and shiny surface to stainless interior.
I sanded them with angle grinder equipped with a sanding pad.
Because there was some deep scratches on the plates, i started sanding with 60 grit paper.
Sanded with it until all scratches we're removed, and then continued with 80 grit paper.
(Because stainless 316 is much harder than more traditional stainless 204, its better to use smaller steps when changing to finer grade paper.)
When i had removed all scratches that i had made, when sanding with that 60 grit paper, i changed to 120 grit.. and continued sanding until i had removed all scratches made with 80 grit paper... and so on.
Until i finished sanding with 240 grit paper.
Then i continued with a Fine scotch brite finishing wheels. Starting with the red one, then continued with the blue.
Final sanding was done with 1000 grit wet sanding pad using random orbital sander.
Random orbital sander removes all directional sanding scratches, so there is no visible marks that could reflect from the surface.
Finally i finished the surfaces by polishing them with polishing paste. This gives little deeper and darker shine, but doesn't actually remove any material.
Step 5: Connecting the Parts.
Now it was time to connect track sections together.
Third piece, where bend sections we're welded, is just a piece of track without any changes.
I beveled all weld edges. Using angle grinder with a flap wheel.
Then i cleaned pieces from paint and rust using stripping and finishing wheel.
( its faster and safer than wire wheels )
Then i clamped parts together, and tack weld them from every side.
Used rod is:Esab ok 48 rods in size 2.5mm and 3.25mm 80A - 104A
Welds are made by starting from the outer edges. Because, usually splatters fly to the direction where welding is started. ( if rod is tilted to traveling direction )
This way i could keep polished surfaces free from splatters, without need to cover them.
Step 6: Smoothening the Welds.
Because my idea was to get a look that track is split as a one solid piece.
I grind the welds down. For grinding i used 70mm 3M roloc pad and 750w Metabo angle grinder.
Usually i don't remove guard from the grinder. But, because roloc pad was so high that grinder guard didn't provide any extra security, i removed it. This also gives little better view to the work. ( Roloc pads are somewhat light weighted, detached pad doesn't do much harm if it hits. If you are wearing prober safety gearing. )
Then i "plurred" grinded area with tungsten carbide cutterand die grinder.
To get surface look ungrinded. Tungesten carbide cutter makes rough, scratched surface. Somewhat similar than surface originally was.
To the end that is against the ground. I weld two 20mm thick, 300mm ( 1 foot ) long rods.
These rods are pushed to the ground, to keep stand straight.
Because it takes too long to get nice rusty surface to the track, i painted it to look rusty.
There is some rust effect paints, but i liked that it looks better if i use my own " mixture ".
I painted several layers with gray, white, red and brown, and mixed them by brushing with wire brush.
This gives nice spotty result.
When paint slowly wears out, it starts to rust, and after couple years i have the result where outer sides are nicely rusted, while interior keeps it shiny " freshly cut " look.
Step 7: Making the Axe
Step 8: Axe Head Continued.
Shape of the axe is " bearded", with a straight top section.
I cut a spline shaped part to cover the opening on the top, and tack weld it on its location.
Then i shaped the bearded side of the axe with an angle grinder. Radius is copied from suitable sized angle grinder cut off wheel.
Then i bend a piece of steel against suitable sized pipe.
When plate fitted nicely to its place, i traced cutting lines to it from the curve of the axe.
Then i cut it to its shape.
When tack welding parts, i hammered them firmly together after every tack.
This keeps the shape of the edges straight. If there is gaps, edge looks wavy after welding.
Finally i weld parts together using Esab ok 63.30 welding rods. 2mm and 75A
Step 9: Finishing the Axe Blade..
Finishing the axe blade is made with the same way than polishing the interior of the split track.
When finishing shape that's round, using smaller diameter pad gives smoother result. ( leaves narrow stripes)
Sand surface following the shape of the groove, placing the " grinding stripes " next to another.
Finally when you finish it with a soft scotch brite pad, that removes all remaining "stripes". And you get smooth result easily.
Step 10: Handle
Handle is made from an oak.
I cut it shape with a table saw and jig saw.
Shape of the handle is traditional for Finnish two hand splitting axe.
I made the rough rounding with a knife, then i finished it with my diy linisher / belt sander attachment.
To get handle to last better outsides i sunk it to wood preservative to overnight.
Because preservative changed the colour of the oak too yellowish. I used colour wax to give back its natural colour.
Handle is secured to the axe with spline.
Step 11: Mounting the Axe..
Axe is connected to the stand with welds.
There is about 1/2" long welds on both sides of the blade, that gives strong enough connection.
I used alumine tape and some fabric to protect the polished surfaces from splatters.
After welding, i hided welds with paint.
Simple stainless hook is screwed to the handle, lantern / sign is hanged from it.
Actual idea is very simple. Still, it took some time to make all the parts..
But i think it was worth it.
Step 12: Finished Stand
And here is my finished lantern / sign stand.
It came out little different than my wife expected.. :)
But, luckily she was surprised in the good way.
Sometimes its fun to make something that you haven't done before.. Just to know, can you..
For me, that's the biggest reason to make something, to find the way to make, and learn at the same time.
This project was one of those.
Thanks for watching!
Here is the video about making the stand and axe, if you missed it:
You can also find me from social media:
And here is some similar (rr-track) builds that i have done, if you have some spare time.
Step 13: Upgrade
After four months outside, stand hasn't changed it looks.
I made a small upgrade for it thought.
New bigger axe is also made from a railroad track.
Its protected with Cortec rust preventative.
Axe is made with the same way than video at the end of the previous step.
Its just little smaller.
Old stainless axe was weld to smaller H- Beam stand, thats made from two U-channels.
Runner Up in the
Anything Goes Contest