There’s a lot of things out there that are often hidden behind machinations or just out of use that if you came across them now, you’d never be able to guess what they are. Over at reddit, namely the sub of “r/whatisthisthing”, there are people going around asking questions to try and figure out what the purpose of the strange item they came across really is. The results were quite varied, because people found things that have not been in use since the 18th century at times. They were antiques!
It’s not that they were priceless either, it’s that they had such history behind them. Things that we in our current everyday life take for granted. Who would have thought that a device once existed where its entire purpose was to make candle wicks smaller? It’s just so alien, even though common household electricity is barely a hundred-year-old concept. It just seems like something we’ve had forever.
You can check out the Subreddit yourself for more!
#1 “What are these sticks for?”
According to this Pikabu user. “Once, I had an awkward situation with this thing. Usually, when I receive my mail, I look at what’s inside. I take the package, look into it, and remember what I had ordered. The guy from the delivery office had this nasty grin on his face, he probably looked inside the package, too.” It’s called a slicker, and it’s for polishing leather.
#2 “Found this at an estate sale. The gear counts from 1 to 31 and spins if the pointed bolt rotates.”
A tachometer. It measures the RPM of something.
#3 “Found this in an old phone booth at a Marriot in KC, it has an on-off switch. Thought it was an odd heater, but it says bell.”
This is (a part of) an old fan, specially made for phone booths.
#4 “This thing I found at a thrift store: when you pull the handle something winds up inside.”
Back when cameras didn’t have automatic timers, they used this. You’d wind this up on your camera, go pose in front, and it would, after some time, take a picture.
#5 “What is this crank thing on the wall of an old house?”
It crushes ice. Turn the crank and out comes ground up ice.
#6 “This tool used to be my grandpa’s, I have no clue.”
Mainly used for jewelry work, this is a hand vise. It tightens slowly.
#7 “Has 3 blades and what seems like a bottle opener underneath. Handle bends to lock it open. What is it for?”
It’s a specific kind of cutter for herbs.
#8 “Found in my basement, very hard leather…”
A sailmaker’s palm, used for sewing hard leather. It’s so that when you poke a hole through hard leather, you do not accidentally stab your self when the material finally gives way for the needle. there are multiple videos on how to use it out there, including this one.
#9 “This old container I found at my grandma’s house, it’s in the shape of a pineapple and opens up to show a tiny spoon.”
A salt cellar, but miniaturized.
#10 “My house had an old bar when I moved in and there are 2 of these on opposite ends, this one is near a bottle opener. Does it look like it might be some kind of weird old bottle opener? The horizontal metal piece moves up and down to lock it in place if you squeeze the 2 ends together.”
It’s a hot towel holder which you can adjust the tightness of by lowering the bar.
#11 “Found this small swiss brass box from outside a few years ago. Still have no idea what’s it supposed to be.”
A portable ashtray made in Switzerland. The semi-cylindrical shape you see on the inside of the lid is for you to rest your cigarette when you’re not smoking.
#12 “Lightweight, handled, texture, pointy cylindrical tin. I have no idea what’s it’s for.”
This is called a Güira, which is a very common musical instrument. It works in conjunction with a metallic brush which you drag along its side to make noises and notes and it’s used extensively in salsa. In fact, there’s even a tutorial on how to use it on Youtube.
#13 “It looks like it’s designed to compress something maybe? Inside the square part, the number 190 is engraved.”
A candle wick trimmer.
#14 “I just found this thing. I can make it so that the 2 metal parts stop touching.”
Depending on where you’re from, this is either an egg topper, or an egg cutter, but the difference is in name only as it functions identically. You can see how it functions here.
#15 “What are these perfect sets of beach holes?”
A pretty common method of collecting data samples, ecologists do this in different locations to check the average. This helps them maintain a rather stable average for clams.
#16 “I’m vacationing in England and I found this thing in the kitchen cabinet. It was in a Victorian style Airbnb.”
It’s a manual citrus juicer. The reason it’s so tall is so that it can stand above a glass with the pointy end directed at the bottom. The fruit is then pushed into the rounded side, and the citrus juice that comes out travels along the edge into the pointy side and falls into the glass.
#17 “When you pull the ring on this, 4 little pins come out. What is it used for?”
It’s a rare kind of anti-theft device specifically for pocket watches. When pulled, the spikes come out, snagging onto your clothes and preventing the watch from being taken.
Have you had any of these devices? Tell us about it in the comments!