Gristmill What’s It


From 2013 Issues


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 number 1,400,627:



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:
152-4 A meat tenderizer, patent number 613,572

Another person sent in this photo asking about the same tool:


152-6 A wire twister
152-7  This is a beekeeper’s section closer for making sectional honey frames, text on the board says “Greene, NY” and “Works”, there is some space before the word “Works”, so it might have read Lyon Iron Works, which was located in Greene.
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… 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

151-1  This 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   This is a watchmakers pivot polisher:





151-11  Part of a tile cutting machine:




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: