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What Kind of Metal are Railroad Spikes Made From?

Jul. 27, 2020

This is a quite usual concern from people that are interested in building. The trendy thing with creating is that you can turn a chunk of steel into nearly anything as long as the make-up matches the desired use.

Dog Spike

Dog Spike

So what regarding railroad spikes?

Railroad spikes are constructed of carbon steel and also are typically separated right into 3 courses: low carbon, greater carbon and structural steel.

Note that it's greater carbon as well as not high carbon. The carbon degree isn't all that high, comparatively talking.

Allow's discuss what's generally in a railroad spike as well as why, what you can do with it and how you can deal with it.

What Steel is Railroad Spike?

Ok, to comprehend what the material resembles, we must beginning this with what it's intended to do.

Needed Residences.

A railroad spike holds the track in position. It's not subjected to wear like the track is. It requires to be solid and hard to do its task.

When a steel has a high carbon material as well as is warmth dealt with so that it's difficult, it ends up being more brittle. If you whack it with a hammer, it'll split.

A shattered rail spike holds no track (ancient Chinese proverb? If it's not it should be). So it's not useful for it to be too hard.

But a rail spike that's curved can still do its job. So the steel requires to be soft enough to bend without ruining.

Rail Spike Composition.

That's why a rail spike that's identified HC (higher carbon) will just have concerning 0.4% carbon. That's about the rough equivalent of a 1045 steel.

The reduced carbon spikes are basically moderate steel.

1045 is heat treatable. It's a "workhorse" steel-- it is difficult and can handle a lots well. That's why it's frequently seen in applications like strong equipments and shafts. You won't see it used for cutting tools, because it won't hold an edge that well.

Rail Spikes usually aren't an exact comparable though. If anything, they'll have less carbon and therefore won't obtain as hard. Often they'll be a little an alloy, with metals like copper blended in to help make them more malleable. This will better aid to prevent splitting.

How to Work With Rail Spike?

If you want to reduce a HC rail spike mechanically (like with a blade instead of with a reducing lantern) then you may wish to harden it. Annealing will soften the steel so that you can work with it.

The Annealing Refine.

Every steel has a various dish for warm dealing with-- setting, tempering, annealing, however the carbon steels generally adhere to a comparable process.

For annealing, warm the metal up till it's no more magnetic, which is usually around the 1500 F variety. Then do something called a "heating system cool"-- basically a regulated cooldown at a price of say goodbye to that 50 F per hour to reach a minimum of around 1200 F.

The method you usually accomplish that is by doing your warm dealing with in a heater. When your work surface is depends on temp, turn off the heating system however keep the door shut. This will stop the metal from losing heat rapidly, as well as it will certainly take several hours to cool.

Typically I simply set up for an anneal in the afternoon or night and allow it trendy over night.


Once it's annealed (if it requires to be) it's in fact extremely simple to collaborate with. After a great anneal it must be under 20 HRC so it will reduce easily.

I 'd most definitely suggest annealing if you're planning on drilling them.

If you intend to use a band saw, make sure you contend least a bimetal blade and run it at as slow-moving as it'll go if your saw has variable blade speeds.

If you're intending to device it, a reducing speed of around 60-90 SFPM (surface feet per min) will certainly work well for high speed steel cutters. You can triple or quadruple that for carbide cutters if you have a solid maker as well as setup. Just make certain that your securing is excellent and also rigid.

Lantern cutting is a little iffy even if railroad spikes aren't all that large, so they'll heat up a fair bit. You'll get a quite huge HAZ (warmth influenced zone) that you'll need to grind out if you wish to warmth treat or mechanically cut after that.

Unpleasant cutoff wheels are an excellent means to slice them up, just do not allow it obtain red hot. Lift the disc off the cut intermittently to allow it cool down if you're seeing a great deal of blue creating on the steel. Grinding is an excellent method to shape as well as work with this material as well.


Rail spikes are superb for creating-- they're currently a terrific size to collaborate with as well as they're really flexible.

Stay clear of hitting them when they're cold, though. They'll have a tendency to fracture, depending upon real structure. Some spikes take care of coldworking well, others are quick to break with working listed below around 1200 F to 1500 F. Simply maintain them nice as well as warm, only hit them when they're beautiful. Our company also has Dog Spike, welcome to consult us.