What the heck is this thing?

What the heck is this thing?

Kaden wants to know what the heck this thing is… He writes –

Mid afternoon yesterday I was laying out a cutting diagram for the third or fourth time,and caught myself writing dimensions down inside little

tags. Clearly, I needed scrapyard therapy.

So it was off to NorthStar. Where I found THIS (see attached) rolling around in the bottom of a tub of mystery metal.

It’s brass with a maple handle; really nicely machined metal, and the handle is *properly* attached with set screws…none of that press fitting crapola here. The brass part is conical, tapering from a 3/4″ widest dimension to a near-nasty point in 2 3/4″. Most of the lacquer is still intact on the brass, and the fold out knife blade inset into the cone still has a pretty good edge.


Yeah…fold out knife blade. 2 3/4″ x 1/2″, hinged on a rolled steel pin just up from the base of the cone. The blade nests almost flush into the cone, and swings out effortlessly, stopping but not locking perpendicular to the cone, with the edge pointng in the same direction as the cone. It’s ,like a parallel universe mash up of a gardening tool and a switchblade. The guys at the yard were stumped by it, which is a rare event, and no one remembered when it came in, or from where. My pal Joey, who works seasonally on crab boats (as seen on the Discovery Network) was adamant that it had no maritime connections, but thought it would be pretty useful for patching nets. Me, I had it pegged as a weapon used in full-contact horticulture, but that could have just been lack of sleep talking.

Couldja put it to the Maker Massive and see if anyone knows what this thing is?

If someone can accurately identify it I’ll send you a MAKE Pocket Ref.

62 thoughts on “What the heck is this thing?

  1. Jorgie says:

    Looks like a flare tool for lead or soft copper pipe. That would make the knife a burr-remover.

    Just a guess.

  2. Verbalis says:

    Cork Borer Sharpener. Sharpens the tools that cuts out cork stoppers for beakers and such.

  3. kazanjig says:

    It’s a cork cutter sharpener or cork borer.

  4. Justin-the-Jack says:

    I found it! It’s a “cork borer sharpener”. Apparently a cork borer is for cutting corks from the bark of the cork tree. Here’s the link:

  5. Verbalis says:

    The item is a Cork Borer Sharpener. Cork stoppers for beakers and such, are cut out with a Cork Borer. The borers come in different sizes, usually a set of ten. The item pictured is the sharpener for the individual borers. It has a conical end so it works with all the different borer diameters.

  6. rotinom says:

    It looks like it’s a “cork cutter sharpener”

    From ebay (http://cgi.ebay.com/Cork-Cutter-Sharpener-Borer-knife-tool-brass-old_W0QQitemZ320169401585QQihZ011QQcategoryZ1210QQcmdZViewItem):

    Nice cork cutter sharpener or cork borer. Used to sharpen cork cutters. Page 145 of Sellen’s Dictionary of American Hand Tools. Used in medical area and drug stores. 7 inches long.

  7. Dave77459 says:

    Although it is has been years since I saw one, it looks like the dibber that my grandfather used to plant pine tree seedlings. His did not have the knife, but he carried one to cut away debris and other gardening chores. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that someone would make a combi-tool.

  8. mark_lundberg says:

    This post claims it used to sharpen cork cutters.

  9. bilge says:

    The “thing” is a tool for sharpening (keeping sharp) a set of hole borers used in chemical laboratories to bore holes in rubber stoppers. Typically the hole borer is inserted onto the cone as far as necessary (to keep the thin wall from caving in) and the knife part is rotated into position (a la sissors) while the borer is rotated. This enables the borer to be sharpened at te correct angle. The borers I used to use were made out of nickel plated brass. The sharpening tool can be used on any of the hole borers in the set (from

  10. vonSlatt says:

    That’s a marlinspike – a sailor’s tool for ropework. The brass cone is for working apart knots.


  11. Electo-Mech says:

    Interesting find, The tool shown is a sharpener for a set of copper round cutters. In our shop we call them gasket cutters. It is a set of punch cutters in various english sizes, all the cutters stack into each other for easy storage.
    The copper cone fits inside cutter and the knife edge comes in and is held (by the user) against the cutter and when the cutter is turned the knife actually removes some of the copper on the cutter making a nice cutting edge. I can email you a picture of the cutters and how the tool is used if you are interested.

  12. trundlar says:

    It’s a dibber, also called a dibbler, or just a dib. It is used to poke a hole in soft earth to plant a see or small bulb. Some have a blade, useful for cutting string in the garden. I’ve seen them made of wood and plastic as well as metal, for example:

  13. SmashedSqwurl says:

    After some googling, I found this forum post: http://people.iarc.uaf.edu/~cswingle/archive/get.phtml?message_id=15267&submit_thread=1

    It says it’s a “cork borer sharpener”.

  14. CritterJones says:

    My guess would be a type of mold used in the production of pyrotechnic cones. The knife used to cut fuse and paper.

  15. TheMountain says:

    It looks like something from a woodworkers shop. (It has a similar look to me as a nice set of chisels) I found a reference at http://www.tabulatura.com/clavcho.htm to using a “wood-handled brass mandrel” to set hitchpins into a block of wood. It doesn’t show a picture of said device so it isn’t really concrete evidence, also doesn’t explain the knife, but who isn’t better off having a knife handy?

  16. axioein says:

    Looks like it could be a deburring tool.

  17. bilge says:

    look in Fisher scientific on-line catalog under cork borers, sharpening tool.

  18. snarkyFish says:

    It’s clearly a squid reamer!

  19. DaveBarak says:

    My doctor used one of those to check my prostate…

  20. kaden says:

    Ta very much, all.

    There’s nothing like having a globally extended family of toolheads… Damn, I love Make.


  21. Q256 says:

    That is a cork borer sharpener! For well, sharpening dull cork borers. Ever try to bore a hole in a cork with a dull cork borer? You usually end up boring your thumb. ($@#$!!!) We have one in the Lab, and Fisher Scientific (Scientific Wal-Mart) sells them here: https://www.fishersci.com/wps/portal/PRODUCTDETAIL?productId=767763&catalogId=29104&pos=2&catCode=RE_SC&fromCat=yes&keepSessionSearchOutPut=true&brCategoryId=null&hlpi=y&fromSearch=Y (sorry for the nasty link. ) The blade sharpens the outside of the borer, while the cone positions the borer, and keeps the burr pointing in the right direction. Q256

  22. johncory says:

    I won’t argue that it’s not a cork borer sharpener . . . but I think it would make a cool boatswain’s knife. Pointy part would loosen tied knots, knife would cut cord.

  23. kaden says:

    I back checked with the yard grunts at NorthStar, who confirmed a recent pickup of stuff from the UBC science department, who’d likely need such toolage. I scored an IEC Centa-8 centrifuge (4 x 750 ml, 6000 rpm, runs like a top) around the time in question, which musta been from the same load.

    Anybody have any dull cork borers lyin’ around?

  24. orion_thunter says:

    We found one of these in an old tool box where I used to work (University dept. of Chem Eng.) and were equally stumped. We ended up asking the machineist and he said it was for cleaning up the ends of tubing. The slot that the blade goes into scrapes the inside of the tube and the blade scrapes the outside. Though reading through the posts, I think other people’s answers of cork bore shapener seems more likely.

  25. tenax8 says:

    Kaden, my cork borers are extremely dull ever since I had that big impromptu Cork Boring Party and BBQ. We didn’t barbecue any corks… that would have been just plain silly! But we did get a lot of airtight seals.

    Everyone said it was the most boring party they’d ever been to, and I swear that joke hasn’t gotten old yet, but ever since then I’ve found that I can’t even bore my way through a pile of talcum powder. Help a brotha out!

  26. orangesrhyme says:

    I see it as a cork borer, but also a Waffle Cone Roller. I’ve seen them at my local ice cream store. It looks like the same dimensions as what they use. They have a slightly larger cone with a flat extended bottom with a slot in it. What they do is stick the flat waffle in the slot and roll it up onto the cork borer, then cool it off, then pull the borer out and take the cone off. They are the best cones evar! reedsdairy.com

  27. Spew says:

    It is for planting bulbs and plants as well as using the knife to transplant.

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  29. Jhn Dsmn says:

    It’s a cork borer sharpener.

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