166-1 This is a locomotive inspector's hammer, it was used for measuring many different things including:
-Maximum height of a driving wheel flange (1-1/2")
-Grab iron clearance (2")
-Flat and shell spots on wheels (2-1/2")
-End handhold clearance (4")
-The large end of this hammer head is 1" diameter, it was used to confirm the maximum engine and trailing truck lateral
-The overall length is 5-1/8", this was used to check the maximum coupler contour
166-2 These are printing pens, patent number 510,966.
166-3 It is highly likely that these bits were used in the installation of furniturecastersin a furniture factory. They are bore/counterbore bits that bored tapered holes for the insertion ofcastershanks and countersunk recesses for the bearing bolsters. This ID is based on the shape of the bits as being similar to knowncasterbits.
12" long, the heel is connected to the threaded rod and
can move the ruler as it's rolled, or the ruler can be locked
to stop the wheel at a predetermined distance. No answer yet for this device.
The Gristmill What's It Column for December 2016
165-1 8" long, text on it reads "CS-2 Universal, Voss Mfg & Dist Co, Downs Kans", no answer yet for this tool:
165-2 This tool is one of a two part wire fence twister by the Brown Fence Company, see tool number 701 in Smith's "Collectors Guide For Fencing Tools."
165-3 This is an industrial saw set that was made for working on large gauge circular saws. Some of the places that these were used include board mills, shingle mills, and pulp mills.
165-4 5-1/2" long, still looking for an answer for this item:
The Gristmill What's It Column for September 2016
164-1 8" long, no answer yet for this tool.
164-2 A holder and handle for the cylinder of an acetylene lamp.
164-3 A wick cutter for use on oil lamps.
Update from the December 2012 Gristmill What's It column:
149-4 This is a ski waxing iron, the heat is supplied by a fuel tablet.
The Gristmill What's It Column for June 2016
163-1 Years ago fuel delivery trucks didn't have any type of a pump to transfer the fuel from the truck to the farmer's storage tank. The fuel was moved in 5 gallon containers by hand. This indicator was mounted on the truck and each time a 5 gallon can was filled they advanced it one space to keep track of the gallons delivered.
163-2 This is a wire fence tighener, patent number 658335
163-3 This device is a fishinglureretriever for when thelureis snagged on a branch or rock underwater. The slot would be opened and the line would be slipped into the cylinder, the slot would then be closed. The retriever could then be lowered and raised along the line by a cord. If the weight of the retriever didn't dislodge thelure, the chains could be entangled with thelurehooks and help pull it out.
The Gristmill What's It Column for March 2016
162-1 12-3/4" long:
162-2 The spikes on this item are around 5" in length. There are two mounting holes
on the frame, and the part holding the spikes can freely rotate on the threaded shaft.
Turning the handle raises and lowers the spikes, which can all pivot outwards.
162-3 This is probably part of a drafting T-square that is missing its straight edge.
The Gristmill What's It Column for December 2015
161-1 3-1/4" long:
161-2 A Tectool Two-Cutter Plough Plane
161-3 This is a mold for making glass lenses.
161-4 This tool is a shoe maker's burnisher.
The Gristmill What's It Column for September 2015
160-1 This is possiblya pump log shaper that was used to shape the inside end of a log for coupling two of them together. Thanks to Dave Peoples for sending in this answer along with a photo of his similar tool which can be seen below.
Another version of this device:
160-2 A watch crystal removing and replacing tool, patent number 3,074,156
160-3 No answer yet for this device
160-4 This is a precision laboratory resistor or shunt, marked ".1 Ohm 15 Amps," the nameplate reads "The Leeds and Northrup Co., Scientific Instruments, Philadelphia."
The next 22 items were sent in by members who were looking to identify them.
160-5 These are lathe tools for use when turning wood:
160-6 The plates below were most likely attached to an old grain drill, if anyone can be more specific please let us know.
160-21 This is a cage for transporting honey bees.
160-22 Looks like some type of inclinometer:
160-26 This is a medical device called a Drum Dermatome, it was used by doctors for performing skin grafts.
The Gristmill What's It Column for June 2015
159-1. A shoe maker's corrugated burnisher:
159-2. This is steel and shaped like a plumb bob but there is no way to attach a string. It weighs 1 pound 10.4 ounces, is 4-1/2" long and the largest diameter is 1-3/4". One possible answer is that it could be a plumber's turnpin for flaring one end of a pipe, then a second pipe could be inserted into the first and then soldered to join them together.
159-3. A salt pulverizer, for breaking up the salt in a shaker, patent number 71,643:
145-3. This tool was published in the December 2011 Gristmill, finally got an answer for it, turns out that it's a Goodell-Pratt Manufacturing Co. tool for cutting off round stock that is being turned in a lathe.
Not a very clear image but I wanted to include it since it shows the length gauge:
159-4. Possibly a wick trimmer, similar to patent number 24,804:
159-5. A drill point gauge:
159-6. The device on the left is part of an apple parer, the other item is a nut cracker, patent number 1,274,856:
159-7. A piston ring expander:
159-8. Someone is looking patent information on this screwdriver and would like to know if it was for a specific purpose:
159-9. A roofer's double seamer for use on tin:
159-11. A wheel balancer:
159-13. A grafting froe:
159-14. A hoof pick:
159-15. A Norlund fishing gaff:
159-17. Possibly some type of grabber for retreiving something out of reach:
158-16. An update from the December column, someone sent in patent number 396,780 that shows the wagon brake in use:
158-17. No answer yet
158-18. At the lower right is an ox bow pin, we need some help with the other three:
158-19. Another update, this time from the What's It Program in Louisville a few years ago, this is paint striper, patent number 1,904,558:
158-20. This is an Aldrich clamp:
According to a clamp expert, the lower ball and socket parts probably allow the clamp to grip sashes that have a beveled edge. We are still trying to find out the exact purpose of the upper part.
158-21. Possibly an oar lock:
158-22. A pipe hanger:
158-23. Someone would like to find the maker of this ax that is only marked with the letter A:
The Gristmill What's It Column for December 2015
This is a drag shoe or ruggle. It's a type of brake to prevent a heavily loaded wagon from overpowering the horses on a steep downhill grade, when attached to a wheel it makes the wagon slide down the hill instead of roll.
A jar wrench and lid reformer, for repairing dented lids, patent number 846,016.
No answer yet
This is a cotton gin saw filing machine, patent number 1989561
The next twelve items were sent to the What's It Committee by people who were looking to identify them.
157-5 A camerashutter timer, as seen in this video
157-6 No answer yet for this metal piece that says Hollenbeck Bros.
157-7 Another one with no answer yet
Looks like an axle of some sort.
Probably a watchmaker's staking set
The upper tool is used for making picket fences, patent number 380,482.
Still looking for an answer for the other tool.
This tool attaches to a chisel and is used for cutting the seats for hinges, patent number 860545.
This is supposedly a gold dousing device, most likely it never really worked.
This is an artillery fuze, it "initiates an explosive function in a munition, most commonly causing it to detonate or release its contents, when its activation conditions are met."
The Gristmill What's It Column for September 2014
A transmission spring compressor and holder for Model T Fords, patent number 1,407,362:
156-2 This piece of hardware is used to make a ramp to help get logs up onto a wagon, these are used in a pair, each is placed on top of a wagon wheel, a log is then put into the U shape with the other end going on the ground. Horses on the other side of the wagon can then pull the log up the ramp and into the bed of the wagon.
156-3 6-1/2" long, haven't yet found a reference for this clamp, looks like it could have been used for lifting something or attached to the flange of a beam and then used to hang a light fixture etc.
156-4 This is a M1917-1919 Browning machine gun wrench:
The next six items were sent to the What's It Committee by people who were looking to identify them.
156-5 A tool for stretching fence wire:
156-6 A tenon expander for musical instruments, it was used to expand saxophone necks and clarinet tenons. Text on it says "Joe Thompson Covington O."
156-7 This is a seed stripper for harvesting grass seed
156-8 No answer yet for this tool, it appears to be some type of rpm changer or torque multiplier. The owner's description: "The gear ratio is 8 to 1. They turn both Clockwise and Counter Clockwise. It seems there would have been a handle that would fit on which ever side you choose and then the other side would have been inserted into something so you could turn it at a different rate of rpm."
156-9 Someone emailed: "Attached is a photo of a solid brass, 12-inch gauge I recently found. It has a scale that is divided into tenths of an inch and is adjusted using a gear rack drive. There are no markings that would help to identify the gauge’s origin and the numbers are hand-stamped. Anyone have any ideas as to the intended use of this item? It probably originated in New England, since that is where it was found."
156-10 A hollow auger, also called a spoke auger or tenon cutter, it was used with a bit brace to cut a round tenon as needed for a chair rung or wagon spoke.
The Gristmill What's It Column for June 2014
155-1. A Crescent Lite Firelighter, for lighting oil burning furnaces, patent number 2,448,622:
155-2. A holder for the collapsed roof of an early convertible car:
155-3. Possibly a drill for use with a bow:
155-4. This is a corn husker, according to patent number 27,638, "...it both strips off the husks and severs the ear from the stalk."
The next eight items were sent to the What's It Committee by people who were looking to identify them.
155-5. This is a plug thread Go NoGo gauge, it's an inspection tool used to check a workpiece against its allowed tolerances.
155-6. This is a railroad level that was used to verify the grade of the rails:
It has a Stanley level:
155-7. Someone is looking to find the exact purpose for this 44" long plane:
155-8. This is a wire tension gauge:
155-9. Possibly some kind of special purpose depth gauge:
155-10. These are part of a holdback for hitching horses, patent number 656,272:
155-11. This is a razor honing device that is missing some parts, patent number 98,551:
155-12. Text on this tool says Nicholson steel, it is a machinist's scraper:
If you are not aware of all the books that have been written by M-WTCA members, please check out our Authors Corner page, where you will find many interesting books on a variety of tools.
The Gristmill What's It Column for March 2014
154-1. This is a grappling hook that was designed to remove objects that were dropped in a well, patent number 435,590:
154-2. According to a M-WTCA member, "this is a Dixon leather splitter frame. Made by Dixon in England. It is missing the roller and blade. The blade is fixed and the bottom wheel adjusts a roller up and down to set the thickness of the finished leather split. This same pattern of leather splitter is still being made by Dixon."
154-3. This is a piston expander, patent number 2,289,941:
154-4. 7" long, 13/16" wide, no answer yet:
The next ten items were sent to the What's It Committee by people who were looking to identify them.
154-5. This is a cork cutter sharpener for use on cork borers which were for making holes in rubber or cork stoppers.
154.10 A rigging or framing axe/hatchet with a nail puller slot:
154-11. A dental tooth key for pulling teeth, this is most likely a replica of an 18th Century tooth key that the Astra Pharmaceutical Products Co. had made and gave out to dentists in the 1950s and early 1960s.
154-12. A tool for removing ice cubes from the old fashioned metal trays:
154-13. Not sure about this hammer, it looks like somebody just replaced an old wooden handle with a metal one:
154-14. Someone was looking for manufacturer and patent information on the upper mechanism that is holding the saw on this miter machine, turns out that the patent number is 847,557:
The Gristmill What's It Column for December 2013
153-1. 8-1/2" tall, the owner's description of it: "there are 2 holes containing metal rods running from top to bottom. This was in a tool trunk of my father-in-law's machine tools from the 60's-70's, he worked in an oilfield machine shop out in West Texas. They also had some government contracts working on aircraft. Could be either." The numbers are as follows: 1 3 6 3 5 1 4 1 3 5 2 5 1 4 6 3 5 1 4 2 3 5 2 6 1 4 6 4 5 2 4 2 3 6 2 6
153-2. An attachment for ladders designed for sloping roofs, the spurs were meant to keep the ladder from slipping, patent number 774,009:
153-3. 5-1/2" long:
There is a 1/2" diameter hole that goes all the way through the handle to the open area at the screws seen in the above photo.
One of the two metal pieces removed:
The next nine items were sent to the What's It Committee by people who were looking to identify them.
153-4. This is the end piece of a singletree, which is the wooden part of the rigging between a horse and wagon:
153-5. A pair of sugar nippers:
153-6. Possibly for use when making lead bullets:
153-7. This is a lawn edger, similar to patent number1,400,627:
153-8. A flue scraper for an old steam tractor:
153-9. These are star drills that were used with a hammer to make holes in rock, brick, or concrete. After hole has been made in rock it can be broken up with a wedge and feathers or dynamite.
153-10. This is a grinding machine, patent number 783,086 states that it's for "surface grinding or polishing metal parts, such as knives or blocks or disks requiring to be dressed, ground or polished upon a surface which is required to be true to a given form, whether perfectly plain or spherically concave or convex."
153-11. A cigar box opener:
153-12. A Teles one man cross-cut saw, made by the T. L. Smith Co., London:
When I was researching this saw, someone sent me a photo of another one:
The nameplate on the second saw:
The Gristmill What's It Column for September 2013
152-1 A member wrote:
"I bought this hammer/wrench combination tool and would like to know its use. It weighs 4.5 lbs and is 11.5" long. Neck is 3" long and round. The remainder of hammer is like a square pyramid with a 1.25" square wrench on its end. The wrench is .75" deep. The square part starts out 1" square and goes up to 1.75" square."
152-2 This is an elevator door key, also called a "double joint broken knuckle key"
152-3 A device for placing a band on a pigeon's leg, it's called a bagueuse:
Below are two photos of a similar device with a sectional honey frame:
152-8 "Have an old backsaw that is a mystery. On the spline it has the maker as being WM Cockbaine & Co Newark NJ. Then on the blade on the same saw is an etched signature but both my wife and I are scratching our heads on making it out. I'm just interested in knowing more about the maker and how it may link to the signature on the blade."
152-9 A New Badger corn sheller, made into the 1920s by Appleton Mfg. Co., Batavia, IL.
152-10 "This is an unusual folding extension rule with 4 legs, each is 33" long. I don't know its purpose, maker or how it is used. The main rule joint is similar to standard carpenter rules. Each interior leg has a sliding section. Part of the rule has markings but no numbering system...wonder if it was incomplete, special purpose or prototype. Most certainly made by a rule manufacturer. Numbers are stamped one at a time."
152-11 "This tool is marked as to what it is. I would like to know how it was used and just more about it. It is all metal, about 8 in. long. It is marked " K.R. Wilson Buffalo, NY" and "Pinion Bearing Torque Tester V129 Pat Apld" on the other side."
152-12 "I picked up this old Disston at a yard sale and I can't find anything like it.....it has a copper blade. It is magnetic, so I assume it's copper coated. Do you have any information on why a saw would be copper? Should I sand it to find the etching?"
The Gristmill What's It Column for June 2013
151-1This is a well tile placing apparatus, 11" diameter when expanded, 10" diameter when collapsed. Wells were lined with tile which were placed on the outside of this device and lowered down, when in place, pulling on the rope collapsed the device and it was pulled up, leaving the tile behind.
151-2 This tool is for cleaning the narrow flame slot in the old ceramic burner tips in gas chandeliers.
151-3 An automotive valve spring compressor, patent number 1,614,218:
The next eleven items were sent in to the What's It Committee over the past few months:
151-4 A carpet stretcher:
151-5 A trephine, it's an antique skull cutting tool that was used to reduce pressure in the skulls of people with head injuries.
151-6 Another valve spring compressor, patent number 1,333,966:
151-7 Someone from Europe wrote in to say that he has seen this tool used to get the sap of pine trees so it could be used to make medicine.
151-8 Probably socket chisel handles:
151-9 Fireplace tongs:
151-10 No answer yet for this device, the upper part is an eyepiece with a lens:
151-12 Either some type of calipers or a pair of ice tongs:
151-13 Most likely a clapboard slick, also called a clapboard chisel, used for splitting out clapboards:
151-14 Probably a slag hammer:
The Gristmill What's It Column for March 2013
150-1. This is an instrument for taking water samples from varying depths in a body of water. A line from an anchor passes up through the "quick thread" fitting on the lower left and up through the lever mechanism. A test tube is placed in the tube (that looks like a gun barrel) facing down. The unit is lowered to the desired depth, air in the tube keeps water out. A small weight (called a messenger) is then sent down the line hitting the lever, unlocking the tube holder. It flips down allowing the test tube to fill with the sample water. It's then pulled up with the sample intact.
150-2. A barrel maker's hoop lifter, lever hook, or hoop dog, it was used for stretching or levering a hoop over the top of the staves:
150-3. This is a Cottle cartilage crusher, it was used prior to using cartilage for grafting purposes. In use, cartilage was placed in the trough, the lid was closed, and then tapped with a mallet once or twice, until the cartilage was soft and malleable, but still in one piece, so that it could be sewn in place.
150-4. Some people have suggested that this is a reloading tool:
These next items were all sent in to the What's It committee by members who were looking to identifiy them.
150-5. Short starters for use when loading a musket:
150-6. A Hein Werner Bumper Lift Hydraulic Jack, it's missing the part that fits under the car bumper, these were also used on farms when using batch grain dryers, the jacks were used to remove and then later replace the wheels when the dryers were moved from one field to another.
150-7. A Greenlee circle cutter for use on sheet metal by electricians and machinists:
150-8. An EX-2000 pliers tool for servicing termite control stations:
150-9. A Crowell band swage shaper:
150-10. A Utica #16 battery terminal lifter:
150-11. Several people have stated that this is a distributor wrench, both ends are 5/8", text on it says "Thorsen 302":
150-12. Another possible reloading tool:
150-13. These are Joar wrenches for use on conduit:
150-14. This tool was used to shape and dress band saw grinding wheels, a modern version can be seen here, it can be seen in use on this page.
150-15. An arm strength tester:
Older Gristmill What's It's columns can be found here
Please send your items, answers, and comments to the What's It Committee by using the form on our contact page. We do not offer valuations, this contact is for research purposes only.