Ghan Rail Spike

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Project by robscastle posted 05-30-2015 06:12 AM 1861 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My Canadian friend Michael dropped by today, on his way out to go metal detecting.

We were talking about his next outback trip and the Raillway Spike he found on the last Simpson desert trip (and gave me), came up in conversation, of which I said I was going to mount it and give it back to him.

He sounded very interested so I set to work after he left.

The process:

Quite a bit of thought went into attempting to decide how to make the base as I checked out my timber stock.
I originally wanted to use some timber that refelected the Railway sleeper it had come from.

In the process of deciding I de-rusted the spike and coated it with Gold Size, while that was drying I continued attempting to find a suitable base material, it was then I decided to try some Driftwood/Root I had.

I decided to try that realising it may just end up in the trash as unsuitable, but anyway I cut a section off.

I tried to disk sand it but it was too hard for my sander, so I used my Air Die grinder to clean it up

The results were worth percevering with so I continued on,

A Flap disk mounted in a bench drill was next, it removed a lot of the Die grinder divots but almost self destructed itself in the process.

Not sure what species the wood is but its so hard its bordering on being petrified!

Next I drilled a square hole in it at an angle to accomodate the spike.
My square hole drill was smokin by the time I finished morticing.

I burnish oiled it on my polishing machine and then all was done.

The spike I leafed with copper as opposed to Gold and fitted it all together.

Although they are in no way matched I think the final end result was OK.

A bit of added history:

This is Australias equivlent to The Oriental Express or the Trans Siberian Railway.

No doubt other LJs can add their local knowledge to the list !!! hint hint

Route: Adelaide – Alice Springs – Darwin
Duration: 2 nights in either direction
Distance: 2979 kilometres
Frequency: Once weekly in both directions^ (See timetables)
Special needs: Wheelchair access, Dietary needs

^Twice weekly in peak season and fortnightly December and January

Now Job complete:

-- Regards Rob

9 comments so far

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 3377 days

#1 posted 05-30-2015 06:20 AM

Well that’s one way to use it. nice work.

View BobWemm's profile


2680 posts in 2404 days

#2 posted 05-30-2015 06:38 AM

Hey Rob,
Great job there mate, we have a couple of those Ghan spikes that are just waiting for some inspiration.
This is definitely food for thought.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View Cliff 's profile


1539 posts in 2202 days

#3 posted 05-30-2015 09:42 AM

Very interesting project. Also just pondering on the Ghan Spike one can only imagine the fascinating history behind it. regards,


-- Cliff Australia : Snoring is good. It blows away all the Sawdust.

View TZH's profile


558 posts in 3618 days

#4 posted 05-30-2015 01:32 PM

Not from Australia, but can still appreciate fine work when I see it. Very nice presentation, and I’m with Cliff on the history part of that spike.

BTW, I’ve always wondered how to drill a square hole. I’ve tried many times to fit a square peg into a round hole in my doctor’s office (just kidding). Care to share how you did that?

Thanks for sharing.

-- Where The Spirit In Wood Lives On

View Bluepine38's profile


3387 posts in 3563 days

#5 posted 05-30-2015 03:52 PM

Very nice way for a woodworker to return a gift, combining a desert part with the ocean, and adding a
bit of imagination to make a small masterpiece. Thank you for sharing. I got curious about the Simpson
desert, so I had to look it up, Michael has a lot of territory to roam before he has to go over the same
territory twice.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10690 posts in 4530 days

#6 posted 05-30-2015 05:36 PM

COOL piece!

COOL finishing!


Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View stefang's profile (online now)


16713 posts in 3812 days

#7 posted 05-31-2015 07:07 PM

Very nice work Rob and a nice slice of history to boot.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View robscastle's profile


6308 posts in 2682 days

#8 posted 06-02-2015 08:56 AM



I have a Hollow Chisel Mortiser, its like a drill press in operation, there is a drill bit in the chuck and a hollow Chisel around the drill bit which is clamped in the frame, they are custom sets for various sizes.

This picture should explain things clearer.

-- Regards Rob

View TZH's profile


558 posts in 3618 days

#9 posted 06-02-2015 01:02 PM

Thanks, Rob. I’ve seen those before, but never really understood how they work. Now I think I do, and will have to check them out.


-- Where The Spirit In Wood Lives On

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