Identity Crisis!

Viewing 17 reply threads
  • Author
    • #132971

      We have been trying to identify this tool for years, with little luck. We can make out the name “Osborne” on the side and think it may have something to do with leather making. Any ideas?

    • #132988

      Could you add a photo of the item open? It looks from the outside a bit like a ball mould for casting a solid round ball for muskets or shotguns. If it is, it should fit together better when closed and have a small hole on the other side for pouring lead in.

    • #132987
      Anne Murray

      a ball mold was my first thought as well

    • #132986

      That is what we all thought until we opened it. It is actually flat on the inside of the ball (both sides) and seems to be solid. I will post a picture as soon as I can. Thanks for the input!

    • #132985
      Rose McMahon

      There is a firm in New Jersey called Osborne that makes, amongst other tools, leather making tools. They have been in business since 1826.

      A simple google should take you to the website.

    • #132984

      Thank you, Rose. I have actually sent them an email with the image and am waiting for a response!

    • #132983
      Ron Kley

      Are the mating surfaces at the working (left) end of the tool flat, concave, or cut in some pattern? That might be helpful in figuring out its intended purpose.

    • #132982

      The mating surfaces are flat, as if a solid ball has been cut into two halves.

    • #132981
      Rose McMahon

      Here are some other possible sources of help with the identification:


      but I’m sure the firm itself will be able to help.

    • #132980
      Paul Shea

      Here is a link to a NPS site and a photo of a similar tool.

    • #132979
      Randi Smith

      Maybe a tong/clamp device for moving leather pieces without marring the surface or getting your fingers messy? The handles look fine/precise/light weight, not made for heavy, rough work, although the working end looks a little sturdier.

    • #132978

      Let us know when you find out. My curator and I are puzzled by the extra weight at the tips and the comparative narrowness of the handle. We considered a ball mold that hadn’t been cherried out, but the pivot point is too far back and the handles don’t match what we’ve seen in the past. A curiosity, for certain!

    • #132977

      So I am attaching 3 more photos of the artifact. The first is the artifact open so that you can see the inside of the “ball”. The second is a close up of the artifact so that you can see how it doesn’t clamp completely closed. The last photo is a side by side pic of my hand with a male colleagues hand so that you can see how delicate the handles actually are (especially in a man’s hand). Also, I can now make-out “C.S. Osborne & Co.” one the side. Thanks again for all your input!

    • #132976

      Looks like other tool fans have been wondering about this sort of tool too:

      From the answers, it appears to be a pinching iron for curling wigs. It would be heated on a stove. The Round area is for retaining heat, and the hair is straightened or curled between the flat portions. As a wig making tool, it would need to be fairly delicate, and the extended finger guards would allow it to be operated easily with one hand.

      Here is an image from the wigmaker’s shop at Williamsburg showing a nearly identical tool:
      Tools of the trade

    • #132975

      Wow! Thanks very much! This might end the 10 year identity crisis!

    • #132974

      You are very welcome, Brittany. Have you got any more mysteries? That was fun!

    • #132973

      Haha! Not right away, but I will be sure to post if I come across another one!

    • #132972

      Hi all! I finally received an email back from the company that made the artifact. I thought I would share with you that they have confirmed it is a hair pinching iron. Thanks again for all your help!

Viewing 17 reply threads
  • The forum ‘C2C Community Archives – 2012 through 2014’ is closed to new topics and replies.