Gristmill What’s It


From 2014 Issues


The Gristmill What’s It Column for December 2014

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.

A camera shutter timer, as seen in this video


157-6  Someone sent in the answer for this Hollenbeck Bros. item, they say that it is a

“cap for a crib screw jack. The indentation would be greased and mated with the dome shape
on the screw jack. Typically the other side of the plate would have a waffle pattern to keep the
cap from slipping on the wooden beams.”



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.



No answer


This is supposedly a gold dousing device, most likely it never really worked.


A cork compressor, patent number 68,093:


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.


154-6.  A Leeds and Northrup adjustable resistance standard power meter:



154-7. This is a Shapleigh Hardware vibrator that was probably part of the ignition system for an old Model T Ford:



154-8. A Craftsman sharpening jig for bench grinders:




154-9. No answer yet


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: