Making useful things from old or new railroad spikes is an interesting hobby. With basic shop skills you can create most of the projects suggested in this article. Local adult night schools with metal shops are good places to learn welding skills and work on the projects that require welding. If you want to skip the welding you can take sketches and spikes to a local welding shop for completion.
How To Get Railroad Spikes
Spikes can be found along abandoned rail lines. Taking them is actually theft from the rail company that owns the line. If you are caught, you might be charged with trespassing and theft. A better alternative is to hunt for old spikes in antique stores. New spikes are readily available online and can be intentionally rusted in a water bath.
Antique railroad spikes used as paper weights are practical and good conversation starters. Leave them as you obtain them to retain the antique look. Rub the rusty spike thoroughly with beeswax to give it a rich, warm look. Paint a new railroad spike with gold paint to make it look like the gold spike used at the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Use model aeroplane enamels and brushes to create your own colourful designs.
A new 5 1/2-inch by 9/16-inch rail spike can serve as a heavy duty chisel. Use a power grinding wheel to create a sturdy "V" with a 1/8-inch bevel on the pointed end of the spike. Protect your eyes with safety glasses and your hands with gloves. Strike the head of the spike with a hammer to chisel brick and other tough materials.
Create a durable foot scraper with a railroad spike. Drill two 1/4-inch holes 1 inch from each end of the spike. Position the flat side of the spike on the bottom before drilling. Screw the spike to the narrow edge of a 2-inch by 6-inch board 12 inches long with #8 by 2-inch screws. Mount the foot scraper close to the mud room door.
Build a rugged coat rack using railroad spikes for clothes hooks. With the head flange pointing up, cut off just the pointed end of 5-inch spikes at a 45-degree angle. Cut one spike for each hook desired. Prepare a piece of lumber 2 inches by 4 inches by 36 to 48 inches to receive the spikes. For each spike drill a 3/4-inch hole at a 45-degree angle. Holes should begin 6 inches from the end of the mounting board. Space the holes 12 inches apart. Tap the cut spikes into the 3/4-inch holes. The fit should be snug enough to hold the spikes firmly. Mount the assembled coat rack to a wall. Use 3-inch screws to reach vertical wood studs. Paint or stain the wood.
Weld heavy duty trivets using railroad spikes. Use four spikes to create crosses welded at the pointed end with the head flanges pointing down. A box trivet uses four spikes welded head to point with the head flanges pointing outward. Paint them wrought iron black or leave them unpainted.