How to Forge a Trowel From a Railroad Spike (Blacksmithing)

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In this video, I will show you how to create a useful, strong, and extremely durable garden trowel from a railroad spike. Any questions, leave in the comments here or on YouTube, I will answer both. Subscribe/like if you enjoy this video! Have a nice day!

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    12 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I have about 15 spikes and have been wanting to make a knife I just need a forge. Is it possible to make an effective forge?

    1 reply

    It is very much possible. Do some googling around for some plans. All you need is a blower and some coal, and you can dig a hole in the ground and have a forge. That's how it was done back in the day! plenty of stuff on Instructables about forging.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Forgive my asking, I can't understand spoken English. Maybe you said it, but I want to know if that steel is enough hard to do a tool, a knife, etc.

    7 replies

    No worries friend! The steel has a medium carbon content, so you can quench and temper it to make axes and knives. The knives might not hold an edge too long, but you can use the charcoal dust method mentioned by Phil B, or a substance called Casenite, which bakes in carbon to the outer layers of a piece of steel. When I quenched the trowel, I quenched it so it would be extremely hard and much less likely to wear down from use in the garden. On the Rockwell C scale, it's probably a 65 or 70.

    Can you say what is Casenite? I have Potassium ferrocyanide, almost pure. It is used to "cement" tools, but the hard coat is very very tiny and brittle.

    Casenite is very old compound, but I found a similar compound called "Cherry Red" which is like Potassium Ferrocyanide, but not toxic, and produces a thicker coating. You can also put charcoal dust on the railroad spike and on the anvil while forging to bake in some of the carbon. Here is the link to "Cherry Red"

    Thanks for your info. Potassium Ferrocyanide is not toxic, to my knowledge. I think you can obtain a thicker hardening making three or more times the coating, and doing it at higher temperatures. When the piece is white red, it is the best moment to cement it.

    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Osvaldo, I watched the video. He did not say how hard the the steel is when finished. He did say after grinding an edge onto the trowel he quenched it "to lock in hardness." I know many people forge a knife from a railroad spike. I have also read that repeated heating, pounding, and cooling of the metal causes it to become harder. But, I have also read that those who make knives from railroad spikes also place a little charcoal dust on the anvil before pounding out the cutting edge of the blade in order to mix some carbon with the steel and make it harder.

    You can temper the finished product, but that is more for knives than trowels. I just quenched it to be extremely hard (and consequentially brittle) so it could withstand the rigors of garden work. Even with it being "brittle" from the higher temperature quenching and lack of tempering, the blade of the trowel will never break.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    nicely made. I like that modified monkey wrench you used to twist the spike. Did you make that yourself?

    1 reply