Please help identify object in basement.
November 28, 2008 5:56 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone help identify this object in the basement of an a 10 unit multifamily building built in 1915. I have posted a link to a flickr account with pictures.

There is a metal pipe (believed to be hollow) coming from within the cement basement floor extending up to a metal beam. This metal beam extends into a firewall (an apartment is on the other side). I do not believe the metal beam extends into the apartment.

The metal beam is directly underneath a wood beam, however, I do not believe it is supporting the wooden beam - especially as I suspect the upright pipe is hollow and wouldn't provide sufficient support. Most likely the horizontal beam is supporting the upright pipe.

Other objects in the picture (water heaters, etc) do not touch this object, even though the pictures may make it seem that way.

The interesting question is, what is in the middle of the upright pipe?

This "funnel" seems to be made of a material like paper or canvas - it is almost like an old style megaphone. It has been broken at the side, and when you look inside you see the funnel is hollow, and the pipe extends through the middle.

The funnel, along with the top piece of wood, rotates slightly, however, only about an inch or so and is most likely loose and supposed to be solid instead of stuck and unable to spin. The bottom piece of wood, "table top" does not rotate or move with the top piece. The top piece is solid and does not contain an opening to the funnel.

Any help would be appreciated. I will try to answer any questions, however, I do not have direct access to this object.

Thanks in advance.
posted by mihaca to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It looks to me, if anything, like one of the things they use to make the meat for shawarmas, like this:

I have no idea if that's close, but that is the first thing I thought of. Some of your other descriptions make it unlikely, though.
posted by synecdoche at 6:34 PM on November 28, 2008

The meat makes the inverse pyramid shape on those machines, the machine itself is just a metal skewer.
posted by fire&wings at 6:36 PM on November 28, 2008

"I do not believe it is supporting the wooden beam - especially as I suspect the upright pipe is hollow and wouldn't provide sufficient support."

Even a thin wall pipe is ridiculously strong in compression. Old houses tend to accumulate a lot of questionable engineering.

My guess: this piece of kit was repurposed and used to hold up the beam. If the pipe and it's attachments were inverted the cone and disk would do a dandy job of preventing rodents from climbing the pole or deflecting liquids falling from above away from the pipe.
posted by Mitheral at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2008

Do the wooden disks have a glue line running through the middle of them?

My suspicion is that the pipe is a frame jack of some sort (to support that metal beam) and that the funnel and wooden disks were added, well after the fact, for who knows what reason. Evidence that they were glued together in place would support this idea.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:48 AM on November 29, 2008

My first thought -- before looking at your pictures -- was that it might be related to fire bombs, glass balls full of liquid intended to put out a furnace fire, which are still sometimes found in basements of old houses. But your object is not one of these (I mention them in case a future searcher has a similar question).

You might try posting this question at the Old House Web forums if nobody here can help.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:14 AM on December 2, 2008

I appreciate all the responses.

From what I remember, and I'll have to go look again, the pieces of wood were solid and therefore most likely put on when the pipe was installed.

I will try posting on Old House Web forums too. I'll post again if I get an answer on that site.
posted by mihaca at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2008

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