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"Railroad Chalk" = dustless chalk?

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  • "Railroad Chalk" = dustless chalk?

    Was reading The Machinist's Bedside Reader and Guy Lautard mentions "railroad" chalk as a preference over the normal, blackboard kind for filing in the lathe. So I was curious to try it, but it seems I can only buy a box of 72pcs for ~$14 from McMaster (they call it "heavy duty chalk"). Okay, not too expensive -- but also ridiculously more than I could use. So I was looking around. Guy mentions buying them in "stationary stores"... but I also feel like an awful lot of those kind of suggestions are 1990's era and not accurate today. Long story short, looks like I could buy a stick of "dustless" chalk at a local office supply or art store. Anyone care to educate me on the difference, if there is any, with "railroad chalk"?
    Arthur.Marks
    Senior Member
    Last edited by Arthur.Marks; 02-15-2013, 03:18 PM.

  • #2
    Hmmm... I always thought "railroad chalk" was just a large diameter piece of ordinary chalk. Learned something today!


    Staples apparently sell it. Maybe you could drop by one of their stores and see what it's made of...

    http://www.staples.com/Dixon-Ticonde...product_761787

    .
    Mike Burdick
    Senior Member
    Last edited by Mike Burdick; 02-15-2013, 04:00 PM.

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    • #3
      Sticks of traditional "railroad chalk" were maybe twice as large in diameter as blackboard chalk, and tapered. I suspect that they were cast -- as were the hemispherical blocks of "carpenter's chalk" -- and the taper made it easier to extract the hardened sticks from the mold. (In contrast, most "blackboard chalk" sticks were extruded and cut to length.)

      A lot of today's "sidewalk chalk" is very nearly the same size and shape as railroad chalk, and is more-or-less readily available from big-box and dollar stores in the spring and summer . . . and there's a pretty good chance that those same stores will be selling multi-colored assortments of sidewalk chalk the size and shape of a chicken egg in the next few weeks, and what they don't sell by the end of March will be on half-price-or-less clearance at the beginning of April.

      John

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      • #4
        I read the mention of "railroad chalk" in the Bedside Reader also. Looked for it for years without success and resorted to buying kids sidewalk chalk at Staples. Comes in a little plastic pail in various colors. Seemed to work perfectly well and I was quite satisfied with the result.
        Errol Groff

        New England Model Engineering Society
        http://neme-s.org/

        YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GroffErrol?feature=mhee

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        • #5
          Are you talking about using chalk to fill the teeth of a file to keep it from pinning?

          Chuck

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          • #6
            Chuck, yes. I had never heard of different grades of chalk until reading the passage in TMBR:
            The best chalk for our purpose is "railroad chalk", which is sold in stationery stores. It is in sticks about 1" dia. x 4" long. It is good hard dense chalk, unlike the soft powdery stuff sold for home consumption as kids' blackboard chalk. Real school chalk is also good, but I think you will like the railroad chalk better. pg.7, Vol.1

            I'll admit it has a whiff of myth about it. I decided to look into it, though. If what is being referred to is a different process (cast) as John Garner presumes, there may be something to it. I guess the idea of a less *puff!*, powdery chalk sounded appealing. BTW, McMaster does show a large, "tapered board chalk" as item #1648T7.

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            • #7
              I've always known railroad chalk to be large, slightly tapered chalk. About 4' long and 1' diameter with a slight taper. Sidewalk art chalk is about the same size, but is really soft. I doesn't really matter though, as either one will help keep a file from clogging. I don't know if railroad chalk is really dustless, but you can get it in coated form (like coated aspirin), so at least it doesn't rub off on your hand when you are holding it.

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              • #8
                I use the hemispherical carpenter's chalk with good results. It works great as long as I apply it frequently enough. I also use a scrap of hardwood, rubbing the edge of the wood in line with the teeth of the file, to clean the file occasionally.

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                • #9
                  RR chalk was used to mark up car sides for assorted reasons, Uncle worked for Fords RR at the rouge plant brought a part box home years ago, was the same brand as used in the schools as kindergarten chalk. Dustless refers to the shinny coating on the outside of school chalk or RR On the RR the coating was to keep it together in the pocket when raining or snow, sort of shed water.
                  Sidewalk chalk works fine. IT is all the same on the inside of the sticks.
                  Glen
                  Been there, probably broke it, doing that!
                  I am not a lawyer, and never played one on TV!
                  All the usual and standard disclaimers apply. Do not try this at home, use only as directed, No warranties express or implied, for the intended use or the suggested uses, Wear safety glasses, closed course, professionals only

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                  • #10
                    if you are "chalking" files soapstone works better. Used by welders for making steel to be cut (burned). Can be found in rectangular sticks at HomeDee, Horror Freight, Enco, McMaster, etc.

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                    • #11
                      < About 4' long and 1' diameter> single ' is usually used for FEET. That would
                      be some hunk of chalk. :-)
                      ...lew...

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                      • #12
                        I ran into the same availability problem a few years ago after reading GBL's Bedside Reader. If anyone lives near S. Florida I'll split a case with them.
                        The same article in the reader also mentions oiling files to obtain similar results. Has anyone tried that in lieu of chalk? Cutting oil I have and it's easy to obtain more. I've just been too chicken to chance ruining a file by oiling it. Perhaps it's old wife's tales but I was taught that oil and files is a no no.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Lew Hartswick View Post
                          < About 4' long and 1' diameter> single ' is usually used for FEET. That would
                          be some hunk of chalk. :-)
                          ...lew...
                          I have to assume that the 4' long stick was broken down into shorter pieces for use by the rail road yard guys.
                          I just can't picture a guy walking around with a 4' long stick of chalk.

                          JL................

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                          • #14
                            Brownells sells it as "file chalk", as does Midway.

                            David
                            David Kaiser
                            “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”
                            ― Robert A. Heinlein

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                            • #15
                              What about the chalk we used on the farm to "thrill" the chickens to keep them laying? It was hard, egg shaped and seemed to last forever? Good luck and yes kids chalk works fine for me and IS purty! Wayne.

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