Stephen Hatch
Sun Jan 23 2005
Subject: Old ties from bamboo skewers.

Basically any package of Bamboo Skewers work really well
I got this package from Wal-Mart for a buck but I
Saw packages in quite a few stores including Grocery Stores

The ties in these photos are 7foot (Sn3) ....the rail is 30lb.
(code 40) the dirt is just dirt from my yard.

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Step 1:
The first step is to stain these skewers to get them grayish/brown
I use shoe dye straight out of the bottle to stain the bamboo.
If it comes out too dark (black) I'll use a little alcohol
to tone it down a bit. This also makes it gray instead of

Step 2: After You stain the skewers, cut them into 6/7 foot lengths using diagnol cutters.
These cutters will give an irregular end to the ties and make them look hand cut.

Step 3: Glue down the ties just as you would square ties and wait till the glue dries.

Step 4: Now we want to make a sander that is a little wider than the width of
the rails. Don't use a wider sanding block because we want to leave
the ends of the ties unsanded. They will be flat in the center and
random round etc. on each end. This is what hand hewn ties look like.

Step 5: Touch-up the stain on the ties where you sanded them.

Step 6: I prefer to put the ballast down before I lay the rails but either way
works ok. Just remember to fill the center but leave the ends of the
ties very light in ballast. Most of the end should be exposed as in these pictures.
Notice how much better these old skewer ties look than the regular wood ties
in the top of this picture.

Some of the ties will crack when you sand them. Some of them will split off.
That's OK They still look good and best of all.... they're easy to do

These old looking ties photograph very well

Working on old ties
Bamboo skewer ties look A-1...very convincing.

However, having messed with bamboo skewers for lots of things I know the material to be very hard..so, how do you get the spikes in???

I have always layed my track straight onto plywood or laminated roadbed. So I deal with "hard to drive" spikes all the time.

I have a 12 volt motor that holds a piece of .015 wire and I just pre-drill on each side of the rail. Doesn't matter what the tie is made of since it's going down into plywood anyway.

Your right that the bamboo skewers are too hard to just shove spikes in. But I'm used to just pre-drilling so I didn't notice any problem.

My 12 motor/driller is attached to a 6 volt lantern battery. It's very portable and lasts about a year before I need another battery.
I epoxied half of a pin vice on the motor shaft to hold the bits.
Also works great for pre-drilling grab iron holes in car sides.
On the code 40 rail I just glue it with Barges. No spikes. I do have a fast trick for doing 3 foot lengths with glue. I lay out the two rails using lots of gauges (8 per 3ft.) and I use two straight pins on either side of each rail to position the rail. These pin sets of 4 are about every six inches.

Then I take off the gauges .....glue the back of one rail all the 3 ft length. Set it back down with the pins guiding the position. Put weights about every 4 inches or so. Then put glue on the back of the second rail all three feet. Then set in down between it's rows of pin pairs. Put the gauges back on to position exactly. Place weights between (or on top of) the gauges....in about an hour the glue has dried and the track is layed.

I don't heat the rail or anything since the glue goes on moist and sticks to both surfaces with the pins speeding up alignment.
I use this method with all rail sizes now since it goes so fast.

Oh also, don't put the pins in the ties ....put them in between. Much easier. I use pliers to hold the pin and shove it in.

-Stephen Hatch

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