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  Spike Axe (3241 bytes)
Railroad Spike Hatchet
Demonstration by Bill Epps.
August 4, 1999

Bill-Epps :
20:34:58

Tonight we are going to make a throwing hatchet from a railroad spike.

Bill-Epps :
20:35:57

axe1.jpg (2356 bytes)

axe2.jpg (3930 bytes)

axe3.jpg (3523 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:36:05

The first thing we do is bump it up on the point end.

axe2.jpg (3930 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:37:52

A Railroad spike starts out about 6" long and about 5/8" square. We are going to bump it up till it is about 1" square and 3 inches long.

axe3.jpg (3523 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:39:15

With the splitting punch I will split the hole or eye for the handle.

axe4.jpg (2655 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:40:26

This picture is the splitting punch. A very important tool. I go half way from one side then half way from the other side. I make my slot about an 1" to 1 1/4" long.

axe5.jpg (3529 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:42:40

After we make the slot, stand it up on the head and hit on the end to start the slot to open up. The material that the punch is made out of (I have 2 one is S7 and the other is D2), but 52100 should work well also.

axe6.jpg (3314 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:43:52

axe6.jpg (3314 bytes)

axe7.jpg (3105 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:45:41

I start working the slot or eye on the horn just to even things out and get the hole back in the center before I start my drift. I haven't mentioned heats, I assume you guys can figure this out., but you work this metal very hot, but careful not to burn it up.

Bill-Epps :
20:45:59

axe8.jpg (2670 bytes)

axe9.jpg (3497 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:48:29

Now I start my drift, but I don't drift the hole all the way out just yet., I just want to drive the drift about 1/2 to 3/4 the way through. I don't want to finish the hole to size yet because when you start spreading the blade you will distort the hole anyway, so leave it a little small so you can straighten it back up.

Bill-Epps :
20:50:02

I made the first drift that I use then I found out that a very good one can be bought from Kane and Son , Centaur Forge or Valley Forge and making a tomahawk drift is too damn much trouble when the can be bought very cheaply.

Bill-Epps :
20:50:20

axe9.jpg (3497 bytes)

axe10.jpg (2131 bytes)

axe11.jpg (4009 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:53:13

The bottom fuller is used to fuller the spike in the center. I fuller it in the center on one side and the quarters on the other side. The fuller I use had a 1/4" radius on it (1/2" diameter). Fullering helps it to spread to get the width on a blade. The cutting edge length should come out about 4"

Bill-Epps :
20:53:37

axe12.jpg (3850 bytes)

axe13.jpg (3370 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:54:49

Now we start spreading and thinning down the blade after fullering

Bill-Epps :
20:55:05

axe14.jpg (3426 bytes)

axe15.jpg (4558 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:56:57

I use a cross pien to get more spread to it and to thin the blade. I use a cutting plate (mine happens to be aluminum) to trim off the jagged edge and make it easier to hot rasp.

Bill-Epps :
20:57:35

axe16.jpg (3052 bytes)

axe17.jpg (3557 bytes)

Bill-Epps :
20:59:25

Now I use a hot rasp with steel good and hot. Start with an old farrier rasp then I go to a mill file to shape the edge.

Bill-Epps :
20:59:49

axe18.jpg (3164 bytes)

flatthumb :
21:03:45

Bill, way cool hatchet - have you used them for camping?

toby :
21:04:07

Bill how far is the hole from the head, and how thin do you make the blade

Bill-Epps :
21:04:09

After we get the hatchet shaped and the cutting edge filed, I harden the cutting edge (Only). I heat the whole piece until it is non magnetic and put the edge about 1/2" deep in to the quench tub. I never see any reason for hardening anything other than the working part. When it turns black and stops sizzling, I take it out and it let finish cooling on its own. This will draw the edge down to where I have a good tough edge, but still hard enough to stay sharp.

Bill-Epps :
21:04:27

axe19.jpg (3909 bytes)

grant :
21:05:43

you do your finish drift from just one side for taper?

allen :
21:05:46

When do you size the hole to the proper size ?

Bill-Epps :
21:06:16

Back up a couple of steps, After I hot rasp and file the edge, I finish drifting the hole to size., then you harden the edge. After it is cool drive a store bought tomahawk handle into the hole. We buy our handles from Buckskinner supply houses or Centar

Bill-Epps :
21:07:21

You drive the drift from the "Front" side so you end up with a tapered hole to fit the handle which is tapered.

Bill-Epps :
21:07:32

axe20.jpg (3241 bytes)

grant :
21:09:20

wedged in or just tight in the taper?

Bill-Epps :
21:09:30

The handle should be driven in tight and you have a pretty good chunking axe and the head of the RR Spike makes a pretty good hammer head for driving tent stakes. Stand back 5 paces, chuck it like a rock and it will stick every time you hit the target!

abear :
21:09:49

Bill, when first centering the eye up on the horn, I assume you were working the edges and not driving the opening onto the horn??

Bill-Epps :
21:10:17

The spikes I use have an "HC" on the head which stands for "High Carbon" Steel

Bill-Epps :
21:11:11

Very seldom do I get it exactly in center, so I have to thin one side to get the slit back in center.

Bill-Epps :
21:11:34

Questions anyone?

toby :
21:12:39

how far from head do you start the hole , and how thin is the edge

tom :
21:12:58

you get that eye big enough for standard hawk handle? never figured you could !

abear :
21:13:07

Do we know how early they stopped making wrought iron spikes??

Youngsmith :
21:14:07

the spike seems kind of light, does that effect the performance?

paul :
21:15:14

If you want to use the head as a hammer, would you not have to harden that end as well?

grant :
21:15:32

youngsmith, they look great because everyone can see it was made from a spike

Bill-Epps :
21:15:41

About an inch and 1/2 down from the top to the center of the slot and the slot will be about 1" to 1 1/4" long. You get a lot of length when you start thinning and stretching the blade. Do not know about the wrought iron spikes. Have seen very few.

Bill-Epps :
21:16:33

Youngsmith, they are a lot lighter than folded and wrapped hawk, but they are easier to throw and get greater penetration because of the thinner blade.

bbb :
21:18:42

How much do you get for them, Bill?

Bill-Epps :
21:19:15

Flatthumb said it right, they look like a railroad spike and people marvel that it can be turned into this piece. I do sell lots of hawks, all that I have made so far. I get $45 far

Spike Ax by Raymond Richard
Sample from Raymond Richard
Click for detail - Added November 7, 2002

Links:

  • RR-Spikes Spike materials and specifications.
  • RR-steel Tools iForge demo on tools made from RR-rail
  • Junkyard Steels
  • Heat Treating FAQ

  • ASM Metals Reference Book, American Society for Metals International
  • ASM Heat Treater's Guide to Ferrous Metals, American Society for Metals International
  • Tempil - Basic Guide to Ferrous Metallurgy Chart, Tempil Division, Big Three Industries, Inc.
  • MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK, Industrial Press

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