What is it?

I've been collecting unusual objects for quite a while, and several years ago I started posting them on this site as puzzles for visitors to figure out what they are. Most of the items are mine but a few belong to others, if you aren't interested in tools there are plenty of other type objects that have also been posted.

For first time visitors I recommend this archive for a wide variety of some of my best pieces.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Set 153

878. Approximately 8" long:

879. Submitted by a visitor wanting to know how it's used, he has four of the Napco Air Discs in 5.5", 6.25", 7" and 7.5" diameters. Both sides look the same and the design is "etched" into the metal.

880. Eight hollow brass tubes, each 4" long:

881. Someone found this device on the road when going to school in Australia about 30 years ago. The cylindrical piece in the middle is tapered on the inside so it only fits together one way. It's marked "STELLON Regd" on both sides of the collar, not sure what it is:

882. 12" x 12" x 18":

883. Another one from Australia, the needle is magnetic and points to north/south, it's 6 inches long overall and there is only 5 degrees of movement, its exact purpose is unknown:


Last week's set is seen below, click here to view the entire post:

More discussion and comments on these photos can be found at the newsgroup rec.puzzles.


  • 880 - Set of different size borers to make different sized holes in cork stoppers. Commonly used in science labs.

    By Anonymous rfp, at 1/18/2007 6:18 AM  

  • 878 apparently measures angles relative to horizontal, the big scale being calibrated in tenths of a degree as near as I can figure, and the little wheel may raise/lower the pointer to fine tune the measurement for smaller units (likely either minutes/seconds or else hundredths/thousandths of a degree). But I presume the tool has a more specific identity than "protractor/level". If I have to take a shot in the dark, I'm going to guess it's a tool for building bridges, for aligning bits of the substructure or superstructure.

    Could the brass tubes be part of a distribution system for water (or some other liquid or vapor), splitting it sixteen ways, for sixteen destinations (e.g., to run air to the charcoal filters in sixteen aquaria for an aquarium shop)? Of course that only works if the big tube is also hollow and interconnects with the little ones. I'm not at all confident about this guess.

    Best I can figure for 882 is some kind of lantern, but again, I have no confidence in that guess.

    Could 883 have been used to ensure that something (e.g., a road or rail) was aligned precisely N/S, in order to keep them all parallel? But if so, why?

    No guess at all on the others. Looking forward to the answers.

    By Blogger Jonadab, at 1/18/2007 3:00 PM  

  • > Could the brass tubes be

    Answering my own question: no, they couldn't. I just noticed the way the big tubes nest inside one another, so that guess was clearly wrong.

    By Blogger Jonadab, at 1/18/2007 3:02 PM  

  • Object 878: an inclinometer, used to measure angles of an object's surface from the horizontal or vertical.

    Object 879: an air flow measurer for flow in HVAC ducts, or intake or outflow registers.

    Object set 880: a set of brass cork stopper hole borers for making holes in cork laboratory stoppers. Not really intended to be used for rubber or other non-cork stoppers because these were too tough for proper boring with a brass borer and were manufactured with holes; cork stoppers were not. The borers were sharpened with previous "What is it" item #744 (17 Aug '06)which is a universal sharpener for this type of brass cork stopper borers.

    Item 881 might be a soil testing instrument, like for density, compactibility, etc.

    Item 883 may be a magnetic down-dip indicator.

    By Anonymous mikebob, at 1/18/2007 11:10 PM  

  • 882 Possibly a marker lamp from a European railway switch stand.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/19/2007 12:16 PM  

  • 881- press for inserting lenses in camera parts

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/19/2007 1:25 PM  

  • Several of the guesses are correct, still not sure about 879 and 881, please see the answer link for more details.

    By Blogger Rob, at 1/19/2007 6:38 PM  

  • 882 is a marker light for railways switch, optional illuminates by lamp in it.

    By Anonymous Ralf B., at 1/25/2007 4:48 AM  

  • Could 879 be a demo for a disc used in disc brakes?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/07/2007 1:44 PM  

  • 879 I have the complete assembly of this item: It is a brass bucket with the bottom lined with concentric circles, of which this is one example, decreasing in diameter as they stack one upon the noter directly, held in place on an hollow tube which exits the center of the bottom of the bucket to which it would appear a flexible hose would be attached. The item was found in an abandoned chicken coop on a property of a family known to make home wine from grapes and other fruits. I suspect it was used as a wine filter of some kind. Anyone confirm suspicion?

    By Anonymous Steve Griswold, at 10/11/2011 12:28 PM  

  • 879 This item definitely has NOTHING to do with airflow measurement or Disc brakes....that's for sure. It's place is definitely in the bottom of this bucket....

    By Anonymous Steve Griswold, at 10/11/2011 12:34 PM  

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