Mystery Cutters

There are several handcrafted artifacts in the METC collection whose  function completely puzzle the Museum staff! Like the 19th-century cutting device pictured here. Many of these “mystery artifacts” are objects made of parts from several different tools.

This tool could have been made from the blades of gardening shears attached to a branch. The branch has a hand-forged iron ferrule – the metal ring on the end of a wood handle that prevents splitting. The cutting edges of these blades have double bevels, like the blade of a knife, rather than a single bevel like those of scissors. Another odd aspect of this piece is that the backs of the blades look peened at the place where the two blades meet as if someone had hit them with a heavy instrument. The cutters may have been designed to extract large roots or shrubs from the ground, although they could have been used to perform a task entirely unrelated to gardening.

Museum members Jerry Burchette and Herb Kean identified the cutter as a form of hay knife. The blades were formed from a pair of shears. These blacksmith-made shears probably did not work very well, perhaps leading to their reconfiguration as a hay knife. Evidently, the tool did not work well as a hay knife either, as the handle was cut off leaving the remains of a hole that once held a peg to be used as a footstep. Presumably, the handle was cut off so that the blades could be used as a chopper of some kind, but the overly thick handle could not have been comfortable.

So our mystery tool seems to have actually been three tools in succession: shears, hay knife, and chopper.

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