Hand Tool Preservation
Association of Australia Inc

Mystery Tools and Gadgets - Part 1

Visitors are invited to provide information (substantiated where possible) as to the name and purpose of items displayed here. If you can shed further light on any of the unanswered questions simply email

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.


No. 20

Whatsit supplied by Alison Williams
Kalorama, Vic


No. 19

Unknown instrument, possibly surveying related, dia 145mm, graduated in 360 degrees. In a fitted box, with possibly a part missing from the square box.

Branded "H.G.Thornton, Manchester" (a famous firm of surveying instrument makers).

Picture supplied by I K Pierre-Humbert of Drouin, Vic.

Feedback received: "No. 19 is a single arm protractor. These were usually used by surveyors, drafting whatever plan. This is a very nice example". Identified by Craig Gillingham.

pic17 sm pic18 pic16 sm

No. 18 (and 16 and 17)

These images are of a gadget of unknown purpose, supplied by Alan Riley in Queensland. If anyone can shed some light on this item please contact the Webmaster.

Pete Jepson from Cheltenham provided this feedback: "This is a rotary Pricking Iron used by saddlers and harness makers. Leather to be stitched is passed under the wheel which 'pricks' spaced indentations in the piece which mark where the stitching awl pierces the leather with a diamond shaped hole for the harness needle. Pricking wheels can be had in multiple sizes. Small versions are used in dress making. Saddlers/ leatherworkers also use Pricking Irons, which comprise a solid flat steel bar with diamond shaped indentations cut into the lower edge. They look like a multiple leather hole punch, but using a pricking iron as a punch would draw much ire from a professional."

what 9 sm

No. 15

What is this?

This is a comparative Brinel hardness tester. A square bar of calibrated known harness is inserted in the square hole between the ball and the punch body. The ball is positioned on the component to be hardness tested and the tool is struck with a hammer the square test bar is removed and the hemispherical mark left on the test bar and the component are measured for diameter and the values are cross matched on a table to give the HBN number. These tools are still very common.

Thanks to Michael Slattery and Ian Speer for identifying this one.

what 5 sm

No. 14

What is this?

This is a tool for removing “W” pins (a type of spring clip used to secure the ball in a ball and socket connection between individual High Voltage insulator discs in a string – as seen on transmission towers).

Thanks to Matt Reynolds for identifying this one.

what 2 sm

No. 13

The item is a “Ring Cutter” Generally used in hospital emergency departments for safe removal of rings. Especially when there is swelling due to trauma. Hook piece slips between ring and finger, light pressure applied by thumb on plate. Rotate wheel until ring cut. Metal blade cannot cut finger. (Trevor Jones)

what 1b sm

No. 12

The part that holds the cranked piece telescopes in on a spring.

bonum 2 sm bonum 3 sm

No. 11 (and 10)

Another Whatsit - this one marked "BONUM 2001". The pointed end looks like a short piece of star picket.

Feedback #1: "The Bonum 2001 is a general purpose scraper, the blade (star picket) should be located centrally in the head of the handle. It should be sharpened on a grinding wheel with final finishing on a flat stone to give a micro bevel. It works a treat with three cutting surfaces to be dulled before resharpening. I obtained mine from the deceased estate of a timber boat builder."(Gordon Lewins)

castiron sm Oxbow diagram cast iron sm b

No. 9

Cast iron Ox-bow pin.

Feedback: "This is an Ox-bow pin in the open position. It was used on the old wooden ox-bows to retain the 'U' shaped bow in the yoke." - Tom Partington USA.

The bottom image is a diagram of an Ox-bow (from the website: http://prairieoxdrovers.com/yokes.html)

emf plus pouch sm emf Gauges sm

No. 7 (and 6)

Some sort of gauge, from the electrical / electronics industry, going by the name 'EMF'.

Gerald Brookes provided:"EMF made welding rods (among other things). I was told, and it looks right, that these gauges would be used to measue a weld fillet in a 90 Deg join".

Grahame Collins  responded: "The item pictured on your whatsits page is a welder's Fillet gauge. It is a unit still in use today to measure the fillet size of what you would call a Tee weld. Fillet weld size determines cost pricing on welded work of large proportions as well as distortion control.
The would have been imperial dimension units but later models would of course been in metric. The EMF brand was a British company manufacturing welders and electrodes and ancillary equipment."

 Pic 6 - Some sort of gauge, from the electrical / electronics industry, going by the name EMF. See also above.
Not many guesses recieved, but I will put this one to rest.

jacksons bjacksons a

No. 5 (and 4)

Tool marked 'Jacksons Patent, for nos 2 & 3 buttons' on one side and 'For D & E Button Plates' on the other.

Answer: "This is a wrench / key for adjusting the joining buttons on leather and other belting for belt driven machinery. Jacksons supplied this belting also."

lacer 1 lacer 2 lacer 3

No. 3 (and 1 and 2)

Interesting Gadget - but what exactly is it?

Feedback from Graham Clegg, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia:
"The item is a tool used to fit wire hook type belt fasteners to flat transmission belting. The hooks come on a paper card --in use the hooks fit into the brass divisions and are secured there by the loose pin. The belting is placed between the sharp pointed ends of the hooks and the hooks are squeezed shut in the jaws of a vyce, embedding the fastener hooks in the belt."

(Note: Whatsit numbering was originally related to images rather than items and some Whatsits have been consolidated resulting in numbering changes.)

Mystery Tools and Gadgets - Part 2

Visitors are invited to provide information (substantiated where possible) as to the name and purpose of items displayed here. If you can shed further light on any of the unanswered questions simply email

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.


Universal cake mixer

No. 40

This is some sort of gadget or part of a gadget which has provision to clamp onto a table top or similar.

Pic submitted by James O'Dowd.

Geoff Nowak advises the tool is a clamp for a Universal Cake Mixer that was patented in 1896 and is hand operated. Geoff even provided a photo to show it in use:


Gillotine a

Gillotine b

No. 39

Images supplied by Hamish Hill.

Some sort of guillotine with Japanese-type symbols on the wooden base.

Can anyone advise the specific use of this guillotine?

Doug thinks this is a tobacco cutter.

Book Binding

No. 37

Image supplied by Andrew Henshall.

Response: Graeme Davies has said "These might be tools for laying fibreglass or composite cloth onto a surface which has been coated with resin. They look very much like ones I have seen in boat shops like Whitworths. I have only seen 2 different sizes of the modern ones, but the different widths might be for accommodating the tool into tight spots between objects."

pic 36 b

No. 36

Images supplied by Hamish Hill.

Info sought.

Answer from Bill Bardin:

"The tool marked 36 a & b is used to release chucks or drills from morse taper spindles on pedestal drills, lathes etc. It is pushed into the slotted hole in the spindle and the lever action slides the 2 tapered sections across each other making them wider and exerting axial force on the end of the morse taper drill. I used one many years ago in the State Electricity Commission's Richmond workshop".

pic 35 a

No. 35

Some sort of chopping or scraping tool, presented at the July 2012 Tool Sale.

Info sought.


No. 34

Charles Zammit has sent this image along of an unknown device, well-made in brass.

Can anyone identify its purpose?

Later feedback:
"A tool for glueing on snooker cue tips before they were threaded on" answer by Charles Zammit and Fred Murrell.


No. 33

Peter Wood has sent this picture of these side cutters, the jaws are not removable for sharpening.

Can anyone identify their purpose?

Gideon Hill in South Africa has responded "Your tool no 33 looks like something similar to what we used as part of equipment on military vehicles. Our tool is called "cutters barb wire".
It is used to get into tight places to cut wires that got caught for example around axles and drive-shafts of vehicles and trailers.

Ek is baie bly as ek julle kon help.
(I am very pleased if I could help you).

Thanks Gideon


No. 32

Peter Wood has sent this picture of an unknown gadget. Note the moveable stop has a cutting edge at the point, not very well sharpened.

Can anyone identify its purpose?

Ross West thinks: "It is a can opener for large catering size cans. I have one similar but with a different cutter.
The spike on the end is driven into the can and then pivoted around with a downward pressure to cut the can".

A response from Peter Wood: "I tried it on a catering pack coffee can, and it worked a treat. I must admit, I held grave reservations for the safety of the can-holding hand, but all was well. Thank you for the listing and please pass on my thanks to Ross as well".

pic31 a pic31 b pic31 c

No. 31

Ross West has supplied these pictures of a cam-acting clamping device - looks user made, no maker's marks. 10 in long.

Can anyone identify its use?

30 a Multi 30 b Multi

No. 30

Terry Hanlon has sent these images of an adjustable locking plier/shifter only marked 'JAPAN'. He asks if anyone can identify the maker and when made?

29 a Sash 29 b Sash 29 d Sash

No. 29

Terry Hanlon has sent these imagess of sash clamps made in a brass alloy. He asks if anyone can identify the maker and when made?

pic 28 a pic 28 b pic 28 c pic 28 d

No. 28

Whatsit supplied by Roy Pearson.

Response from Huon Lemercier: "I believe the item to be a toe piece from an old style bear trap ski binding used on timber snow skis."

Thank you Huon

pic27a pic27b

No. 27

Whatsit supplied by Chris Beaver, Qld.

Unusual Sash Cramps - no adjustment holes, just small teeth like on a quick adjust wrench. Chris would like to know who made this. Only marks are 'T1' and '555'.

pic 26

No. 26

Whatsit supplied by Robert Wallis, Tas.

Found with some spar makers tools. No maker's marks.


Answer 1."Tool appears to be similar to that used by cheesemakers when harvesting bark to wrap around cheese. That is, it cuts the wood to correct dimensions for packaging cheese. I saw similar tool being used in a "Cheeselinks" show on ABC TV a couple of weeks ago. It was presented by Will Studd and he was with cheesemakers in France". (by David Bromet)

pic 25

Pic25 B

No. 25

Whatsit supplied by Graham McLeod, Victor Harbour

Marked D.R.P / NORM-MESS, Made in Germany.

This is a ring expander for cast iron piston rings, see advertisement for a local similar brand (Meco)

Identified by Craig Gillingham, who also supplied the catalogue listing.

pic 24

No. 24

Whatsit supplied by Patrick Berry TTTG, Sydney.

It's a strap duplicator, of the bushing type. At least one other type exists; they're used when inaccessible hole locations in one sheet of material need to be transferred to another for riveting  -  aluminium aircraft skins are a typical item.

Answer from: Ronald G. Darner
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, USA


No. 23

Whatsit supplied by Alison Williams Kalorama, Vic

Possible identitification from Michael Sheehan "Item23 could be the mounting support for a candle lamp on a horse drawn buggy etc. The oval form on the end looks akin to the type of mounting used by such lamps".

pic21 pic22 Pic22 bSawguide3 Pic22 cSawguide1 web Pic22 dSawguide2 web

No. 21 (and 22)

Whatsit supplied by Alison Williams of Kalorama, Vic

Answer supplied by Dr Steven Thomas, HTPAA member: "This is an incomplete file guide for a Disston #2 saw vice which is used to maintain a constant angle to the file when sharpening a saw."

The complete Saw Vice is shown in the subsequent images.

Steven is looking for one of these devices. Contact can be made through the Webmaster.

Mystery Tools and Gadgets - Part 4

Visitors are invited to provide information (substantiated where possible) as to the name and purpose of items displayed here. If you can shed further light on any of the unanswered questions simply email

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.

Whatsit No. 61 - handle on

Whatsit No. 61 - handle off

No. 61

This Whatsit is thought to be a clamp or press or at least part of one. It is assumed the lugs fit into something else though why there are 4 lugs isn't obvious.

Whatsit YVMPS 1

Whatsit YVMPS 2

No. 62

This Whatsit is from the master of unusual objects Russell Sebire who brought it along to the HTPAA display at the Draught Horse & YesterYear Festival at Mont De Lancey. Russell usually knows his odd things but this one has defied him. If you can identify it for us that would enable us to have one over Russell for a change!

Rod Vowles has advised "Looks very much like a wool bale closer I used to use as a kid. Now they are crude, all steel units. Lots of tension could be put on the flaps of the bale to give a good flat top so they transported better." Thanks Rod, Russell will be pleased to know what his treasure is.

Whatsit YVMPS 1

Whatsit YVMPS 2

Whatsit YVMPS 1

No. 63

This Whatsit has been submitted by Richard Davidson who provided the following information to accompany the photos: "A hand tool that appears to be intended for holding a specimen ahead of impact by a striker. General purpose of device unknown. The tool was given to me by my late brother-in-law some years ago. He told me it had been in his father's effects when he died, but he had no idea what it was for. It is ~30 cm long by ~8 cm wide and is operated by winding the handle which turns the cam. The striker in the middle of the device rises as the two 'pincers, move inwards as if to position something on the anvil on which the striker falls as the handle is turned. This last action is spring-loaded and is quite strong.

HTPAA Member George Radion has identified this tool as a bandsaw setting machine, one of several models made by a variety of makers.

Mystery Tools and Gadgets - Part 3

Visitors are invited to provide information (substantiated where possible) as to the name and purpose of items displayed here. If you can shed further light on any of the unanswered questions simply email

Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.

Whatsit No. 60

No. 60

Can anyone identify this mystery item? The only markings are raised letters DRP which is a German registration mark. It has been suggested that it may be a tensioner of some sort but if so, for what?

Answer: Jonathon Coombes tells us "This tool is actually a veneer shaping press. It is used with bands (Fig 2 below shows the attachment where the bands hook onto the hooks of the device) to apply uniform pressure around curved wood edges in order to glue a wood veneer to its surface."

It is described in German patent is #585691 and Fig 3 shows how several of these presses/clamps can be used with one extra wide band with multiple attachment points to glue a veneer to a long wooden piece.

Clearly more than one is normally used.

German patent #585691 - Veneer shaping press

Whatsit YVMPS 1

Whatsit YVMPS 2

Whatsit YVMPS 3

Whatsit YVMPS 4

No. 59

This Whatsit is courtesy of a Yarra Valley Machinery Preservation Society member who is yet to identify this item.

It has a spring-loaded hinge-like mechanism but is unusual in the way it appears to be fixed to whatever it is designed to fix to. It may be one of a pair but this is uncertain. As can be seen the tool is made from two pieces one of which is wrapped around the other allowing it to pivot from what looks like a closed position to rotating completely back on itself. Ends of one half are pointed with the other ends more rounded.

It is marked "Made in England" and has the markings "REGD No. 171159". It also has a Pat No. which is indecipherable as it has been mis-stamped so the bottom of the patent number is missing. Similarly some additional wording next to the Pat. No. is unclear.

Whatsit No 58a

Whatsit No 58b

Whatsit No 58c - markings close up

Whatsit No 58d

Whatsit No 58e

Whatsit No 58f

Whatsit No 58g

No. 58

Formed Wire Tool. As can be seen the tool is made from two pieces one of which is wrapped around the other allowing it to pivot from what looks like a closed position to rotating completely back on itself. Ends of one half are pointed with the other ends more rounded. When folded closed it is approximately 18cm in length.

It is marked "Made in England" and has the markings "REGD No. 171159". It also has a Pat No. which is indecipherable as it has been mis-stamped so the bottom of the patent number is missing. Similarly some additional wording next to the Pat. No. is unclear.

It was found lost in an old garden so that may be relevant to its purpose.


Marion Parker has suggested that this may possibly be a type of traditional besom broom grip. It functions by grasping and tensioning the twig bundle between the opposing forks in order to be tied. There is a reference to the technique in "Woodland Craft" by Ben Law, 2015. The besom grip featured is not identical but it looks like it may perform a similar function.

The action of the tool would certainly fit such a purpose and we have asked Ben for his thoughts on this suggestion in the hope he can shed some more light on this mysterious object.

Reference image and text from Ben's book:

Whatsit No 58g

Mark Horridge noted that this item resembled a 'spondonical' (also spelt as spondonicle) which was a hand tool originally developed and sold by Paddy Palin for use as a billy can or saucepan lifter as shown below:

Whatsit No 58 Paddy Pallin SpononicalPaddy Pallin Spononical (courtesy Dave Noble)

Whatsit No 58 Paddy Pallin Spononical 2

The original of the word spondonical is uncertain though it has been suggested that it came from a Three Stooges script!

Any other ideas on what this mysterious object could be?


Duco closeup

No. 57

Metal tool marked DUCO 12

Member Graeme Askew believes this is a spring compressor for very early side valve engines. probably motor cycle engines.

Graeme's clue led to a post elsewhere with the image below and a comment that DUCO had an association with Brown Motorcycles. The tool below was said to be "commonly found in the toolkits supplied with 1920's flat-tankers". (Ref http://forums.sohc4.net/index.php?topic=123165.125 )

Duco tool example


No56 ECmark1

No56 ECmark3

No56 ECmark2

No. 56

Stamp with initials F C on either side of a crown pictorial, with VIC below the crown.

Ross Manning has supplied the following:

This was used by the Victorian Forestry Commission to mark crown property that had been authorised to be removed. In the days before the catastrophic clear felling (when we actually had sustainable forestry practices) only trees marked by commission officers could be felled and removed. Penalties for unauthorised felling and removal was high. Woe betide anyone caught removing timber without the crown stamp.

The legislation still exists for use of this stamp:

"An authorised officer may use the crown brand— (a) to mark trees as an indication that felling of those trees is approved; or (b) to indicate the release of forest produce which has been seized under the Act; or (c) to indicate that the removal of forest produce from State forest has been authorised under the Act; or (d) to indicate that a log has been graded by an authorised officer."


No. 55

Marked 'Winter's Patent'. It has a plane blade mounted at the top on the slide. What is it for?


No. 54

This is a stone, possibly a sharpening stone, other side is flat. Any info?

Answer: "No 54 is a slide used on lap guitars to play Hawaiian tunes, the neck is a lot thicker than standard ones. The slide is held in between 2nd and 3rd finger".

"A lot of these guitars where cheap sometimes bought from an adverts on the back of comic books".   Ross West


No. 53

What is this hexagonal wheel for?

Response from John Bates from TTTG:

"I believe that No.53 is a height adjustable strap clamp for milling machine or like. You will see that the pin in the hex wheel is off centre so as you turn the wheel the height of the clamp changes. The bolt goes through the slot to a tee nut and the flat section at the opposite end sits on the item to be secured."



No. 52

What are these pliers for?

Answer: round leather belting joining pliers. The cutting blade is missing, it can be seen where it should be held in by the two screws in the concave opening at the top. The second station cut the belt. The third section pierced the belt for the joining staple and the front section crimped the staple shut. These were usually used for sewing machine belts, etc.


No. 51

What is this knife for?

It has been identified as a Groove Knife - a gardening tool for getting at weeds growing in tight spaces such as between pavers.


No. 50

Multi tool. This should have a wooden handle mounted on the broken off end of the screw piece.





No. 49

The hexagonal centre piece rotates ever so slowly in response to cranking the handle.

Possibly a gun component?

From Craig Gillingham:

"No.49 may be one of the tools used for detaching the older style two piece spark plugs. There were a couple of different makers of these, attached is the KLG version."

Craig has identified it.

Note in the middle picture, there is a larger fixed hexagon in the body of the instrument. Look at the advert for FEW adapter, inspect the two different sized hex nuts that enable the plug to be separated.

In operation, the instrument would be lowered over the top of the plug, with bottom hex engaging the larger hex of the plug. Then the internal hex would be rotated to engage the smaller hex of the plug, and winding the handle would proceed to either unscrew the top of the plug, or screw it up, depending on direction of rotation.

Thanks Craig for your help.



No. 48

Double ended spanner marked ARAB.

What was this for?


No. 47

Surveyor's folding protractor?

No46 A

No46 B


No. 46

A note from Bill Davis has solved this mystery.

The item is a spring winder. It is used to wind various sized springs from straight wire.

The brass star wheel rotates into various positions.

Bottom image is from the website link below - describes making replacement springs for a 3 jaw brace chuck.



No. 45

Looks to be a component of some gadget.


No. 44

Possibly a holder for strap or horse reins?

No43 a

No43 b

No. 43

Lock grip type pliers with strange arrangement at the mouth - any ideas?

Denise Gamble from Yarrawonga VIC responded: "The Whatsit No 43 is a hand crimping tool for Picabond Connectors. It is missing the crimpers.
From Google:
“PICABOND connectors provide an economical and reliable means of splicing multiconductor telephone cable. PICABOND connectors are manufactured from tin-plated phosphor bronze and tin-plated brass with bonded polyester insulation. ... Straight, butt, tap, and bridge splices can be made with these connectors”

The link below is an Instruction Sheet




No. 42

Looks like a stitch marker for leather work - any ideas?

Leonie Smith has provided the answer that this is a tool used for making even small holes in linen prior to crocheting an edge around the linen.


No. 41

Steel carpenter's brace. It takes a tapered square bit.

Question - what is the pointed part at the back of the bit holder for?

Next Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market

The next Antique & Collectable Hand Tool Market is on Sunday 21st May 2023 9.00 am to 12.30 pm at St. Anthony's School Hall, 164 Neerim Rd, Corner Neerim & Grange Rds, Caulfield East, Melway Ref. 68 F4. For more information see the Tool Market page.