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, May 15, 2008

Set 232

1301. 10-7/8" tall:

1302. 11" long:

Larger image

1303. 48" tall:

1304. 6" long:

Larger image

Another version of the same device, 4" long, from the 1950's:

1305. Submitted by a visitor from Texas who is looking to identify this piece of equipment:

The owner's description of it:
There is a 2-1/4" square piece of prism/quartz crystal or similar, which is highly mirrored and is iridescent with varying colors like a holograph.(You cannot see through the glass.) It sits on a rotational frame with very smooth ball bearing 360-degree movement. (Its precision suggests that this object was intended to spin at high revolution.) It has an arm protruding out one side which has a small red ball about 1/4" round. It may be a bulb containing fluid like a thermometer, or it may be solid ruby colored glass ball. But it glows if light strikes it just right. It is shielded so that the red ball is concealed from the back.

The back side of the prism mount has 4 or 5 highly precise leveling screws as if a very finite placement is required. These adjustments would serve to tilt or plane the prism. The prism is about 1/2 to 5/8" thick, and has numerals scratched into the side with a scratch awl or engraving tool. The numerals are 33/12/3/10/1.

The entire item except for the glass is very heavy metal. There is no writing anywhere on the piece except the numerals "903" stamped on the bottom of the mount. As small as it is, this thing weighs a surprising 2lbs, 10 ounces.

A view of the back:

1306. 8" long, for more guesses on this one take a look at Neatorama:

To submit photos, click on the profile link at the upper right to find my email address.


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.


  • 1301 Miners lamp.
    1302 Marlin spikes.
    1303 Ice scraper??
    1304 "Cat's Whisker and Tuning Coil for crystal radio receiver.
    1306 Concrete groove roller.

    By Blogger Canem, at 5/15/2008 6:37 AM  

  • 1301 - coal miner's lamp (explosion-proof)
    1302 - ship's belaying pin
    1303 - front of car :-)
    1304 - variable inductor (and gallium crystal) for a crystal radio
    1306 - tool for making the grooves in concrete sidewalks

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/15/2008 6:54 AM  

  • 1303 - asphalt shingle remover.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 5/15/2008 8:16 AM  

  • 1302 -- miners safety lamp

    1302 -- they look like belaying pins, but those are usually made of wood, these seem to be metal, perhaps used
    for a similar purpose but on land?

    1303 -- shingle shovel

    1304 -- crystal radios, The first one is pretty nice, I used to own one just like the second

    By Blogger Alex, at 5/16/2008 1:16 PM  

  • 1301: yep looks like a lamp to me
    1302: kinda look like crappy honing steels for knives
    1303: might be a tool for tearing up shingles. the slots let you grab and pry the nails up.
    1304: definitely a radio
    1305: looks like it belongs on a laser table or somthing you would see in a high tech lab.
    1306: groovy

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/20/2008 2:11 PM  

  • 1305 is a diffraction grating. It is used to seperate wavelengths in optical instruments. See wiki for details :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/22/2008 6:16 AM  

  • 1305 is part of a monochromator.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monochromator) The flat glass is a diffraction grating. The red ball (hard glass or ruby) is part of the mechanism that, turning the grating, selects a particular wavelenght. Usually, the ball is in contact with a flat moving surface whose position is linearly related with selected wavelenght.
    This mechanism was used to simplfy the mechanics on old (and not so old) IR/vis/UV spectrophotometers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/27/2008 1:18 PM  

  • I have some items that I would like to ID as well.

    Could you recommend how I go about this?


    Charles in Alaska

    By Anonymous ytitnedi, at 9/11/2008 2:42 PM  

  • Sorry. I'm not here today.

    If you can help ytitnedi figure out what I have, contact me at



    Charles in Alaska

    By Anonymous ytitnedi, at 9/11/2008 2:44 PM  

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