How to Cut Railroad Ties

[Cover] How to Cut Railroad Ties

One of the sturdiest materials that you can possibly work with is railroad ties since they are built to last as long as possible. However, such longevity doesn’t come with no drawbacks. In fact, those who have encountered them in their job can confirm that these are some of the toughest tools to work with, which is why learning how to cut railroad ties may seem pretty hard at first.

If you are thinking about using these in a domestic project, you might face a lot of difficulties, but it is definitely possible. You shouldn’t worry about the heaviness or the massive size of these wooden objects since with this guide you will learn the right way to cut them efficiently. You just have to follow out tips, and you will be chopping them up in no time.

How to Cut Railroad Ties: Here’s What You Will Need

The process of cutting railroad ties is undoubtedly laborious, but there aren’t a lot of power tools involved at least.

As to what you’ll need, first of all, you’ll have to grab an electric or gas-powered chainsaw coupled with carbide tipped chain (it isn’t mandatory, although it speeds up the process), a chainsaw sharpener, and two pieces of scrap wood.

  • Check our guide on how to buy the right electric chainsaw.
  • Check our guide on how to buy the right gas-powered chainsaw here.

Moreover, you’ll need coveralls or chainsaw chaps, chalk, hearing protection, safety goggles, work gloves and boots, and a measuring tape.

HOW TO CUT RAILROAD TIES: A Word of Caution Before You Start

Now that you are ready to delve deeper into this process, there are some considerations to put in mind beforehand. First of all, the work on hand is extremely demanding, as the size of these ties coupled with the various materials added in the wood like rocks and grit, bolster the difficulty of cutting them to much higher limits than those of regular wood pieces.

Moreover, railroad tiles are designed to be waterproof, so they are covered with “Creosote” which is a substance that provides this trait. This compound is dangerous since it might cause your skin, lungs, and skin when you come in contact with it. Additionally, it can easily penetrate into the soil in the place where these pieces are installed.

To get to the point, you should only work with this material if you absolutely have to, else you might want to opt for an alternative that is both easier to work with and safer since the end result is not worth the pain involved. But you might be forced to use them, and in that case, you should further read this article in order to learn how the process of cutting is done right.


First Step: Setting up Your Work Area

The first thing you need to do is prepare the area in which you are going to have the process done. For more convenience, choose a place that is as close as possible to where you are going to put your ties in order not to have to carry them around too much.

With about three feet of distance between them, place the two chunks of scrap wood first. Now, put the railroad tie that you wish to cut on the two pieces. These will serve as an elevation to the tie in order to make the cutting even easier and avoid them being stuck as you cut through them.

Second Step: Measuring

You may not or may not be able to skip this step altogether depending on the goal that you hope to achieve. If you are doing all of this work just in order to eliminate these giant pieces of wood from your home, you can do so without having to take measurements since these won’t be useful for you. However, if you are using the piece in new construction, you should whip out the measuring tape and the chalk piece to meticulously evaluate and denote the places where you need to make the cuts.

Final Step: Cutting the Ties

Now that everything is ready for you to start making cuts, first take a deep breath and make sure you are wearing all of the appropriate protection since you don’t want to get any of that pesky Creosote stuff in contact with you.

Whenever you’re ready, turn on your chainsaw and start cutting through the first tie, going as deep as 3/4 of its overall depth.

Then, take it out and continue cutting from under it, going in an upwards motion in order to finish the cut. This technique will ensure there is no binding of the tie.

Throughout the process of cutting, be careful of various particles including stones and grit that might change the motion of your chainsaw’s cutting. So you have to work your way at a slow pace, and you should be fine. Moreover, your chain will deteriorate after the prolonged cutting time, since the grit can have such a nasty effect on them, so you will have to sharpen them once in a while for maximum cutting efficiency.

Cutting a Railroad Tie

Final Thoughts

Railroad ties are a sturdy material to work with since the problems they pose throughout the process of cutting them are hard to avoid. However, if you are patient and make you sure you wear the appropriate safety gear while also taking proper care of your chainsaw, you should be able to finish it effortlessly and unscathed.

For a satisfying end result, you just need to follow this guide which is the product of our vast experience and trust us in that you won’t go wrong with a similar operation ever again!

PS: if you want to take your skills to the next level, check our buying guides and reviews, where we cover everything you may ever need in your tool box, be it a Tile Saw, Cordless Circular Saw, Circular Saw Blade, Random Orbital Sander, Sliding Compound Miter Saw, Chainsaw Mill, Cordless Tool Set, Table Saw, bucks, or even Chainsaw Chaps. We also like to compare power tool brands, such as DeWalt and Milwaukee.


Jeffrey Alfaro

Jeffrey is a craftsman and writer who specializes in testing tools and covering the tool industry for construction and woodworking professionals.

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