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DIY Spikes

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  • DIY Spikes

    I have only about a total of 1' of track length to put down in a couple of spots before the track work on this part of my layout is complete. I hand-lay my own track...but now I'm out of spikes! [!] I've used 1/87 or 'large' spikes (whatever they scale out to be) for my track work however, instead of spending 8-10 bucks for the spikes plus shipping and then waiting around for the order to come in, I decided to just make my own...Don't need no stinking pre-fab spikes here, slick! [:-bigmouth] The only material required is the standard round-headed straight pin. Not the ones with the larger 'pearl drop' or ball-shaped heads, but the flat disk shaped ones. Why pin spikes? Well, I can make them on an as-needed basis cranking one out in less than 10 seconds, ready to use. And they're free! You see, it's really umm...errr...OK, wife has plenty of them! The pin spike, being longer and with a narrower shaft than a pre-fab spike, will easily push right down through the tie and pink insulation foam road bed without getting the feeling that I'm driving a nail. The spike head, being a bit smaller in profile, also works well for the code 83 rail I'm using by allowing the spike to be pushed straight down without having to be angled in order to clear the rail top and grab just the base. Another problem that I've had with pre-fab spikes is the spike splitting the tie [:-censored] chance with that happening here because of the smaller diameter spike shaft. For this application, I'm not gluing the rail down first and then using spikes as a secondary track gauge stabilizer as I did with my other hand-laid track. Instead, I keep my rails in gauge using my rolling track gauges from, my custom turnout supplier...

    Next, I dip about 1/4 of the pin into super glue and simply push the spike in place. The 'push-down' action evenly distributes the glue on the pin and contact surfaces of the tie and foam road bed as the pin sinks in making a strong hold-down against the rail base with no tie splitting, either. I've also had pre-fabbers meet resistance and hang up on the way down through a tie for some reason resulting in my having to push harder and then missing the rail base altogether and smashing the tie! [!][!] About now, you're probably ready to scream out, "Be more careful!" or "Just get one of those no longer produced spike tools that sell for outrageous prices on eBay!" [:-dunce] But this method is really so easy and goes so fast, there's no need to buy anything else. Here's a horrible close-up photo of what the spike/rail/tie looks like...

    Well, you get the idea. The spike head will blend in well once weathered along with the rails and ties. The only downside to this is actually sitting down and making the spikes. But being retired and having more time than money, I can see myself cranking out batches of these ready for use when I need 'em. I like these so much they may become my spike of choice!

  • #2
    Looks good, Russ. How do you form the head?

    The sky is not my limit, it's my playground.


    • #3

      Originally posted by George D

      Looks good, Russ. How do you form the head?

      Thanks, George! The spike head is formed by holding any area on the pin head against the flat part of a Dremel cut-off disk running, say at low/medium speed, until that part (or 1/4th) of the pin head is ground away flush to the pin shaft. Rotate the pin head and do the same for the remaining facets of the pin head until only 1/4 is left. That forms the spike head. Because the pin head is slightly dome shaped, the final product has a neat, proto profile. The distance between the edge of the remaining 1/4 facet of the pin head and the pin shaft is deep enough to hold snug against the rail base. Maybe I can come up with some better photos tomorrow.


      • #4
        Thanks, Russ. I had visions of you using a file - the Dremel makes more sense.

        The sky is not my limit, it's my playground.


        • #5
          I was reading this thread with my coffee .. nice! I know pins are different sizes but found this close-up online.

          Brought into Sketchup and 'lathed'

          I 'whacked off' three sides


          • #6
            Excellent drawings.
            Karl Scribner-Curmudgeon

            Cedar Swamp
            SW of Manistique, MI

            AVATAR Image stolen from Model Train Stuff advertisement in my e-mail


            • #7
              Great idea, Slim, thanks for sharing. In your post it sounds like you are using full length pins, but that workbench pic looks like the pin must have been clipped. Is that correct? If so, how do the clipped ones push? Also, it looks like you actually did carve the pinhead some, was this done on a grinder or disk sander , or maybe a wet stone, etc? Just thinking about it, it seems to me that you might also be able strike the head with a hammer on an anvil to give the head an oblong shape. I tried my first little bit of handlayed track recently. On30. Just a couple feet for a photo diorama and I am not concerned about it actually operating, although the gauge seems real good when I roll a car on it. For this little project I just glued it with Elmers. I have a feeling if I knocked the rail while handling or something it might pop loose, so this pin idea is something I might put to use and drive a few spikes in there for insurance that things stay where they should.

              Amongst the saguaros


              • #8
                OK...No fuzzy picture this time, just a fuzzy illustration!


                1. Hold the straight pin by the shaft, pin head up, using small ridged pliers for a good grip.

                2. Use a Dremel cut off disk with the shaft held horizontally. The face of the disk is used for the grinding surface.

                3. Hold the pin vertically and contact the disk, medium RPM. Grind away the first section (light blue area) flush with the pin shaft to form the 'back'. This will remove 1/2 of the pin head.

                3. Rotate the pin and repeat the process to grind down the remaining 'sides' in the yellow and white areas. This will remove 1/4 off of the pin head's 1 'side' and then the other 1/4 from the remaining 'side'.

                4. What you will have left is the 'front' or spike head. No other grinding is necessary.
                Driving the Spike

                Because the pin head is domed to begin with, the resulting spike will have a curved top profile with enough depth to hold against the rail base. The spike can be used full length if there is adequate roadbed material. In my case, I hold the spike head with my small pliers, dip the shaft in a bit of super-type glue and then, while snugged against the rail base, push the spike down vertically through the tie until the spike head tightly contacts the rail base. That's it!
                I tested the spikes for clearance using my one of my Sn3 PBL trucks and it glides right over the spike head. Keep in mind that I'm using Code 83 rail for an 1/64th scale application. Oh, BTW, the photo of the rail/tie/spike on my work bench used a cut-down spike shaft for the purpose of the photo. I use the complete pin shaft length for my own use, but they can certainly be trimmed shorter to fit your own roadbed requirements. Any questions or suggestions are welcome!