I found this with a bunch of other old tools. This is the only one I can't figure out what it is. I wonder if it's a home made tool for some unique purpose. Or maybe it was just for made for fun out of random available parts. Or was this something mass produced in the 1800s? I'm curious. The two black bulb handles rotate and the metal piece on the bottom also rotates. Kind of looks like a door handle. Also looks like it could be a spool of some sort. Any ideas?

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    It's a reel for electrical wire. The clip on top next to the handle holds one end of the wire. The channel on the bottom rests on some conductor to make a temporary connection. I have no idea what application it was used for (field communication, locating a cable break, etc.). It looks like one end of the wire went to something at a fixed location. The user would unspool the wire as they moved away, and at some other location, rest the channel under the reel on another conductor to complete the circuit. When they were done, they would spool the wire back onto the reel.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 4:22
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    Make this an answer, fixer1234! I wanted to go with pipe cutter and my hubby should know...but I like your answer...make it an answer!
    – stormy
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:29
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    @PSJ1987 it is NOT a tool - it is a Fishing Reel - see my answer along with pictures - positive ID.. please mark as answer ..
    – Ken
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


If I can think on this : while it looks like a military field operators wire spool for a communication link or possibly demolitions (not as likely). This is neither of those items.

The clip at the handle actually is the wire holder (or shall I say Fishing Line Holder). Hook the Line there and then you can spool it onto the reel and catch the fish with out losing your line. Yours is in rough shape ..used well..must have had lots of fish..

What you have is a Vintage Surf Fishing Reel .. here are several pictures and a link to ebay ..

Vintage Surf reel Vintage Surf Reel Picture of back side

Links - this link in time will fail so I am posting it for the op ..


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    The mystery has been solved. I had no idea it was a fishing reel. It makes complete sense now. The one I have the wood is broken on two sides. Really nice work finding this out Ken.
    – PJS1987
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 2:01
  • @PJS1987 I am not sure if anyone can or if you should repair the unit (it might be worth less money repaired) - but it definitely makes for a nice show piece - if you have some old tackle or old fishing photos - place it in a nice shadow box and you have a talking piece for the wall in your home.
    – Ken
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 23:09
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    Excellent job! I'll leave my comment as an alternate "MacGyver" use so sticklers for topicality don't decide that this isn't a home improvement question. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 3:37
  • @fixer1234 - you would have to know it is not a tool to know it was not a home improvement question. Maybe the OP has a house boat it might be considered home improvement - depending on your fondness for fishing. :-)
    – Ken
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 19:18

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