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The Mysterious Electric Sword

Electric Sword 500 Wide.jpg

90% of the held mail that came in while we were in Phoenix was junk mail, mostly catalogs and postcards from place like Bath Fitter. 9% was real mail, most of it (alas) bills. 1% was…weird. And cool.

One of my readers, Guy Ricklin, sent me something he bought at a garage sale years ago for a dollar because it looked like an electric sword. He asked me if I wanted it, and I said, Sure! So there it was, in and among the shoe, pet supplies, and gardening catalogs. And yup, it looks like an electric sword. A shortsword, more precisely, as the “blade” is 14 inches long. The blade part is formed sheet aluminum with the resistance element inside. The handle is some stiff black sheet material (cardboard soaked in Bakelite?) folded over, with the cord running between the two halves.

No, I didn’t plug it in. What am I, nuts? (I was tempted.) I did measure the resistance at 217 ohms, which across a 120V line would draw 0.552 amps, and dissipate 66 watts. That’s a certain amount of heat, but not a huge amount of heat.

One side of the aluminum blade (shown above) is formed and curved. The other side is completely flat and polished smooth. I’ve looked online and found nothing remotely like it. I’m guessing that you’re supposed to rub the polished flat side over something. Laundry? Hair? Pasta? Gingerbread? I sniffed it, and as you might expect of Ye Olde Elecktrickle Stuffe, the whiff of Bakelite overpowers anything that it might have been used on in its long-gone heyday.

So what is it? You tell me. Really. Guy and I and probably a number of other curious people would very much like to know.


  1. Kevin Anetsberger says:

    Maybe a old honey uncapping knife?

    1. I had to look those up, but I’m thinking probably not:

      1) The gadget is kind of flimsy. I would think pushing it down through honeycomb would require something made of sterner stuff.

      2) Honey is messy. Whatever the gadget is, it saw hard use, and there’s no hint of wax or anything sticky anywhere on it.

      I’m still thinking smoothing wrinkles out of bedsheets? But that’s a pretty low-confidence guess.

  2. Sam'l Bassett says:

    1) The cord & plug date it to the 1920s/early 30s

    2) My guess is that it’s an ice cutter — until the mid-40s, ice was delivered in blocks about a foot to 2′ cubed.

  3. Jonathan O'Neal says:

    It appears to be an old electric necktie restorer.


    1. Ding! Mr. O’Neal wins!

      Actually, several people figured it out independently, especially over on my Facebook page. Pete Albrecht sent me several links, some of which I’ll copy here:

      I’m going to try it out on one of my less-favorite ties, assuming it doesn’t pop a breaker when I (carefully) plug it in.

      1. Stickmaker says:

        I thought it might be some sort of specialized clothes pressing gadget. It reminds me of a tool Shemp used in a Three Stooges short where the Boys worked in a dry cleaners. I was thinking more of pillow cases than ties, though.

  4. TRX says:

    What? No Variac on your workbench?!

    Since you’ve brought up mail, my offer still stands: give me a valid mailing address, and I’ll have Amazon deliver a copy of “Gran Torino” to it. It’s been a while since you’ve made any religious posts, and I’m still interested in your reaction to the movie, which is not about a geriatric Clint Eastwood shooting stuff up, as the trailers imply.

    1. Not one but two Variacs here…and I just did the test, after making sure the line wasn’t shorted to the aluminum blade. It warmed up significantly at 60V. Didn’t test it beyond that because I need to go hunt up my digital thermometer and watch the temps as I dial the Variac to the top.

      Later on, I’ll test it on an actual tie.

  5. Jack Smith says:

    I’ve been tempted to build a similar product, but for a different purpose.

    A few times a year, we buy frozen pies – banana cream or chocolate most commonly. These are difficult to cut into wedges with a room temperature knife, and even heating the knife blade with hot water isn’t all that helpful.

    A heated knife would be perfect for cutting frozen pies.

    1. There’s an actual species of electric knife that I think could cut frozen pies pretty well. It’s called a “honey uncapping knife” and they’re fairly easy to find if you know what they’re called. I see them on eBay and Amazon for anywhere from $30 to $75.

      1. Jack Smith says:

        That’s almost what is needed – but the honey uncapping knife cross section of all those I could find on Amazon look to be around 1/4″ (6mm) thick with a thin, narrow edge.

        The design looks good for the intended purpose but seems not useful where the pie is still in the tin – as is the normal case. You need a thin – typical kitchen knife – blade.

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