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William

Railroad spike head markings

8 posts in this topic

Hello all,

 

This being my first post, I would like to thank everyone for the vast library of knowledge within this site. :)

 

Just a quick question concerning the markings on the head of railroad spikes. I was given 18 random spikes that some have "HC" and others have "H" stamped on it. After researching online, I have found only the following info:

 

Through one of my e-mail contacts, I obtained a copy of the A.R.E.A. manual chapter that deals with Track Spikes. In essence, it identifies two versions of spikes, one soft-steel and one high-carbon. Soft-Steel spikes contain anywhere from a minimum of 0.06 to 0.20 percent carbon (reference sec. 2.1.3). The head of Soft-Steel spikes are marked with a letter or brand indicating the manufacturer (reference sec. 2.1.11). High-Carbon spikes contain anywhere from a minimum of 0.20 to 0.30 percent carbon (reference sec. 2.2.3) The head of High-Carbon spikes are marked with a letter or brand indicating the manufacturer and also the letters “HC” (reference sec. 2.2.11). If copper is added to either version, the head will be marked with the letters “CU” (reference sec. 2.1.11 & 2.2.11).

 

Now with that all said, would it be safe to assume that these spikes that I have, marked "H", are indeed high carbon?

 

Thanks!

Edited by William

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Now with that all said, would it be safe to assume that these spikes that I have, marked "H", are indeed high carbon?

 

Yes. The letters on the heads tend to get erased when they are driven into place. I have had good luck hardening these by taking them to the upper austenitic and quenching in water. No tempering. They stand up to hammering out any kinks afterwards so I figure it's good. Another post on the forum here mentioned adding borax to the water to increase the speed of the quench. Worth a try.

 

~Bruce~

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It's always good to do a test heat treatment before putting alot of time and energy into forging or grinding a knife. Just slice an 1/8" or close piece off of a spike, heat it to non-magnetic and quench. Then stick the piece in a vise and try to break it with a hammer. If it snaps like glass then there is a decent amount of carbon in it. But that still does not mean you have an optimal amount to make a knife that will take and hold a good edge.

 

But that being said alot of people have wanted me to forge a spike knife for them and I just make sure I tell them that it will not be optimal steel for a good edge. My neighbor has been using one for over three years now to cut the twine on hay bales and he has never re-sharpened it yet.

 

They are fun to forge and make an intersting novelty knife that you can't buy at Wally World. I just don't try to pass them off as a high performance blade when I sell one.

Edited by B Finnigan

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I forgot to mention I use super quench on them but I also get good hardening with oil. Super quench is much cleaner and I don't pre-heat it. The spikes I use are all brand new and from the same manufacturer so I have some consistancy. There is a railroad supply yard about 8 miles from my clinic that will sell me small quantities for 80 cents a piece.

Edited by B Finnigan

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Be advised that not only are high carbon railroad spikes not all that high in carbon, they're somewhere around 0.35%, they are also rather long on copper. These spike have to be super tough and be able to bend almost double without breaking. That's great for their intended purpose but it reduces wear resistance considerably and makes only a marginal blade at best. Follow the above advise in heat treating and be upfront to anyone that you give one.

 

Doug Lester

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I forgot to mention I use super quench on them but I also get good hardening with oil. Super quench is much cleaner and I don't pre-heat it. The spikes I use are all brand new and from the same manufacturer so I have some consistancy. There is a railroad supply yard about 8 miles from my clinic that will sell me small quantities for 80 cents a piece.

 

 

 

sheffeild kife catalog at one time sold hc type spikes by the bucket.

 

they make great butter knives.

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I had a WHC spike knife that I forged, superquenched, and tempered at 212f (boiling water) tested at a local tool and die shop. It came in between 54-55 Rockwell C. Alot of nickel heavy damascus knives test in that range.

 

It shaves, and it chopped through a 2x4 without any edge rolling. Since the blade is edge hardened, I don't think it's going to snap in half. I abuse it every once in a while for kicks, I attacked some sheetmetal with it and the edge had some minor chips that easily sharpened out. Not to shabby if you ask me.

Edited by Kyle Hershey

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