What is it?
April 9, 2009 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I found this thing buried in the yard, while gardening. It looks like some sort of tool. What is it? Picture One, Two, Three.
posted by Pants! to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A wrench of some sort, it seems.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

When were wrenches made like that? It does look very wrenchy, but not exactly modern.
posted by Pants! at 6:09 PM on April 9, 2009

Rusted out wrench? Can you break off the rust?
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:09 PM on April 9, 2009

Yeah, looks like a wrench.

Maybe the Tommyknockers used it to try to fix the ship.
posted by Adam_S at 6:09 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

looks like a old adjustable wrench.
posted by patnok at 6:09 PM on April 9, 2009

If it were a tool there would be some sort of mechanism for opening and closing the jaws. Scrape off the rust and see if there is. I kind of doubt it actually. My bet is it's just a piece of metal, used to hold something in place.
posted by metastability at 6:10 PM on April 9, 2009

Looks like a pipe wrench
posted by nola at 6:12 PM on April 9, 2009

It certainly looks like a wrench. A pipe wrench (or plumber's wrench). But, even very old antique wrenches have markings and such. The pictures look like the side of it is completely flat, as if there are no marks or desing elements.

Also, most wrenchs like that a adjustable in some way - even fairly old antique wrenches.

What is the exact measurement of the opening? If it is a non-adjustable wrench, it will likely be a standard size - like inch or half inch.
posted by Flood at 6:17 PM on April 9, 2009

Yeah, nthing wrench. That's a LOT of rust and crusty build-up on that thing so it's pretty impossible to be sure. Clean it off and post another pic in this thread.
posted by zardoz at 6:21 PM on April 9, 2009

Can I ask if it was buried lying flat? or was it 'stood up' lengthwise with the 'head' highest and the 'tail' going down into the earth?

Also, when was your house built? And is/was there industry or railways nearby?
posted by Sova at 6:21 PM on April 9, 2009

There is no mechanism, no design elements, and not adjustable. The opening fits a penny exactly - it can hold one between the two teeth. It is just one piece of metal.
posted by Pants! at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2009

There is a railroad nearby. I'm not sure how it was buried - it came out with a shovelful of dirt.
posted by Pants! at 6:22 PM on April 9, 2009

I'm guessing that it was some sort of specialized one use tool... made to fit a particular nut.
posted by HuronBob at 6:26 PM on April 9, 2009

It fits a railroad spike perfectly. I would bet it was a specialized tool for building the railroad.
posted by Pants! at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2009

It looks like a cow tool to me.

My best guess is it's some broken-off piece of a larger structure.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2009

I think HuronBob has it. It's got to be related to the railway. When they were constructing it, or something.
posted by metastability at 6:32 PM on April 9, 2009

If it's not an instrument of torture, it's perhaps a candidate for the What is It? blog (via Neatorama).
posted by peagood at 6:34 PM on April 9, 2009

Thanks everyone. Unless anyone thinks "railroad spike holder" is wrong, I think we've got this one wrapped up.
posted by Pants! at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2009

Damn it! I've been googling railway spikes and lag screws trying to find an example of the basic wrenches they might have used. Somebody got there before me...

Basically, I think the fairly basic nature of it, including the fixed size means that you're looking at a very common and repetitive use. Something that can be thrown away after 1000s+ of uses at little cost. I don't know it is railways use, but that would have been one of my guesses. I don't actually think it was necessarily wrench though, as it could have been a holder/spacer.
posted by Sova at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2009

Railway spikes are generally driven in unless I'm mistaken.
posted by fshgrl at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2009

Good thinking on the spacer. It is both a spike holder and tie spacer. I just walked over to the tracks to confirm. Two previously unidentified angles were the perfect length apart to measure the distance between ties. I think that confirms the tools use beyond a shadow of a doubt.

fshgirl, you are right, but I believe this tool held the spike in place while it was being driven. Think of what happens to thumbs with hammers after repetitive use.

Thanks hivemind!
posted by Pants! at 7:04 PM on April 9, 2009

Is the circular part around inch 4 in Pic 1 a hole through the metal? If it is my guess is for a latch of some kind that hinged on that hole. A big latch, maybe for a box car.
posted by fshgrl at 7:07 PM on April 9, 2009

By the way, it looks like the railroad was built sometime in the 1870s according to a few different websites.
posted by Pants! at 7:11 PM on April 9, 2009

The circular part is not a hole. Good thinking, though.
posted by Pants! at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2009

Looks like the monkey wrench that came with every Ford car, before WWII.
posted by RichardS at 4:26 AM on April 10, 2009

Were the Ford wrenches adjustable?
posted by Pants! at 7:56 AM on April 10, 2009

Looks like a pedal wrench for bicycles. They're fixed, thinner than regular wrenches, and about a foot long to allow for torque. The jaws are often at right angles to the handle but that isn't guaranteed. That pic I posted is a modern one but there's a great deal of variation since the basic tool is simple.
posted by chairface at 10:44 PM on April 11, 2009

Could it be a gas or water meter cut-off valve wrench? Many of them use a square, rather than hexagonal nut.
posted by eaglehound at 10:08 AM on April 13, 2009

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