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How to Cut Railroad Ties: A Complete Guide

Railroad ties are known for their durability and strength, making them a popular choice for various projects.

However, cutting railroad ties can be a challenging task that requires the right tools and safety precautions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of cutting railroad ties properly, ensuring safety and efficiency.

Preparing to Cut Railroad Ties

Before you start cutting railroad ties, it is essential to prepare yourself and your work area.

These heavy, sturdy planks can be difficult to manage, and some may even have chemicals or debris embedded in them. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth and safe cutting process:

Piles of railroad ties
  1. Gear up with the right tools: To cut railroad ties, you will need a powerful chainsaw, preferably with a carbide tipped chain for faster cutting. Additionally, gather the following tools and safety equipment:
    • Wood scraps or sawhorses for elevation
    • Tape measure for precise measurements
    • Chalk to mark cutting lines
    • Coveralls for full protection
    • Work boots and gloves to protect your hands and feet
    • Safety goggles to shield your eyes from debris
    • Construction mask to prevent inhalation of dust or chemicals
    • Hearing protection due to the loud noise of the chainsaw
  2. Ensure your safety: Safety should be your top priority when working with railroad ties. The size and weight of the planks, along with potential hazards like embedded debris, make it crucial to wear the appropriate safety gear. Never skip safety precautions when cutting railroad ties.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Railroad Ties

Cutting railroad ties requires careful attention and precision. Follow these steps to ensure a successful cutting process:

Step 1: Prepare Your Work Area

Before you begin cutting, set up your work area for optimal stability and convenience. If possible, cut the railroad ties close to their final location to avoid unnecessary transportation. Follow these steps to prepare your work area:

  1. Choose a stable surface: Ensure your work area is flat, even, and free from debris. This will provide a safe and stable platform for cutting the railroad ties.
  2. Elevate the ties: Place two pieces of scrap wood or sawhorses approximately 3 feet apart. This elevation will prevent your chainsaw from hitting the ground or grass beneath the railroad tie. Position the tie on top of the elevated support.

Step 2: Measure and Mark

Accurate measurements are crucial when cutting railroad ties, especially if you have specific lengths or angles in mind. Follow these steps to measure and mark the tie:

  1. Use a tape measure: Measure the railroad tie according to your desired dimensions. Take your time to ensure precise measurements.
  2. Mark the cutting lines: Use chalk to mark the cutting lines on the railroad tie. Make sure the lines are thick and easily visible throughout the cutting process.
Person using a chainsaw

Step 3: Cut the Railroad Tie

With your work area prepared and measurements marked, it’s time to start cutting the railroad tie. Follow these steps for a successful cutting process:

  1. Put on your safety gear: Before you begin cutting, ensure you are wearing all the necessary safety equipment, including coveralls, work boots, work gloves, safety goggles, a construction mask, and hearing protection.
  2. Start the chainsaw: Power up your chainsaw and position it properly for cutting. Ensure that the railroad tie is securely placed on the elevated support before starting the chainsaw.
  3. Make the first cut: Begin by making the first cut into the railroad tie. Slowly and steadily guide the chainsaw through the wood, cutting approximately 3/4 of the way through the tie. Take your time, as railroad ties are dense and challenging to cut.
  4. Finish the cut: Once you’ve made the initial cut, flip the railroad tie and start cutting from the bottom to the top. This approach helps prevent the chainsaw from binding as you complete the cut.
  5. Be cautious of debris: While cutting, be mindful of any debris or rocks that may be inside the railroad tie. These can damage your chainsaw or cause hazards. Work slowly and carefully to avoid any mishaps.
  6. Maintain your chainsaw: Cutting through tough railroad ties can be tough on your chainsaw blade. Consider having extra chains on hand and sharpening the chain periodically to maintain cutting efficiency.

By following these steps and taking the necessary safety precautions, you can successfully cut railroad ties for your desired projects.

Why Safety Gear is Crucial

When working with railroad ties, it is essential to prioritize safety and protect yourself from potential hazards. Here’s why safety gear is crucial:

  1. Debris and flying objects: Railroad ties may contain embedded debris, rocks, or gravel that can become airborne during the cutting process. Safety goggles, coveralls, and gloves will protect you from potential injuries caused by flying objects.
  2. Chemical exposure: Some railroad ties are treated with chemicals like creosote for weatherproofing. These chemicals can be harmful to your skin, eyes, and lungs. Wearing coveralls, safety goggles, and a construction mask provides essential protection against chemical exposure.
  3. Overall protection: Cutting railroad ties involves powerful tools and heavy materials. Safety gear, including work boots and hearing protection, ensures overall protection while working with these challenging materials.

Remember, safety gear is not optional when cutting railroad ties. Prioritize your well-being and follow all safety guidelines to prevent accidents and injuries.

Conclusion

Cutting railroad ties requires careful planning, the right tools, and a focus on safety. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can successfully cut railroad ties with precision and efficiency.

Remember to prioritize safety by wearing the appropriate gear and taking necessary precautions throughout the process.

With the proper approach, you can repurpose or remove railroad ties for your projects effectively and safely.

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