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The Great Amberley 'Toast Rack'

This is a real oddity.

It's one of many interesting old tools and machines belonging to TATHS and displayed in our tool museum at Amberley in Sussex.
The overall size is about 350 mm / 14" long, 150 mm / 6" wide, 125 mm / 5" high. Construction is of cast iron and steel. The parts are cast finish with some numbers and single figures on individual members. There is no manufacturer's name or patent number. The screws are imperial sizes which suggests that it is American or British manufactured. It sits on four feet which have slots cut in them so it could be screwed to a bench or work top. Construction is rugged, suggesting a manufacturing use.

Front elevation with 'butterflies' open

Front elevation with 'butterflies' closed

The pictures attempt to show how the parts move in operation. On the middle of the machine there are seven movable parts shaped like butterfly wings; seven right wing parts on the right and seven left wing parts on the left side. (The left and right wings are joined together and operate as one.) They are secured to a shaft at the base of the machine. When the handle is depressed the 'butterfly wings' move to the right and close onto seven fixed parts. This action also brings down the serrated edge component shown in the photos which straddles the 'butterfly wings' and the fixed parts in the assembly. When the handle is returned by its spring to the starting position the 'butterfly wings' have to be physically moved back to their original position, suggesting that there may have been a part of the original machine that carried out this operation or that a step in the working process moved them back.

View from the left hand side

Gallery of other views


So what is it? Have you ever seen one, or used one? Can you send us a wild guess which might put someone else on the right track?
Let us know what you think it is or what it does or how it was used, we’re just as puzzled as you are!

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