Things people make from railroad spikes

Written by holly goodman
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Things people make from railroad spikes
Discarded railroad spikes can be shapped into knives, chisels and bottle openers. (railroad spikes image by monamakela.com from Fotolia.com)

Railroad spikes are grade A material for crafty metal workers who shape these discarded shards of American history into shiny new tools. Spikes are sometimes collected illegally near defunct rail lines in places such as abandoned mining and ghost towns, and can be bought at flea markets and online. Metal works use traditional blacksmith techniques to craft the spikes into knives, chisels, bottle openers and more.

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Knives

Blacksmiths heat the spikes until metal is glowing red and malleable, then hammer about 1/3 of the shaft into a flat blade. The edge of the shaped blade is then hammered into a wedge that narrows into the cutting edge and forms a fine tip. The blade is sharpened with a metal file or grindstone. Workmanship varies from knife to knife. Some artisans heat and twist the handle into intricate or leave on the spike's head to retain some of its original form.

Things people make from railroad spikes
Railroad spikes are heated and hammered to create the knife blade. (striking metal image by sumos from Fotolia.com)

Chisels

Chisels are easier to make than knives but require straight spikes. Hacksaws and files do the work, no blacksmith equipment needed. Saw from just under the spike's rounded cap at a 90 degree angle to the shaft until the cap is off. Filed the sawn end flat with a metal file and smooth the edges with a finer grade file. Sharpen the opposite side with a file to create defined chisel end.

Bottle Openers

Bottle openers, like railroad spike knives, are the work of blacksmiths. The metal is hand-forged at high temperatures and the malleable metal twisted, hammered and coaxed into its new shape. Several artisans sell their finished bottle openers online. Each are handmade by artisans.

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