Tools have been around for centuries, and their names are often unusual. Ever wondered why a crowbar is called a crowbar? Other weird tool names seem positively medieval, and some of them actually are.
Explore the mysterious origins of some of the weirdest tool names out there. From arcane folklore to industrial accidents, you’ll never look at your tools the same way again.
So Why Is a Crowbar Called A Crowbar?
The crowbar (or wrecking bar or pry bar) is an L-shaped metal tool with a flat end and a pointed end, useful for prying things apart or levering them open. One theory suggests that the tool was named after a blacksmith tool that resembled a “crow beak” and was used to bend metal, or it may be because the tool resembled crows’ feet.
What Is a Shove-Knife?
A shove-knife is a tool used for cutting and separating material. It has an angled blade with a sharp point that can be used to cut through soft materials like cloth, leather, cardboard, and even plastic. The name “shove-knife” originated in the 19th century when workers in textile factories used them to separate threads in a loom. The blades were so sharp that they would quickly “shove” through the material, hence the name.
What Is a Bastard File?
Bastard files are metal files used for rough filing and shaping. It has a coarse cut with teeth that are widely spaced, making it ideal for removing material quickly. The origin of the name “bastard” remains a mystery, although some suggest it could have come from an old French word, “basterd,” meaning “rough and uneven.” Alternatively, it could have originated from an industrial accident in which a file-maker accidentally created a rougher type of file than usual.
What Is a Shingle Froe?
Shingle froes are tools used for splitting and shaping wooden shingles and for splitting logs. It’s similar to an axe, but with a longer, thinner blade that has a pointed end. The name “shingle froe” comes from the Old English word “froe” which means “to cut or pare off.” Colonial settlers brought tools like these and their weird name with them or made them after they arrived in the “new” world. The tool is still manufactured and used today.
These aren’t the only hand tools that have odd names. At least one modern machine has a name derived from medieval times: the press brake. These powerful machines bend sheet metal into angles and pipes for construction and, in some cases, architectural ornamentation.
So there we have it—a glimpse into the weird and wonderful world of tool names. When you learn why a crowbar is called a crowbar and other weird tool names, you also may discover the intriguing stories behind them. The next time you pick up your toolbox, take a moment to appreciate the mysterious origins of these tools and their peculiar titles.