If you have been in the shop recently, follow us on social media, or have browsed through our online store, chances are you have seen the railroad spike knives. Have you ever wondered how they go from a railroad spike to a unique “tacti-cool” piece of art? Perhaps you are curious about the man behind these knives? Well, I am about to give you the inside scoop on their production.
All his life, Mike Collingwood Sr. has had a knack for all things metal. His first ever gig was structural steel fitting, which sparked his initial interest in the field. From there, he has performed in a variety of careers, odd-jobs, and projects during his time as an X-Ray service engineer. Because of his sparked taste for fabrication, Mike began “piddling” with knives. What originally started as a hobby in his spare time quickly became a full-time production. It was in early 2012 when Mike realized the products he was creating were now in high demand. Not long after that, Mike had countless inquiries, all wanting to know how they could get their hands on a piece of his work.
To keep up with the rapidly growing wait-list, Mike built his own forge and knife grinder. The grinder is constructed of structural steel and features a series of pulleys running on a 3hp motor. Currently, he is working on a 25 ton(ne) hydraulic knife press. Obviously, having this knife press will save him a lot of hard labor. However, he claims he needs the press because his shoulders are becoming “too muscular” from manually pounding out the steel, but we’ll let his wife be the judge of that.
After conversing with Mike about his production, we thought it would be a good idea to give the readers an in-depth, play-by-play of his work. Of course, we’ll be sure to let out some of the more important details. From what begins as an ordinary railroad spike, he places it in his custom coal forge and uses his personal judgment as to when to remove the spike. Once removed, the red-hot metal is put into a vice where he gives it either a full twist or a twist and a half. As each knife is fabricated custom to order, it is up to the individual to decide on the number of rotations. From there, it is placed back into the forge for a process he refers to as “heatin’ and beatin’”. He continues this process until the basic form is achieved. He then brings the knife over to the grinder where he applies multiple belt grits, ensure that each knife has its own custom, rough shape. Next, Mike moves into the heat-treat phase where he heats the knife to about 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, and then quenches it in pure olive oil. The final grind is then applied with a 1200 grit belt, followed by buffing it out to give the knife its overall shiny appearance. Mike applies what he describes as a “chemical process” to give the handle its blackened finish which also doubles as an anti-rusting coating. Lastly, he sharpens out the edge and voila! A one-of-a-kind railroad spike knife is complete.
Mike Sr.’s knives have ended up in the hands of many, including LEOs, civilians, and celebrities. Likewise, currently, two of his knives are in the hands of the best disabled veteran, non-profit organization. Unfortunately, at this time, we are not at liberty to discuss further details. Regardless, this is something that Collingwood is truly proud to be a part as he can relate to these brave men and women on a very personal level; Mike served with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War during his early adulthood. When asked his thoughts on the donation of his custom-made knives, he was quoted saying: “This is a real opportunity to give back to those who gave it all for our country.”