War Department Marked Pincers

I always enjoy finding military marked tools, especially if they are something more unusual than the ubiquitous spanners and are lurking in a £1 box. The latest one to fall into this category are a traditional pair of carpenter’s pincers:imageThese are marked with the /|\ mark on one of the handles, but are sadly undated:imageDating this sort of item is hard, as they have been using virtually the same design since the Roman period, however at a guess I would say it comes from between 1900 and the end of the Second World War. At one end of the tool are the jaws of the pincers themselves, curved to allow the easy extraction of a nail by rocking the tool:imageThe movement bends the nail and gently eases it out. At the opposite end is a different style of nail puller, much like that on the back of a claw hammer and a shaped ball:imageI am struggling to find out what this ball is for, it has been suggested that it is for spalling out small diameter pipes or is merely to help balance out the weight of the two arms of the pincers. Either way it is a traditional feature of English pincers and can be seen in use for hundreds of years. This extract form a 1950s trade manual suggests that different countries had different styles of pincers and this shape is the one used in England:pincersAlthough designed as a carpenters tool, I have seen some references to pincers being used by armourers in the repair of weapons so it is also possible that this tool was used there, either way it is a delightful and well made little item and is another WD tool for my growing collection.


  1. This is just an observation, but the curvature of the claw away from the ball, and the comparative shortness of the handle of the ball end to the claw, would suggest that the ball could be employed as a fulcrum when extracting a nail. Possibly it is used where a nail is in a location that restricts the ability to use the pincers fully, (for example the nail is on an edge and the ball is positioned on the adjoining side to assist in leverage) or it may be for use on a long nail after initial extraction by use of the pincers. Do as archeologists do when unsure of how tools were used in the past – try it out! Thanks again for all the interesting posts.

  2. Has anybody here actually tried to use the claw to pull out a nail? It is useless, it is thick so very difficult to get under a nail head and has a very little V if you do manage to do so and there 8s nothing to really lever over as a fulcrum, the ball really isn’t in the right place and is not always a ball but a pointed blob.
    I’m inclined to believe the ball is just for balance but why is the claw so rubbish at doing anything, like digging out the nail head so the main pincer can take over, but you will have a better chance with the main blades of the pincers.
    For a tool that has been around so long why is so little known and why are they so bad at getting nails that have been hammered all the way in out? If everybody always hammered heads in till they were 2mm proud then they would be great, however I for one use a nail punch to get them in flat.
    I read somewhere that they are direct decendants of impliments of torture, heated red hot and well… maybe the ball and claw are left over from this side of there use, finger nails, other body parts, who knows what they did. I think this actually quite likely because as a tool only the from pincer bits are useful for nail extraction and fence wire cutting.

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