26 thoughts on “WhatIsIt #7”

  1. JJ:
    The cup of a toilet plunger with the handle removed. I really have no idea! That’s my best guess! LOL 

    Far from it…

    Hint, it’s “vintage”.

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  2. jzdro:
    No scale, no fair!

    Still, how about a baby-bottle top from 1887?

    Nope. That’s the fun, no scale. But since you insist, from memory it’s between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter. ( I’m at work so I can not measure it now.)

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  3. G.D.:
    That’s the fun, no scale. But since you insist, from memory it’s between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter. ( I’m at work so I can not measure it now.)

    Well, that rules out my guess of a life preserver from a Bronze Age galley ship.

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  4. G.D.:
    it’s between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter

    OK, that is too large to be the brad from a rivet on century-old Levis, and too small to be a lamp base or the bell from an old ear trumpet, so my early guesses are ruled out.

    So now I am going with a handle, a drawer knob or similar.

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  5. MJBubba:

    G.D.:
    it’s between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter

    OK, that is too large to be the brad from a rivet on century-old Levis, and too small to be a lamp base or the bell from an old ear trumpet, so my early guesses are ruled out.

    So now I am going with a handle, a drawer knob or similar.

    Nope, not a handle, knob or similar.

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    • ctlaw:
      You slide these on ropes to prevent rats from crawling up the rope.

      Darn small ropes, by my estimate, the noncircular hole may be about three eights by a quarter inch. But good try.

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  6. Hint, in use since the twenties, phased out in the fifties, but still functional and many may still be in use all over North America.

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  7. G.D.:
    Hint, in use since the twenties, phased out in the fifties, but still functional and many may still be in use all over North America.

    And its not the housing of an unpolarized plug?

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  8. ctlaw:
    It is the housing from a plug on an electrical cord.

    Yep, in a way… (sorry, I was answering from work on a cell phone and well, work and driving home came first), but it is an actual electrical plug, non polarized of course.

    Here’s an approximate  3/4 view..

    The oval hole facilitated the use of the overall twin wire zip cord and other cords that had two wires, like twisted cloth over rubber.

    Typically an “Underwriter’s (Electrician’s) knot” was inside the plug to prevent the cord from pulling through the hole.

    Here’s another similar one but a modern representation as it IS polarized.

    I hope you all enjoyed this WhatIsIt…

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  9. G.D.:
    it is an actual electrical plug, non polarized of course.

    There would usually have been a fibre insert pushed over the pins of the plug to shield the live connectors.  But, of course, these were sometimes lost.  It was sufficiently difficult to get a grip on this kind of plug that people were sometimes tempted (particularly with appliances like vacuum cleaners, where you plugged and unplugged a lot as you worked) to yank out the plug by the cord.  This is where the knot was particularly important, but even so it would eventually fail.

    One of my favourite artefacts from the “Undertakers’ Laboratories” era of home electrics was the “resistance line cord”.  This doesn’t lend itself to a visual, so mentioning it isn’t a spoiler for future WhatIsIt episodes.  In the classic “All-American Five” AC/DC AM radio, the tube filament voltages were craftily chosen so they added up to around the usual line voltage of 110–120 volts, which allowed them to be connected in series and run directly from mains power without a transformer (which also allowed them to run on DC).  (This was also, of course, hideously dangerous, especially with non-polarised mains plugs as shown in the main post, since there was a 50% chance the chassis was “hot” and any contact with metal connected to it could be lethal.  As I said, “Undertakers’ Laboratories”.)

    But in the early days of these designs, tubes weren’t available with filaments which added up to mains voltage; around 1935 the best you could do with a five tube superheterodyne design was around 78 volts total.  So, you needed to drop around 35 to 42 volts somehow.  Putting in a big resistor would do the job, but it would get very hot and possibly set fire to a wooden cabinet or melt a plastic one.  So, brilliant idea: make the power cord out of resistive wire, so it would drop the voltage and dissipate the 12 to 20 watts across its length rather than all in one component.  That would mean the cord got warm, but not too hot to the touch, and the cheap radio worked.

    Well, as long as the owner of said radio didn’t run the cord under a thick, insulating carpet or wrap it tightly into a ball to take up extra length.  Then it was house on fire time.  Further, many of these “suicide sets” had a capacitor across the mains line to provide an AC ground to the chassis.  If (and in those days of wax capacitors, it was “when”) that capacitor shorted, that line cord would turn into a heating element and frequently catch fire.

    You will sometimes see these old radios for sale and be tempted to restore them.  The resistance line cord will almost always be hopelessly deteriorated due to age and damage from heat while it was in use.  If you replace it with a copper line cord, the tubes will go out in a blaze of glory when you turn it on, as full mains voltage incinerates the filament of the weakest.  With one of these sets, you need to investigate the voltages of the tubes, and then either install a dropping resistor (carefully dealing with the heat dissipation) or, better, install a capacitative dropper to reduce the voltage applied to the filaments.

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  10. G.D.:
    Here’s an approximate  3/4 view..

    Can you comment on the materials?  What is the brown stuff making a flat cutout part, kind of crescent-moon-shaped here, that appears to be a layer superficial to the layer of the brass anchoring the screws and the prongs?  Did there used to be more of it?

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  11. John Walker:
    as the owner of said radio didn’t run the cord under a thick, insulating carpet or wrap it tightly into a ball to take up extra length.  Then it was house on fire time.

    Aargh – before that is the time for Engineering and Marketing to talk to each other.  Otherwise the project morphs by default into Let’s Selectively Burn the Houses of Tidy People!

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  12. It is pretty much intact except for the insulator, as John Mentioned, is missing. The brown stuff seems to be a casting of Bakelite. The prongs are some sort of brass alloy. They are well worn from years of use. It was made in the good old USA as seen in this shot.

    You would not believe how hard it was to stand it up on a scanner. (actually pretty easy when one lets the lid hold it in place.)

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  13. G.D.:
    You would not believe how hard it was to stand it up on a scanner.

    Next time try propping it up with pieces of pierogi or placek, so reliable for “stick-to-it-iveness.”

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