South KC artist creates figurines out of railroad spikes

When Jim Wood retired, he found a new career welding railroad spikes into clever and adorable figurines.

Railroad spike art created by South Kansas City resident

By Christina McDonough Hunt

South Kansas City resident Jim Wood began his retirement by creating unique pieces of art with railroad spikes, and he’s not looking back.  

Artist Jim Wood in his shop with one of his favorite spike sculptures of a longhorn steer. Wood wears a cap similar to his spike characters. Photo by Christina McDonough Hunt

“Retirement is great! It took me all of about an hour to get used to it,” laughed Wood, who is 64 years old. Wood retired after 40 years in the accounting/banking business. 

Nowadays, Wood finds railroad spikes and heats, cuts, bends and shapes them to form artistic pieces like figurines of people playing sports or doing activities, animal figurines, and items such as coat racks and wall art. He calls his art pieces “railroad spike rescue projects.” 

“I’m rescuing these railroad spikes,” explained Wood. “I find the spikes and repurpose them into something cool.”  

Wood has always enjoyed working with his hands to create woodwork pieces and restore cars. He was interested in welding, however he had never learned the skill.  He met a gentleman in Washington, D.C. who was a metal worker and gave Wood some advice regarding welding: purchase a good welder. After retiring, Wood took that man’s advice and began testing his skills. Purely self-taught, he has never taken a welding class–a fact that surprises many people.    

The first pieces that Wood created were golf figures in varying positions, and he was able to make each figure to scale. 

Longhorn steer.

“It just so happens that a railroad spike is just about 6 inches long and I am 6 feet tall, so I am able to make the hands and other features to scale,” Wood said.  

Wood’s designs include a photographer, a baseball player, a man proposing to a woman, a bicycle rider, an elephant, a coat rack and more.  

Each spike art piece takes about 5 to 6 hours to create, and according to Wood, “It’s worth it.”  He’s had clients in Los Angeles and New York, but most of his clients are local. One, a friend of his, wanted gifts for his children. 

“His son is a drummer, so I created a drummer, and his daughter runs marathons all over the U.S., so I created a marathon runner placed on a piece of wood shaped like the United States.  For him, I made bookends of people reading,” Wood said.  

His favorite creation is a Texas longhorn. The steer has more detail than some of the other pieces and the challenge of creating the face excited him. His first attempt did not look right, so he added ears to the face and created an elephant. His second attempt turned out to be the perfect longhorn.  

Wood has been producing art for the past two years and looks forward to testing his skills with other unique ideas. He believes it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

“You can go from being an accountant to being a resident artist pretty easily. You just need some imagination,” he says.

To see more of Wood’s art or to inquire about purchasing a railroad spike piece for yourself, visit his website at  

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