Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

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Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by Barricade » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:41 pm

Alright here is a little story, I have a friend who is a beginner blacksmith, he usually works with railroad spikes (even to the pount of EDC one in a leather holster on his side) and every once in a while he sells his wears at the local flea market/pawnshop, where he sells his knives (his rustic railroad spike knives being his top sellers). So one day I was helping him clean up his shop and we got unto the topic of the zombie apocalypse and started talking about what weapons we would carry as a primary carry hand to hand combat weapon and back up carry hand to hand blades, go bags, firearms, even down to foot wear and socks.

When we got to the back up blades part I gave the answer of carrying my Kabar and Spyderco Tenacious.

He gave me a surprising answer, he pulled out his RR Spike knife and his Medford Praetorian (Yes he carries these two things together).

To which I said "I get the Medford, but why the RR Spike knife?"

"I love them both, they're both tough, good weight to them, they're awesome"

"You're gonna use them both for fighting the undead and people?"

He said "Yeah pretty much"

This lead to an entire conversation of using the RR Knife as a weapon, to which we both agreed to disagree.

Now in my opinion RR Spikes have their merits and uses, but to me they are not fighter blades, under anything beyond desperate circumstances, especially if they don't have a hand guard or a notch point.

But these are just my thoughts on them, what are your guys thoughts on RR Spike knives as combat or self defense weapons?

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Re: Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by Barricade » Fri Aug 04, 2017 11:51 pm

Also just to get an idea of the blade, it is overall 10in long, the blade length is about 4.5-5 inches. The handle is a ribbon twist with individual finger grooves on them, no hand guard, just a choke up point and is a bowie styled clip point design with checkering on the spine. He made the knife himself btw.

I wish I could give you guys a better description but I've only looked at it twice.

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Re: Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by RonnyRonin » Sat Aug 05, 2017 12:12 am

I could only comment on the design of the knife in regards to its effectiveness, and only speculatively at that. I think others might have something constructive to say as to whether the metallurgy of a railroad spike would be advantageous or not.

In this context I would want a very good handstop, be it a guard or a very deep choil.

Up to a point longer is more desirous, but the flip side of that is the best weapon is the one you have with you when you need it and knives with longer then 4" blades have a habit of staying at home, in the vehicle, or at best stashed in bags.

As someone who has been EDCing a fixed blade for quite awhile, the appeal for folding knives has all but left me.
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Re: Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by woodsghost » Sat Aug 05, 2017 8:10 am

In short, there is unlikely to b enough carbon in the metal. Looks like railroad spikes range from .17% to .50% carbon. Spears start around .55% carbon because they have to be tough and edge retention is not really necessary.

Knives are usually .75% to maybe 1.5% carbon, but .84% to .95% are the most common among "carbon steels."

Railroad spikes are meant to be hit by hammers, so they are soft mild steel that is usually on the low end of the carbon content because you want them to be mushy, bendy, and durable, not rigid and snappy/breaky under stress.

If your friend made a spike for a club weapon with a railroad spike, that would work swimmingly, assuming he made it thick enough. Making it thin will risk bending it rather often on the undead.

If he is that confident in his blade, have him baton it into some thick wood. Have him throw it into wood and other crap. If it bends, it is not a good zombie knife. If it stands up, then cool. He did a good job and had a better railroad steel.

You don't want your zombie knives to be too high in carbon. It makes the knife too brittle. But too little carbon and it won't be rigid enough.

Depending on thickness, I would look for .55% to .95% carbon. But that is my opinion. YMMV.
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Re: Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by Storm Crow » Sat Aug 05, 2017 1:04 pm

.55% carbon is higher than I've ever heard on the subject. Usually the higher carbon ones are more like .35%, and steel starts to harden appreciably with .4%.

Railroad spike knives are a point of contention in blacksmthing/bladesmithing forums. Lots of beginners want to make them, lots of more experienced smiths do what they can to discourage the practice. They're pretty largely considered ornamental, with the appeal lying in the fact that the most uninitiated into the forging arts can tell it was made from something else.

My take on them is that unless the spikes are purchased new from the manufacturer (which can be done), you have no clue on the alloy content. Even those with markings on the head are not guaranteed to tell you what they are as different manufacturers use marking differently. You'd need to test each one, but in general they are not going to yield as good a blade as the same amount of work going into a better piece of steel.

When finished out, the handles tend to be bulky and uncomfortable and the balance is very handle heavy.

I'd rather make something longer from leaf spring, where I can have a chance of turning out a well-performing blade without being limited to the kinds of handles most spike knives have.
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Re: Railroad Spike knives as combat weapons?

Post by Rev » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:34 pm

I always figured a railroad spike would make a better spearhead than a knife if we're insisting on turning it into a weapon.
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