Jump to content


Photo

Railroad spikes


  • Please log in to reply
20 replies to this topic

#1 TOM PITTMAN

TOM PITTMAN
  • Members
  • 153 posts
  • Location:Northwest Minnesota

Posted 11 April 2003 - 09:23 PM

Guys,

I've heard it about it twice now (not on this forum), but have never seen it in action. What is the miracle quenching fluid that will harden low carbon steel and shatter high carbon? If it does actually exist, is it a case-hardening product, or does it just quench extremely fast?

Another question: Does anyone know of a link to TTT diagrams for various steels?

Thanks in advance.


#2 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 12 April 2003 - 09:46 AM

... "the proof is in the pudding." :)

#3 DFogg

DFogg
  • Super Administrators
  • 2,814 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Auburn, Maine

Posted 12 April 2003 - 02:49 PM

Calm down boys. :cool:

The forumla for Rob Gunter's Super Quench:

5 lbs of salt
32 oz of Dawn Blue liquid detergent
8 oz of Shaklee Basic I  
enough water to make 5 gallons of solution

Not sure how it works, but must have something to do with lowering the wetting action of the water. I have heard that it will harden just about anything with even a little bit of carbon in it.

Railroad spikes
I found an ASTM paper that refers to the make up of the spikes and calls them low and high carbon. The paper costs $25 so you can get all the information you desire, just post it here when you find out.
ASTM Paper

Don

Don Fogg


#4 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 02 May 2003 - 01:10 PM

So they don't make the hardenable ones any more. Oh well, there are enough of the old ones still around.

#5 Mike Blue

Mike Blue
  • Supporting Member
  • 1,311 posts
  • Location:Southeast MN

Posted 11 April 2003 - 09:54 AM

I just can't stand it and have to pursue this question.  Geoff mentioned high carbon railroad spikes in one of his posts.  

This has nothing to do with any person.  I just want to know why this particular metallurgical myth about railroad spikes continues its unreasonable and abnormal life.  

I apologize to all who read this.  If this question has been answered here before somebody show me the archives and I'll go away.  

If not, according to all respected research methods, one is supposed to have a null hypothesis stated in the negative.  Then one goes about proving the opposite.  

So...My hypothesis:  there is no such thing as a high carbon (> 0.5%  or hypereutectoid carbon steel content) railroad spike made by any reputable railroad spike manufacturer.  

Proofs anyone?

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

#6 Geoff Keyes

Geoff Keyes
  • Supporting Member
  • 3,014 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Duvall Wa

Posted 11 April 2003 - 08:52 PM

I did not mean to mislead anyone.  In the misty past I believe I was told something which resembles what Tai just said, though I cannot remember when, where, or who.

In the spirit of scientific inquiry therefore did I gird up my loins and hie me to yonder smithy.  There did I heat and beat two hapless spikes gathered from the leavings of the iron horse.  Rendering both the unmarked spike, and the one marked with the rune HC, flat, did I heat them to a state wherein a lodestone hath no calling to them.  Then did I quench their fire each in a pool of black oil (dirty 30) and, placing them each within the grasp of a mighty vice, seek to bend them.  Lo!  The spike unmarred by rune or mark did bend with great ease.  Woe!  So didst the runic inscribed spike as well.

Ouch!  I think I sprained something.  In any case this test, though it is far from exhaustive, leads me to believe that neither spike contained much carbon.  The next chance I get I'll do a water quench and see if that makes any difference.

Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

I said that.

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
- - -G. K. Chesterton

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

Grant Sarver

#7 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 11 April 2003 - 10:05 PM

Water quenching is the only way I've been able to get full hardness on them. I recomend a deep edge quench or full quench on them or they can still take a bend when flexed.

#8 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 12 April 2003 - 09:42 AM

I use spark testing to make sure of the carbon content. It is easy, with experience, to tell the difference between the low/low carbon ones and the low/medium carbon ones.

I test for full hardness with a file. Again, I find it easy, but I have experience "feeling" steel.

It's not totally scientific and you can never take the skill factor, or "smith" out of it. It is more like traditional smithing or "true" smithing, than high tech.

It would be an aweful task if I had to "proove" everything I say. I don't say things as absolute, but as proffesional opinion. There really aren't very many absolutes in smithing the way I understand it, because the variables are never ending. I don't try and look at things as 2D black and white, but 3D full color. :)

I would just say if you don't believe me, then proove me wrong. I don't have to proove anything except to myself. That's my position.  

I'm willing to share what I've learned.


#9 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 12 April 2003 - 12:51 PM

... bladesmithing is an enigma.

#10 Mike Blue

Mike Blue
  • Supporting Member
  • 1,311 posts
  • Location:Southeast MN

Posted 12 April 2003 - 01:08 PM

In the old days, spark testing was a fairly accurate method of testing carbon and other alloy content in very experienced hands.  Many years ago I think Admiral or Carpenter company produced a spark testing guide.  I've got a copy somewhere in my files I'll have to dig up.  

But experience can mislead us just as easily as it can convince us.  PT Barnum and others such as Harry Houdini, delighted in audiences full of doctors, lawyers, professors and teachers because he knew it was easier to fool those with the best educations and experience.  

What's needed to answer my question is more objective data about the carbon content.  Spectrographic analysis or direct reports from the steel companies that produce RR spikes, that sort of thing.

File testing is a ball park estimate that can be valid if the files used are of a known hardness.  I saw a file test kit produced in Japan that had different hardness files in a little slip case.  I dont' know where to find them anymore.  

Anyone ever hardness test RR spikes with a Rockwell or similar objective machine?

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

#11 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 12 April 2003 - 02:30 PM

Mike, I'm not trying to fool anyone here. I'm just sharing my experience.

I do sympathize with your philosophy, but think it's questionable. Can you trust manufacture's specs? Can you trust a Rockwell tester? Can you trust a set of files? Can you trust a spark test graf? What if those things are not used or interpreted properly, are defective, or are obsolete? Again there are way to many variables to look at things in black and white.

You said, "I will make no comment on what you choose to put into your system.  Nicotine will definitely do you in before the borax.  

I will have skin cancer on my face from getting sunburned eyeballing the forge welding for the past several days.  Finished 140 lbs of 25 layer billets."

Can you proove that nicotine "will" kill "me" before borax?

Can you proove you "will" get skin cancer from forge welding?

"eyeballing" doesn't sound very scientific.

Can you proove that your billets actually contain "25" layers?


#12 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 12 April 2003 - 03:29 PM

I DON'T TRUST PAPERS !!!

(just kidding Don) :)

... sometimes I do, not always.


#13 Mike Blue

Mike Blue
  • Supporting Member
  • 1,311 posts
  • Location:Southeast MN

Posted 02 May 2003 - 09:02 AM

Well, I am surprised. I expected that the companies I contacted would consider the carbon content of railroad spikes to be proprietary information and tell me to go away.  That didn't happen.  

I got a fax back from a fellow at Wellington Industries.  These folks supply railroad spikes on an industrial capacity basis.  I called him and had a pleasant discussion about the subject.  Nobody had ever asked him the question before.  

In summary:  The industry standard (agreed to by track layers and users and the folks making spikes) is that no spike will be greater than 1020 steel.  Head stamps are maker's marks not reflective of metallurgical content since they all have to be not greater than 1020 anyway.  HC is a company no longer in business according to him

I will make this fax available to anyone wishing to read it.

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

#14 Mike Blue

Mike Blue
  • Supporting Member
  • 1,311 posts
  • Location:Southeast MN

Posted 02 May 2003 - 10:09 PM

I've reviewed all the documentation sent to me by the fellow from Wellington Industries, a division of Sheffield Steel.  He sent me a follow up fax with a correction.

I was wrong about the specific markings present on the head of a spike and the upper limit of carbon content.  

According to the American Railway Engineering Association's Specifications for Soft-Steel Track Spikes.  Original document, 1926, revised last in 1968.  Two classes of track spikes are given specifications.  Two sizes of track spike are identified, one of 5/8 inch square shaft and one of 9/16 inch.  

The AREA document identifies both low carbon and high carbon spike specifications.  

Page 5-2-1.  A low carbon track spike will not contain greater than 0.12% carbon nor greater than 0.20% copper.  Page 5-2-2. Section 6a.  Bending properties:  The body of a full size finished spike shall stand being bent cold through 180 degrees flat on itself without cracking on the outside portion of the bent portion.  Page 5-2-2 Section 11. Marking.  A letter or brand indicating the manufacturer shall be pressed on the head of each spike while it is being formed.  When copper is specified, the letters "CU" shall be added.  

Page 5-2-3:  Specifications for high carbon steel track spikes 1968.  Carbon not greater than 0.30%, nor greater than 0.20% copper.  Page 5-2-4.  Section 6a.  Bending properties:  The body of a full size finished spike shall stand being bent cold through 120 degrees around a pin, the diameter of which is not greater than the thickness of the spike without cracking on the outside portion of the bent portion.  Page 5-2-5 Section 11.  Marking:  A letter or brand indicating manufacturer and also the letters "HC" indicating high carbon, shall be pressed on the head of each spike while it is being formed.  When copper is specified, the letters "CU" shall be added.  

The supplemental fax from the Wellington fellow indicates, "Because of the bending tests required, the carbon content will not be greater than 0.30%.  After all, brittle spikes would not be desirable as a track spike.  A bent spike still holds the rail while a fractured spike would not.  The consequences for the industry would be too great to consider.  However, we refer to them as high carbon, they are not within the range of steels known as high carbon or hypereutectoid according to the steel industry standards, and have not been since at least 1926, when most track spikes were previously manufactured from wrought iron."  

So, I will ask no more questions about the nature and specifications of railroad track spikes, nor make further comment about them except to reiterate the above information when the subject rears its head.  

I am satisfied since I have learned something different from what I had assumed.  I apologize if I furthered the spread of misinformation.  I hope this now available information can be incorporated into the body of knowledge of bladesmithing.

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

#15 dragoncutlery

dragoncutlery
  • Members
  • 1,258 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:laingsburg mi
  • Interests:all things cutlery

Posted 04 May 2003 - 07:48 PM

nice knife I've seen it before but i didn't know it was a rail road spike nice

and yeah I always leave the head on so that people can see that it was a spike at one time. I sell allot of them to people who know some one who worked for the rail road at one time or they worked for the company themselves at one time or the other just not normally this nice of one I just went nuts on it just to see what could be done I had been thinking of doing a full tang spike knife like this but never got around to it till now  :D

Brandon Sawisch bladesmith

eagles may soar but weasels don't get sucked in to jet engines

#16 Guest_Tai_*

Guest_Tai_*
  • Guests

Posted 11 April 2003 - 12:40 PM

Great point Mike! I think it is a question worth pursuing. I think you are absolutely right there are no "high carbon" railroad spikes. Let me take a stab at straightening this mess out.

I see a "misuse" of the term "high carbon" over and over when folks refer to the spikes. The misuse of the term may not necessarily mean that a given person doesn't know that the spikes really are in terms of carbon content, but it sure could lead to confusion and myths about railroad spikes. Many of them are marked at the top "HC" and "WHC". Folks have assumed that that meant "high carbon", and "water/high carbon". Whether or not this is what the manufacture's intended the marks to mean is a question I can't answer, but the one's marked that way are generally "hardenable". The markings may be the source of the confusion. I think spark testing the spikes first is always a good idea.

I don't have any specs on hand as I'm writing, and they do vary slightly depending on the source, but here's a "general" breakdown:

"Low" carbon is, .5 and less.
"Medium" carbon is, .5 to .75.
"High" carbon is, .75 and up.

Hardenable railroad spikes are right around .5 percent carbon, which makes them either the high end of the low carbon range, or the low end of the medium carbon range.

Hope this helps.


#17 Mike Blue

Mike Blue
  • Supporting Member
  • 1,311 posts
  • Location:Southeast MN

Posted 12 April 2003 - 09:10 AM

In answer to Tom's questions, there is a product out there that I've heard referred to as "Superquench" among the general blacksmiths.  I will email my local guild and ask a few folks for source info.  

Geoff:  I like reading the old English story, keep going!  It adds a romance to an otherwise dirty craft.

My next question for those who have successfully hardened RR spikes, how was the hardness tested?  How was the carbon content tested?  I've seen spectrographic reports of spikes that show consistent carbon contents in the 0.2% C range.  These have been published on the internet.  Where's the data that shows higher carbon contents?  I think this is important to come to an effective conclusion.

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. Will Rogers

#18 TOM PITTMAN

TOM PITTMAN
  • Members
  • 153 posts
  • Location:Northwest Minnesota

Posted 12 April 2003 - 01:50 PM

Mike,
MSC industrial has the file set I think you are talking about. Order # 06534309. According to the discription: six files HRc 40 through 65. The price in their 2001 catolog is $90.00. Looks like a pretty handy set. A lot cheaper than a rockwell tester anyway. Thanks again for the research on superquench.


#19 Mire Blades & Tools

Mire Blades & Tools
  • Members
  • 169 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Lansing, MI
  • Interests:Reconstructed viking knives and metalwork. Working real hard in the summer season working festivals and making swords. Learning the way of the blade.

Posted 27 April 2003 - 06:28 PM

To find the high carbon spikes.

I have a few I found them at the intersection where they were rebuilding the track at a road intersection. from what i understand this is where they are used in combonation with the low carbon spikes. They way to identify the high carbon ones is that they have an H stamped in the head of the spike at the foundry. so the only way to tell the differance is to get new spikes because the process of pounding them into the tie makes the H "go away". The differance in hardness between the low carbon and the high carbon spike is noticeable and seems to be worth the effort.

well good luck on the hunt for the free ones. If you want to buy some sheffeild catalog has the H spikes for sale by the bucket.

Mire Blades & Tools
Http://mireblades.bravehost.com
indiglosk8@hotmail.com
-----------------------------------------------------
"Wow that's an awesome looking sword!"
"Thanks..."
"How much is it?"
"$5,000"
"Geeez, no wonder it looks awesome :o"
-----------------------------------------------------
Now Afiliated with Sabersmith.com!
-----------------------------------------------------

#20 dragoncutlery

dragoncutlery
  • Members
  • 1,258 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:laingsburg mi
  • Interests:all things cutlery

Posted 04 May 2003 - 06:08 AM

here is what happens when I have to much time on my hands and a higher carbon rail road spike to try out (spark tested out higher than my old spikes did 1030 sounds about right) I got a 5 5/8ths long blade 10 3/4 overall length with black dymond wood scales with red spacer underneath with mosaic pins and a full tang with stainless steel guard out of one spike (I must be nuts :P ) enjoy. oh yah file worked spine to :P
Brandon Sawisch bladesmith

eagles may soar but weasels don't get sucked in to jet engines




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users