I'd like to know what this is...

I acquired this tool in a mixed lot with some other tools, most of which had themselves been bought in mixed lots at auction, so it comes with no clues about its origins. It's iron or steel and has a wooden handle which might be a fruitwood. The stem extends right through the handle and is riveted over as it emerges at the tip.

The overall length is seven inches. The 'blade' is 3/4" wide and 2" long. The blade part is rounded at the tip, 3/16" at the middle, tapering down to 1/16" thick at the edge. It's reasonably smooth and is not sharpened in any way. It's quite neatly and delicately made, with a couple of little beads on the handle and a brass ferrule. There are no markings at all. The handle has traces of old putty, which suggests that it has been used to smooth putty - but I'd be surprised if that was its original purpose. There is no springiness to it at all, so I don't think it's any sort of trowel.

I thought it might possibly be heated up in use - there's enough mass for it to keep warm for a while - and looked through Salaman's Dictionary of Leather Working Tools, in case it was some sort of burnisher, but could see nothing similar in there.

I'd be grateful for your thoughts, wild guesses, or definite identification.

Andy T, Webmaster


#1 AndyT 2016-08-04 15:09
Just answering my own question for a moment, I spotted this on display in the Staffordshire County Museum:

The caption said it was a pharmacist's plaster spreader, used hot, to spread adhesive onto linen or calico, before the introduction of self-adhesive plasters.

Does anyone have a suitable catalogue to confirm or deny this? The museum tool was a bit bigger than mine.
#2 AndyT 2016-08-04 15:10
Adding a bit more to continue answering my own question, I have been looking through nineteenth century manuals of Pharmacy practice and have found a picture which is even closer to my tool. This is from "An introduction to practical pharmacy: designed as a text-book for the student, and as a guide to the physician and pharmaceutist" by Edward Parrish, published in 1856 and available here:

So I am satisfied that it is indeed a "Plaster Iron."

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