Curious Contraptions: 40+ Vintage Tools With Unexpected Functions
Alright, this will be fun! Let’s play a game, shall we? No, this isn’t Saw; you won’t die if you lose. Anyways, this is how it’s going to work: After seeing a photo of an old-school vintage gadget, we will attempt to identify it. Then, and only then, will we examine it and determine what it is and how it works. For trivia lovers, we’re sure you’ll enjoy this.
Anyone can participate by making a prediction before or after reading our opinion. Check out how many you can get right. We’ll be surprised if you can get more than a few if any at all! But one thing’s for sure: once you see the absurdities we have brought to tease your curiosity today, you will definitely want to know more!
Kind of a whistle?
Could it be a thimble? A thing you use to pin clothes in a line, like a clothespin? It’s difficult to say, but those were some fairly educated guesses. This strange tool is made of metal material with a substantial chunk of a polished and grooved piece of wood.
This peculiar object happens to be a pool cue tipper. We are sure that even the most avid players of the game struggled a bit with that one! The file was used to make the tip flat before installing a new one. Some people believe it’s better than the modern one.
This resembles a combination of barber’s scissors and a device used for torturing people. To be frank, it appears to be extremely dangerous. We are going to go with nutcracker despite the fact that it seems a little too pointy for that purpose.
Well, turns out it’s not a nutcracker. Instead, it was used to remove shells, particularly eggshells. With this, you could extract eggshells relatively quickly without getting them all over your hands. This shouldn’t have gone out of style because we could certainly use one!
Among the items listed here, this looks the most otherworldly. It seems to have some kind of lighting on it, suggesting it might be some form of dance party equipment. Maybe one of those glittering flashing lights? Belonged to a disco, perhaps?
Well, turns out the light portion is true, but the rest is incorrect. This is an operating theater light that has many bits broken off of it. After getting that confirmation, we actually see it. Admittedly, the modernized versions are quite elaborate and more advanced, but we can see the mild similarities.
Seems pretty fun
Apparently, this is a board that was used to play a game. Though we’re not entirely certain what the game might be, we suspect it’s something more traditional. If you’ve been keeping score of our game, this is the first time we’ve gotten one right. Yay!
This intriguing piece was used with dice to play a horse racing game. At the bottom, wooden horses are attached at the end of every groove. Now that we think about it, maybe dice determined how many steps ahead your horse could move. But that’s just our guess!
Tweety Bird’s cage?
And here is another subject we know nothing about. However, since the guidelines of our game stipulate that we must make a guess, we have decided to go with some kind of horticultural tool. Yes, that does feel quite appropriate, doesn’t it?
As it turns out, we were pretty close. This scary-looking tool was used to plant potatoes. With it, you can cultivate many potatoes without putting as much effort into digging and planting them in the ground. Frankly, this one looks like it’d make our job harder!
This particular one is included here purely for entertainment purposes. It’s an applause meter, precisely as it states on that dial! Do you crave a standing ovation? Whoever created this does, for sure. Apparently, the intensity of the audience’s clapping can be measured.
It was used in performances (obviously) and other grand occasions. Like most people, though, we also don’t fully comprehend how it was used. But what we can all agree on is that it’s a stark reminder of how times have changed. Social media holds absolute power over any applause meter these days!
Alternate reality golf club?
This looks like a type of inverse pliers. At least, that’s our guess. Possibly another tool similar to a nutcracker. It appears to include a tightening cap, though that could also be incorrect. We’re really just pulling things out of thin air here!
So, it’s definitely not a nutcracker. We also hope that nobody ever uses it in that way. This device kept your mouth wide open while a dentist performed his treatment. Quite the antique find, this is. And one that needs to remain an antique, wouldn’t you agree?
From a golf course in a galaxy far, far away
This one looks like it was designed to be utilized in extraterrestrial mini-golf! Or is it some fancy golf tee? Either way, we would be shocked if it served a function other than decoration. But even then, we’re not sure we’d display it anywhere on a decor stand.
It turns out that this is a reusable cocktail pick. The golf club appearance is merely for marketing purposes. The tentacles that protrude from it are used to pick olives out of martinis, so you don’t have to use your fingers. You may now enjoy it stylishly stirred rather than shaken. “Bond” style!
This must be a prop from Star Trek.
This boomerang appears to be highly deadly. Unless it isn’t that, and it’s just a hair comb featuring regal-looking sharp corners. Beauty and defense, side by side. We’d be shocked to learn that it serves purposes other than combing hair or fighting.
We are so glad the item turned out to be a hair comb! According to sources, it’s known as a Miao comb, and it’s probably from Asia. Gorgeous, regal, and possibly deadly to an adult human. It also kind of looks like a modified Klingon bat’leth!
Some sort of a newfangled crutch?
This one must be an outdoorsy piece of equipment because it is rusted. Simply joking here, as oxidation will work its magic if the object is old and the external factors are just right. This is what you call a Backstaff or Davis’s quadrant.
It is a precursor to the sextant, the primary nautical tool used at sea throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In place of the antiquated and less-precise astrolabe, it was used to determine the elevation of the sun at midday.
Rolling pin, but make it hairy
This small object, which resembles a wooden sheep, has no apparent purpose. Although it also reminds us of a rolling pin, nobody would want to use it to flatten their dough. The limbs also work against that assumption. So what could it be?
As usual, we scoured the internet for answers, and what we found out was as interesting as you would expect it to be. This is a rolling pin-shaped footrest! That explains the woolen fabric in the middle. It makes it more comfortable for your feet.
Straight out of a detective novel
It is pretty apparent that this is actually a necklace. We believe it is intended to resemble a flask, somewhat judging by the shape. However, we believe its primary function is holding that pin because, honestly, it’s not that aesthetically pleasing.
Although we were right to assume it was a necklace, it’s actually intended to be both attractive and useful. To keep yourself smelling fantastic and looking good at the same time, you could spritz it with a bit of perfume. Or, if you’re Agatha Christie, with poison!
Let’s play Battleship
Could this be a gaming table? It kind of resembles a gambling table from a casino. However, it’s small and has a barrier in the middle, so it’s no good for blackjack. Ready for the answer? It’s an ancient smoking table.
Yeah, you heard that right! You can remove the copper insert and set beverages out or use it as an ashtray. Given that it has two tiny compartments on either side, you might also use it solely as a table.
Initially, this could appear to be a seal of some kind. However, a seal would also have impressed symbols rather than printed ones. It also mentions Aurora, Illinois, so given the background of the city, we expect it’s something rather contemporary.
Okay, we’ll confess that we have a little bit of a problem here. We read the post incorrectly and discovered that these were merely tags and not substantial pieces of metal. These are just locker tags held together by copper wires.
Tin Man’s shoes?
This item looks like it was used to prevent your footwear from deforming while you’re traveling, but it seems a little too complicated for that. There is no way someone could have worn that because it weirdly resembles a torture device.
Although it looks almost like a clog, it’s actually a wine bottle holder! Anyone who knows a little bit about European antiques must be enjoying themselves immensely with this one. This thing sends all the wrong messages. Quite the medieval-looking thing also, isn’t it?
A fragile heart?
This particular one is definitely exciting, to be honest. Despite being egg-shaped, the top contains a pulley. We think you have to put something inside that slot to find out what it does. Or maybe it was used to hold some kind of beverage.
Well, it just so happens to serve as a chandelier counterweight. Quite an ingenious design. The shape kind of reminds one of a heart made out of ceramic. We wonder what they used to put inside the counterweight to make it weigh more. Sand would be our first guess. What’s yours?
Finally, got something right.
We believe this is a bundt pan. Its composition is mainly iron, and the middle part looks like one of those scary-looking cooking hammers. You know, the kind you use to tenderize meat? Wait, perhaps this is where we are headed in terms of food preparation!
Perhaps you had to put something inside and then smash it with another tool. You can certainly shatter stuff with this, especially nuts. You could crash the nut in the center while the pan captured the shell. Apparently, it came with a mallet that had the same appearance.
If your first guess with this one was a teabag, you’re not alone. It includes a top aperture for storing items, and the fabric appears to be permeable to water. Additionally, the link would make detachment easy. Everything looks really sleazy, but that’s to be expected from a reused teabag.
So, yes, it is a bag, but not the kind you know. It’s similar to a pocketbook, which is why it’s thought to be so bougie. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it was known as a lady’s reticule, and it was widely used.
What the heck is this?
This appears to be yet another culinary tool. But its potential applications for such tiny gadgets don’t seem to be particularly great. We believe that perhaps the wheels are capable of turning, but since it is a photo, we are unable to confirm that.
This tiny item is known as a “fudge wheel.” Therefore, a kitchen is certainly where it belongs, with the exception of when cobblers use it in stitching leather. In this case, we obviously mean cobbler, as in shoemaker, not the delectable dessert made from peaches.
We would say that this was a monarch’s scepter if it were a couple of sizes larger. Unfortunately, it isn’t, so we have to stake our chances on an unclear instrument that we understand nothing about. We’ll admit it; we’re lost with this one.
Even though it isn’t a regal scepter, it is undoubtedly a beautiful object. This was typically used to spin the dial on a rotary phone. As a substitute, you had to use a pen, like some secretaries in any of those vintage films.
Andy Warhol’s CPU?
What the heck is this? Although it appears to be a joke, it is too exquisitely old-fashioned to be anything but real. Your prediction is as good as ours. We think it could be some kind of combination of a beverage dispenser, storage case, and a CPU all put together.
It’s a gas heater! Okay, so maybe you could see the parallels between this and the ones we learned about in chemistry class if you decided to look a tiny bit closer. The spout’s hole at the front suggests that gas is likely to be released through it.
Part of a toaster, maybe?
Is this some type of vintage plate rack? That would certainly be logical. Fold-out barbs make for simple storage. But wouldn’t that be a touch too obvious? With this one, we doubt anyone is excited about making a guess. We’ve decided to go with some kind of kitchen rack.
Since it’s a tie rack rather than a dish rack, we’d say we were half correct. You can store them easily by folding them, and that’s pretty much it. The one thing that led us astray was the overall shape. It made us think it was a torture instrument!
Although this resembles a potato masher made out of wood, we have never seen such a peculiar model for sale in stores. If you look closely, the central piece has some Chinese writing on it, suggesting that it originates from Asia.
Turns out we were wrong again, as this is a kite spindle. Despite the fact that they usually aren’t anything to write home about, this one fascinated us. Not going to lie, though; they had us in the first half with those inscriptions. We thought it was a prayer wheel of some sort!
Why is this drinking horn made out of glass?
The first thing that comes to mind when you look at this would be a drinking horn. But were they ever made out of glass? As intriguing as that might sound, it definitely wasn’t the case. Anyway, this looks fancy; maybe it’s some kind of crystal decoration.
While it’s meant for decoration, we doubt you would’ve thought to say it’s a car floral vase. People used flowers as an organic fragrance and also to decorate cars in the early 1900s. They’re still in use today, and we totally see ourselves trying one out!
Part of a painting?
At first, we thought this one was a cinch and concluded it was a fantastic work of art. But as it turns out, looks can be deceiving. What seems to be a simple painting is actually a slide in what was previously referred to as a magic lantern.
It was a vintage image projector that was initially used for amusement and then for teaching. Small ones were also once made as toys. Just look at the intricate brushwork on this thing. They just don’t make them like they used to.
Sort of a scale. Maybe?
Clearly, this is a vintage phone body without the earpiece. But then, when you look at the background, you start to have doubts. So what is it actually? You’re not going to believe this, but since you asked so nicely, we’ll tell you.
It’s a music box that an operator would use to play waiting music when putting someone on hold! It’s hard to believe that people didn’t just wait in silence before the digital age. Clearly, those times weren’t as bad as we sometimes imagine them in our heads.
Got us beat, fair and square
No, we don’t understand what this is; thanks for asking. Nevertheless, based on the presence of the bundle of thread, we believe that this object, whatever its function, likely has something to do with a sewing machine or sewing kit.
We doubt that we could have predicted what it actually is. According to experts, you had to attach straps to the holes on either side of the contraption, then strap in a stack of books, and presto — you had a handle for carrying books! At least, if you’re lucky and it doesn’t break!
Vintage tie pin?
Despite its ability to beguile the eye, we can make a reasonably confident guess that it is an old hair clip. After all, before spring-powered hair clasps, there must have been a method to keep your hair up in knots.
Well, it is a clip, but not for hair. The real purpose of this is to keep your tie evenly made without tearing the fabric. Most men will tell you that a botched tie is a one-way ticket to a ruined outfit. But not with this tool!
Looks like a Jawa Sandcrawler
This appears to be a remnant of something from the Salem witch trials. Put the (alleged) witches in, light a couple of matches, and set the thing ablaze. But the fact that it’s in the middle of a forest suggests that we probably aren’t on the right track.
As it turns out, this does actually have something to do with fire. Well, sort of. This is called a blast wall, which, as the name suggests, is a structure that shields individuals or buildings from the destructive power of explosions. Quite the discovery, isn’t it?
A nice place to kick it
Clearly, this is a recliner of some sort. However, we have never seen anything with arms as long as these. How many drinks do you need to stack for one person? Perhaps it links to another armchair that’s supposed to be on the opposite side?
As expected, this isn’t what we anticipated. It’s actually referred to as a “planter’s chair.” After a long day of work, planters used this chair to relax by placing their legs on the long armrests. There’s no footrest because there was certainly no need to add one!
Some sort of measuring device?
This must be a clock or a calculator of some kind. However, because we can’t see any possible way it could tick, we’re going with the latter guess. If you stuck by our guess, you were smart to, because that’s exactly what it is! This calculator was created in Germany in 1900.
It is known as a mechanical calculator. The official name is an Optima, but that isn’t exactly forthcoming about when or how to use it, so your guess is as good as ours. Leave it to the Germans to come up with brilliant engineering concepts.
“50,000 people used to live in this city”
This looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic story! Pripyat would fit the bill nicely. The two objects resemble an exhaust system for a structure that is deep underneath the ground. But they are in the middle of nowhere, and it looks like nature is reclaiming them.
Maybe they lead to a fallout bunker from a previous war. It turns out that they could actually be a vent from an underground shelter (one more point for us!). An alternative explanation is that they might be chimney tops that were left behind after a house was demolished.
What purpose would this serve?
Does this hold bread, maybe? Perhaps it’s a very old toaster. We say that because old toasters were simply iron rods that you would place on the stove with the toast. The only problem with that theory is that it’s mostly made of wood.
Unsurprisingly, we were wrong here. This contraption functions as a holding box for tinder. Its purpose is to keep your tinder and firewood nicely dry until you need to use them. A unique shape, to put it mildly, but nonetheless helpful.
Welp, once again, we have no idea of what this could be. There are so many distinct parts; it could be anything. We suppose it also has the appearance of a medical gadget. Perhaps you put some liquid into it to load it up.
You won’t believe it, but this is actually a catapult! After inserting the metal balls, you stretch the bottom balloon until it becomes tight, then you let go and open fire! Before guns, this might have been a preferred weapon for home defense!
World’s smallest paddle?
What is this? A huge clothespin? Either that or a miniature pizza peel (which is the term used to describe the big wooden spatula used by bakers to slip their baked delicacies into the oven)? Or perhaps it squeezes linens dry? Finding out the real purpose of this tool was a pleasant surprise!
This antique device was actually utilized in beekeeping. More specifically, it was used to press the sweet honey out of the honeycomb. Now that just made us think of fresh and delicious honey. We could really use some sweetness right now.
What’s the time?
This is a sundial, an antiquated tool used to determine the time by measuring the shadow the sun casts in relation to its position in the sky. It does not take into consideration Daylight Savings Time, which makes sense because it was a 20th-century invention.
Before the invention of the pocket watch — and if you were hip — this wonderful little instrument was all the rage. You only needed knowledge on how to use it, which back then, almost everyone did, and access to the sun.
Yeah, this one’s a spoon. Like, come on, there’s no way an object with that shape could possibly be anything else. It’s a fancy-as-hell spoon, too. Our guess is that it would have been found in the kitchen of some country’s aristocracy.
The only peculiar feature in terms of its shape is its flat bottom. Maybe you used it to mash potatoes? Ok, time for the reveal…we’re going to give ourselves half a point. This intricately detailed spoon was used to serve ice cream.
What’s this? A scythe for ants?
We are going to go with a Hail Mary on this one and say that this is a kitchen appliance. Yup, we bet you would use this to spread things — frosting on a cake, peanut butter on brownies, you get the picture.
You know what? That was a stupid guess. This is a garden weeder. Based on research, it appears to have originated in Japan. Maybe in an alternate timeline, it would be ideal for frosting cakes, but right now, the weeds deserve your attention more!
Do Swiss restaurants use this?
Ah, more silverware. We know what the first three utensils are, of course, but that fourth one — is it some sort of scraper? What ought to be scraped, if anything? Maybe you use it to get every last drop of food off of your plate?
We’ll give you a hint. Think back to the time you were a kid. This is a tool called a food pusher. It helps kids load up food onto a fork or spoon while they practice using regular utensils. Very elegant looking, isn’t it?
What a cool flask!
People might assume that this is a kind of historical art form if it weren’t for the artillery etched on its front. It is most likely from a ship, but it’s not that old. Most likely, it’s a flask or canteen of some type.
Yes, this is indeed “some kind of flask.” The cannon on it is typical of a “black powder flask,” to be precise. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, black powder is really just another name for gunpowder. And so, one more point for us!
Sit down; stay awhile
What a peculiar rock formation! It appears to be in a deserted structure. In any case, it has not been used in quite some time. We’re going to guess that it’s a cheap and simple chair for patrons to sit in.
In actuality, nature itself has played a trick on us. The indentations in the rock are apparently a result of years of rain pouring into the same location and eroding the rock. This is actually part of an Italian castle!
With this one, you’re obviously meant to pass a substance through the fine netting. However, the spaces are too wide for it to be a French press. Maybe it’s an old-school milk frother? It’s difficult to imagine that frothy milk is by any means a new concept.
The milk frother guess was close but not entirely on the money. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you a DIY mayonnaise jar! The eggs and the other ingredients are whisked together until the mixture has that beautiful, creamy consistency.
Looks like a toaster
What a sophisticated Play-dough kit! We kid. This could be for a specific type of minced meat or produce, though. Maybe it’s a garlic press? Everybody loves garlic but hates chopping it, after all. But the more we guess, the less we’re sure.
Apparently, this is a ski wax iron (and quite an old one at that). It is used to administer wax on skis or snowboards in order to shield them from dings and make their surface hydrophobic, which gives them their characteristic glide. How cool!
The color on this capsule screams “military” to us. If we stick with that concept, we can think of two possibilities. One, this contains a secret code. Two, it’s something used to store cyanide. The enemy must never gain any intel!
Lo and behold, it is a pill, after all! But it’s actually used to aid the body as opposed to killing it! This is an antimony “everlasting” pill designed to clean the body of impurities. Why everlasting? Well, you’d swallow it…and sooner or later, it’d come back out!
We’re going to have to go with lipstick for this one, despite the fact that we do not even believe in ourselves after all these wrong guesses! Even though it appears excessively polished, we simply don’t believe it could be anything else.
As it turns out, we were actually correct! We suppose that this is just how they looked in the past. The design is what gave it away; it’s probably straight out of the Roaring ’20s. It must have been a precious thing to a party girl!
This looks like it gets the job done
What a cool piece of lab gear! It is lab gear, right? No, actually, we’re going to change our guess. This is from the other kind of lab — the kitchen! It looks like you’d use it to grab ice, sugar cubes, or something like that.
Get this. It’s not meant for ice cubes, but sugar! This is a device used to grab the required number of sugar cubes. It certainly is an excellent method of avoiding sticky hands. Plus, this way, you don’t have everyone putting their grubby paws in your sugar jar.
What in the world?
This apparatus looks like a prop from a 1940s horror film. It could pass both for a surgical tool and an ice pick. Was it used to perform lobotomies? Honestly, we would prefer not to know the answer to that question, if it’s possible.
We did, however, get one thing right. It is a particular kind of ice pick, just not for lobotomies. It’s used to remove ice from frozen water bodies during the wintertime. The pointed ends grab onto the large ice blocks securely. Reminds us of the opening theme in Frozen.
Can opener necklace?
A test model Slinky or a toy of some sort. That’s the only response you can expect from us. We cannot determine whether the metal is bonded, connected, or both. Darned optical illusions! There’s really no way to know what this might be.
This happens to be what you call a corset bone. It is the foundation of a corset that women wore a long time ago. In order to prevent the corset from sagging and wrinkling, corset boning was necessary. Dark times, people.
Para or normal?
This is the kind of situation you want to avoid at all costs. It’s ominous, gloomy, and definitely cursed. It appears to be either the ruins of a temporary medical facility or a once-thriving conservatory that has been wasted away because of neglect.
Quite eerie. But it’s none of those things. The items in this miners’ changeroom were used to pull their clothing up and away from the path for the upcoming shift. So creative yet so spooky! Not the kind of place you want to end up unawares!
Alternate reality coffee maker?
This certainly contains some kind of substance. Probably a drink that can be consumed. It also has a French press-like appearance, but we are not really sure what is within. Nevertheless, we are certainly curious as to its intended application.
Apparently, it’s a toy. It does, however, contain water, which is used to clean small objects by turning the crank and agitating the liquid. It was often used for doll apparel. This antique toy washing machine unquestionably looks like it could be used for making coffee.