What are these damn things?
August 12, 2005 6:42 AM   Subscribe

I'll be your best friend if you can identify these things. I spotted them in a junk shop and nobody knows what they are. They stand about 2.5 feet tall. The little triangular cup-type thing looks to have a old grease fitting in it. Both the cup and the "ring" part can be adjusted to slide up and down the pole to a desired height.
posted by Witty to Grab Bag (33 answers total)
Looks to me like something that might be used in a factory or auto repair place for putting oil/grease into some long subassembly before passing it to the next operation/installing it into a vehicle. The triangular cup would hold the bottom and catch overflow/leaks. The subassembly would be filled via the grease fitting. The C-shaped band would help hold the subassembly in place.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:49 AM on August 12, 2005

My father claims it's a beach casting fishing rod holder. You shove it into the sand the rod base rests in the middle section.
posted by wackybrit at 6:52 AM on August 12, 2005

He retracts his answer. We didn't see the three feet on the bottom. They'd be spikes on a rod holder. I guess the grease thing didn't help either ;-) Look very similar though.
posted by wackybrit at 6:54 AM on August 12, 2005

Response by poster: The ring is approximately 8" in diameter.

ZenMasterThis - Maybe it was simply a grease can holder. Like you said, the cup caught drips, etc. The can sat in there upside down and was attached to the grease fitting (which has since been cut off). Then a hose was attached to the nozzle underneath.

I also should point out that the feet have rounded tips with a hole in it... as though it could be nailed or screwed down (probably temporarily) for added support.
posted by Witty at 7:05 AM on August 12, 2005

They look to me like they're meant to hold some kind of large bottle. The curved parts at the top look like they should be wrapped around a cylinder of some kind, holding it in place. The triangular thingy looks to me like it was meant to rest the (uncapped) opening of the bottle, so that only a small amount of liquid came out a time, with the rest held in by the lack of a pressure differential—you know, the way most office water coolers work.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:21 AM on August 12, 2005

My guess is that they're flowerpot holders, with the little thing on the bottom there to catch water that drips out of the bottom.
posted by crunchland at 7:24 AM on August 12, 2005

Fire extinguisher holders?
posted by LordSludge at 7:51 AM on August 12, 2005

The guys who plastered the ceilings in my house wore things like this. They're stilts just tall enough for them to reach the ceiling. The middle parts probably had pads on them.
posted by stoney at 7:54 AM on August 12, 2005

I think stoney has it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:27 AM on August 12, 2005

That doesn't make any sense. He said the ring is 8" in diameter, that's huge for the size of someone's calf. It wouldn't fit snugly against your leg unless you were andre the giant. Wouldn't you expect the calf part to be adjustable in diamter anyway, not a fixed rigid ring?

And if you're meant to put your feet in them, why is the lower triangle thing dish shaped with a recess? Wouldn't that be uncomfortable? Why wouldn't it be flat? And the grease fitting on the bottom?

No, I think the idea that it was meant to hold some kind of cylinder for dispensing makes much more sense.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:36 AM on August 12, 2005

Not to be picky, but those stilts are articulated, light-weight aluminium. Witty's objects are rigid, and presumably quite heavy iron/steel.

Are those clips rigid or flexible - would you put something in by pushing it in horizontally til it snaps into place, or would you load it in vertically from the top?
posted by carter at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2005

I'll second the belief that they are flowerpot holders. I've seen similar (although not that old), and they work well with a glass vase and long stemmed flowers.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:39 AM on August 12, 2005

You wouldn't ever want to bolt your stilts to the floor, either...
posted by LordSludge at 8:45 AM on August 12, 2005

I'd lay money on stoney not having it. Those triangular trays don't 'seem' to be oilstained and the paint on the inside of the rings don't appear to be marked with a 'movement pattern' from prising something free, which seems a bit odd. The trays may have been swung inwards by the owners to take up less space. I tend towards the factory answer although...the only thing I can vaguely consider are large gas cylinders -- but the bases would be too flimsy. So I'd suggest that it couldn't be something too heavy. Oy...sorry, not much help. Intriguing.
With preview: some sort of vegetation (the ring seems mighty big for flowers?) might make sense.
posted by peacay at 8:45 AM on August 12, 2005

oh...pots. I guess ... google pot stands p'raps.
posted by peacay at 8:47 AM on August 12, 2005

The thing I have against the flower pot hypothesis is that the small triangular base thing would not cover all the holes in the bottom of the pot, and water would leak onto the floor. And if you put a tray under the pot to catch the water, the sump/outlet pipe thing becomes redundant.
posted by carter at 8:52 AM on August 12, 2005

the paint on the inside of the rings don't appear to be marked with a 'movement pattern' from prising something free, which seems a bit odd.

I *think* I can see rust on the inside of the clips, where something would have ben pulled in and out.

So that looks like a ~1/4 inch L-shaped piece of pipe that goes through the base. Is it a constant diameter all the way through, or are there constrictions inside that we cannot see?
posted by carter at 8:56 AM on August 12, 2005

they look to my like holders for lab ware. beakers/ erlenmeyer flasks the like. kinda like this.
posted by ShawnString at 8:56 AM on August 12, 2005

Response by poster: The rings are "rigid", in the sense that they aren't adjustable in any practical way. But If you grabbed one side of the ring in each hand, it wouldn't take the strongest effort to bend them open. But they are meant to be a certain size.

The part of the "grease fitting" seen inside the cup had more to it at one time. What, I'm not exactly sure. I say that because it's obvious (in person, up close) that whatever WAS there has been snipped off. It's just copper tubing or something similar.
posted by Witty at 9:15 AM on August 12, 2005

Response by poster: But it's obvious to me that because of the way the ends of each arm of the ring flare out slightly, that whatever was held inside the ring was meant to slipped through the opening of the ring in order to insert... as opposed to being lowered in from the top (which would suggest that the ring be a complete circel instead).
posted by Witty at 9:17 AM on August 12, 2005

they look to my like holders for lab ware. beakers/ erlenmeyer flasks the like. kinda like this.
The one problem I have with this is it seems the flask would be far from sturdy on this contraption. For a typical flask holder, you would expect the base holding it to be as big as the ring holders. Also, for a flask to be 8" in diameter and that tall is going to have a hefty mass and need to be quite stable- I wouldn't feel confident with the base being held up by the triangular thing.
posted by jmd82 at 9:31 AM on August 12, 2005

my guess is that it's a part of some very old feed system for chickens or something similar ... this has been driving me nuts ... i've SEEN these before

i bet my mother would know
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 AM on August 12, 2005

I -think- I've seen similar for holding oxy-acetylene tanks off the floor.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:17 AM on August 12, 2005

The adjustable parts don't have thumbscrews on them, so they must have been meant to stay put, more or less, after being moved into place. Hmm.

My guess would be that they're gravity pumps for large bottles of some kind of liquid--turn the bottle upside down into the receptacle, perhaps piercing a cap or seal with the bit of tube that sticks up (is it snipped off, or is it just intentionally sharp?) Attach a hose to the fitting on the bottom through which the liquid would flow.

Might they have been for embalming fluid? Big bottles of liquid, high throughput, no need for flow control. For that, the racks should probably be taller, but maybe they were screwed into place on an old embalming table assembly, instead of standing by its side.
posted by Captain Swing at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2005

I think they are the foot stirrups for a gynecological examination table. At least they look like they could be.
posted by bat at 12:57 PM on August 12, 2005

I'm with captain swing. These are for holding bottles or tanks of something upside down and dispensing it.. The "grease fitting"is attached to the little bump that comes up out of the bottom of the cup right? There was probably a hose of some type attached to the grease fitting.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2005

Also, see the little circle shape in the point of the cup? that lines up with where the mouth of an upside down bottle would be. I'm guessing this is some sort of low pressure gravity feed thing. The cup hold just enough liquid to submerge the neck of the bottle and keep more flowing out until enought trickles out through the fitting at the base of the cup.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:15 PM on August 12, 2005

Witty's got it right in that the what ever they held must have been side loaded. The feet, cup and back of the partial ring are all cast yet the ring itself is iron/steel. Plus the shape of the ring splaying outwards.

Those feet sure don't look sturdy nor very strong. Usually cast bases are continuous around their edges like a solid or spoked wheel or are much beefier.

I wonder if these were designed to operated inverted from as pictured. Possibly placed over some kind of bottle or tank with a platform, box or other container held on top of the "feet".

The fitting offset from both the centre lines of the cup and also the post feature inside the cup which is kind of strange. The rings are at different heights but as the Captian said not easily adjustable with out tools. The rust pattern in the cups could be just from having been stored outside at one point or could be from the use contents.
posted by Mitheral at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2005

They look like some type of torchiere or brazier to me. I can't really see the nozzle on the bottom, so I have to take your word for its purpose. It looks like a cross between a coax connector and a valve-stem for a tire. Maybe instead of grease feeding out, gas fed in?
posted by Eideteker at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2005

There are small circles in the bottom pieces, that look like they are the result of something pressing on them, and being inserted/removed, or rotated, or a result of fabrication.

They are rotated such that something heavy would be least likely to top forward - at least the "tall" on is spot-on, the "short" one looks a little off.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 2:36 PM on August 12, 2005

I hate to give anyone the "best answer" here, since we may never know EXACTLY what they were once used for. But I'll make a couple of points.

Captain Swing - They may be intentional sharp, as you say. At first inspection, they appeared to have been quickly snipped off, perhaps for easier removal from the facility or whatever. But I can't be 100% sure about that... and now looking at the picture, the "snipping" effort on both pieces looks to be strangely similar. So maybe they are supposed to be like that.

But I like what cosmicbandito was saying about how the front end of the cup is rounded and likely sits directly below the center of of the ring above. This sounds like good evidence in the direction of the "low pressure gravity feed" idea.

If the top of the canister were shaped like the cup (triangular with a round point), so that it was the male end to the cup's female, then maybe the nipple inside the cup really did puncture or was at least inserted into the canister or bottle.

The question is till what... why?

I'm sure we have the gist of what these things are/were. It's a shame that we may never know for what exact purpose they served. But I'm glad people had fun trying to solve the mystery. Thanks!
posted by Necker at 4:00 PM on August 12, 2005

If the "grease fitting" is copper, that would suggest that it was used for a liquid.
posted by luckypozzo at 7:53 AM on August 13, 2005

I'm voting with Stoney.
posted by IndigoSkye at 5:19 PM on August 13, 2005

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