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Make a Railroad Spike Knife - Part 2

In this part of the tutorial we finish off making the knife. Part one of this tutorial is right here. There is also a video.


Ok! The Forging is done and this is what we have. Just a little bit of work left to do to finish off this knife.

The forged knife

Using the belt grinder

We are going to use whatever power tools we have in order to do two things. We are cleaning it up and doing the final shaping. Cleaning it up isn't polishing. We will do that by hand.

Medium grit sanding

And during this process I actually switched belts. I started out with a heavy grit and moved on to a medium grit in this picture. This is for the same reason we switched hammers at the forge. We do heavy and rough work first and move consecutively down to the medium then finer work. The first belt is around a 50-80 grit. This second belt is around 120-150.

shape with a file

And at any time during this process you can also use a file to shape it. If you don't have a belt sander you can do all of this shaping and cleaning work with a file.

Note about the file: You use a file called a Mill file. This only has one set of cutting lines. You don't use a bastard file (it has a crosshatch). And with the mill file you only file in the forward direction. You don't go back and forth with the file.

Do the filing to get the knife to it's final shape.

A Mill file

This picture shows the correct type of file (Mill file) see how there is just a series of cutting lines parallel to each other? There is no crosshatching.


Ok, just a little bit more to go. We need to heat treat this knife so it is strong and durable and will hold a nice sharp edge. There are a few different ways to do this and you can use the forge. But in this tutorial I am going to use a plumbers torch.

Heat the blade

First we harden the knife. We do this by heating up the blade to red hot. This will be about 1500 degrees F. You know it is at the right temperature when a magnet no longer sticks to it.

Quench it

Once it is at the desired temperature quench it quickly in oil. Any kind of oil will do; vegetable or motor oil, used or new. Doesn't matter.

The knife is now hardened. But hardened means it is also brittle and susceptible to shattering when being used so we want to soften it up a bit. This softening is called tempering.

And we temper it by heating it up just a little bit. To around 500 degrees F.

But how do we know when it is at the right temperature? We know this by the color of the steel as it heats.

Clean it

Once the knife has cooled clean it up with emory paper. This is very easy to do. The scale comes right off.

Slowly and with the flame further away, heat the blade up until it turns a wheat color. That is the right temperature. Try to keep it even along the length of the blade. Move the flame! This knife has started the wheat color but could go a little bit further. It is pretty close though so I am going with it.

Quench it again. And that's it. The knife is hardened and tempered.

Now we just need to polish it up to give it a nice shine. We do this with a series of emory paper. As before we start with the heavy grits and work our way through the finer grits. I usually start around 80-100, switch to 180, then 220, 400 and 600. If you want it mirror polished you can continue like this all the way up to around 1200 grit which is almost like a sheet of paper fine.

And that's it! Your Railroad Spike Knife is done!!! If you make this project be sure to send me a picture. I will put it on my page with knives people have made.

The Railroad Spike Knife



Basic Knife Making: From Raw Steel to a Finished Stub Tang Knife

Learn the craft of knifemaking. 205 color images and step-by-step instructions provide for all stages of construction, from selection of the steel, to forging the blade, assembling the handle, and constructing a holder.

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