Specific numbered rail road spike knives will be available after our annual show at the Kentucky Renaissance Festival. For now we are offering them as “My Pick”. This means when you place your order, I will pick the one I feel is most attractive. Individual rail road spike knives will be made available in July of 2018
About Railroad Spikes
I love railroad spike knives for their appearance. They display the truly reformative nature of a forged knife apparent. It is obviously their life as a knife did not start as a flat piece of steel. It was obvious that they were not simply cut or ground to shape.
About HC Railroad Spikes
The HC that is often shown on the striking face of a railroad spike stands for High Carbon. This has led to many misconceptions that rail road spikes make very good knives. This is absolutely not true as High Carbon in the knife world is not the same as High Carbon in the railroad spike world. It is a matter of perspective.
Most of the knives I forge have a carbon content of between 0.75 and 0.95% carbon. Rare projects have as much as 1.5% carbon, others as low as 0.5% carbon. It is possible to obtain appropriate ranges of hardness by how these steels are tempered. Tempering brings the hardness down. It is not a solution for a lower carbon steel.
Normal rail road spikes, used in straight sections of track, reach only 0.12% carbon. This is actually lower than what knife makers call mild steel, which is 0.18% carbon. It is not hardenable. High carbon rail road spikes, used on track curves, reach 0.30% carbon. These are the only spikes we use for knives. Most of which we leave the HC mark on the striking surface. But that still does not make for a great knife, especially not when quenched in oil.
If you are interested in hand forged knives, chances are great you have seen the TV show Forged in Fire. If you have watched that TV show you have probably noted the judge’s hatred of water as a quench. They even provide a water barrel to tempt the contestants. There aversion to water quench is likely an abbreviated opinion. Water certainly has its place as a historic quench. As it does today, water is an excellent quench for lower carbon steel and even high carbon steel in certain circumstances. If not for the speed of water quenching, the katana would not have its organic bend. That bend is actually a warp created by edge quenching in water. Ah but even water is not fast enough to help with a carbon level of as low as 0.30%. Brine quench is.
A brine quench is about as it sounds. It is water and salt. Typically, I see advice for five pounds of rock salt blended into five gallons of water. This is a historic method used by blade makers who had access to only very low carbon steel. But as with most time improved the available methods. Today I use a mixture called Super Quench on high carbon rail road spikes.
Super Quench Recipe
5 gallons water
5 lbs salt
28oz bottle of Dawn blue dish washing detergent
8oz bottle of JetDry or other rinse aid.
With Super Quench, HC Rail Road spikes can be hardened to the point that they will hold an edge about as well as an import or even an American made commercial knife. They still will not perform like a properly made knife from top shelf material, but folk with any level of experience with rail road spikes will think they are magic.did not
Super Quench is not magic. It will not harden mild steel, it wont change 1018 into 1095. But it exists for a reason. There would be no reason for brine / salt water quench to exist in so many cultures if did not work. Super quench is just an improvement on ancient knowledge. What does the Dawn and JetDry do? I have absolutely no idea, but the end results speak for themselves.
“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”
Other than my family, the two things I love more than anything else in this world are metal work and farming. But I have to face the fact that I am gradually loosing my ability to walk. I have thus far lost three toes and the inside of my right foot. To walk, I require prescription pain medication in a quantity large enough that we have joked about renaming the knife business to Stoned Forge. This site and a farming site are my plan B. As my ability to do decreases, my ability to teach will increase.
It is my hope that enough folk will become patrons that I can dedicate quality time to informational articles and tutorials to make this site worth your support. This description of Rail Road Spike knives was written so that at a later date I can convert it into an article. Please expect many more and please consider becoming a patron.