What-Is-It?

Wanted: Gadgets, gizmos and contraptions


| November 2005



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The genius of pioneer inventors can confound us. Countless contraptions that revolutionized farming in the 19th and early 20th centuries have become contemporary curiosities, or even mysteries. Here are three sent in by readers. Do you know what they are?

October's mystery tools

A. Sinker Mold. Photo submitted by Lloyd Lund, Emmetsburg, Iowa. According to Roy and Judy Archibald, Leavenworth, Ind., the piece is a sinker mold. Hot lead was poured into the mold to produce different sizes of fishing sinkers. Donald Walker, Buchanan, Va., adds that the wire at the end of the handle is used to tighten the mold.

B. Rim Tool. Photo submitted by Glen Johnson, Hibbing, Minn. Kenneth Ruhl, Poplar Bluff, Mo. (and with concurring opinion from the Archibalds of Indiana, and Calvin Cheney, Gardiner, Maine), believes the piece was used to manipulate split-wheel rims when mounting tires. "A tire changer came with the 1929 Chevrolet," Kenneth says. "It clamped on the rim and squeezed in order to remove the tire."

C. Single Wire Stretcher. According to the Archibalds and Jerry Jenkins, Jackson, Mich., this device (available in several variations) is used to pull wire tight to the post for stapling. It could be used on either barbed or plain wire. The star-shaped head prevents the tool from turning over in the hand during use. A catalog entry notes that the tool "will last a lifetime."

From October:

More on the combined pencil sharpener and eraser cleaner: Dubbed "The Combination," the unit was produced by The Lord Manufacturing Co., New Haven, Conn., writes Emery Prior in an e-mail to Farm Collector. If complete, it will have one wheel with sandpaper and another with a brush, the latter used to clean chalkboard erasers. Promotional material claimed that the unit would "do away with much of the disagreeable part of cleaning erasers." "I presume that means keeping the dust down," Emery writes, "but I wouldn't want to bet on it."

HOW TO SEND "What-Is-It?" photos and/or identifications to Farm Collector: Photos of submitted items should be taken in a well-lighted area against a plain background if possible. Due to the volume of material we receive, we cannot guarantee when submitted material will be published. All photos will not be returned.

Items may be sent by:

Regular mail:Farm Collector, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609.

E-mail: editor@FarmCollector.com

For digital photos, adjust "image size" to "full," "3:2" or "UXGA." Adjust "image quality" to "high" or "fine." For scanned photos, use "300 dpi;" send "jpeg."