Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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M ELEY 3rd June 2017 07:08 AM

Questions about rebar
I have recently acquired a huge grappling hook/anchor whose central shaft is made from rebar. I know many of the modern types are made of such, but this piece looks very old, at least early 19th c.

With what little I could find on rebar, it's been around for a very long time, 16th c. and up. During the American Revolution, the statue of King George III commissioned in 1768 and destroyed by colonials in 1776 was a lead figure with rebar inner skeleton. (the yanks melted it down to make shot to use against the Brits!) I guess my question is does anyone know of any rebar used in architecture, structures, weapons, fencing, etc, during this time? I've tried researching and haven't come up with much...

fernando 3rd June 2017 10:27 AM

Hi Captain,
If i understand what you mean ...
I see local anchors made with this type of steel ... although i guess this is saved from other applications, just to make it cheap for modest fishermen.
But where i see these being massively applied is for construction, in either concrete beams or solid pavement. They call it "pre-stressed" concrete. Frames are made with rebar (if i get it) and after, fresh cement fills up the the desired structure volume. It then works by contraction, gaining more resistance. I guess in some cases the bars are laid streched with hydraulic jacks, before cement is applied and when it dries, the bars are let loose, improving the beams strength.
I may talking nonsense; if so, forget the whole thing :o .

CSinTX 3rd June 2017 02:57 PM

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Can you post some pictures? Sometimes in the US we use rebar to make hoopnet and trotline drags to locate our fishing gear that's been hidden out of sight of others. They look like grappling hooks and often get lost to tree roots, rocks, etc. It would be easy to see how one that was lost to a river, recovered a time later, and cleaned could look really old.

M ELEY 6th June 2017 09:29 PM

Rebar question
Thanks, gents, for your fast replies! I realize that I probably should have posted my question under 'ethno items'...sorry! Let me post a pic and you'll see what I'm talking about.

fernando 7th June 2017 08:27 AM

More like Miscellania section, i'd say, Mark.
Here we go :cool: .

M ELEY 7th June 2017 02:13 PM

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Thanks, Fernando- ;) :o

Still trying to resize the pics...

M ELEY 7th June 2017 05:11 PM

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M ELEY 7th June 2017 05:14 PM

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This whole piece, although partially cast (?) and of rebar, appears to be blacksmith made, with hammer tooling, primitive construction. Note to top securing ring. This piece was reportedly found at the coast of North Carolina, (my state) the 'Graveyard of the Atlantic'.

M ELEY 7th June 2017 05:37 PM

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There were essentially three different types of grapples or grappling irons found on ships. Most were the small, dainty ones used to retrieve a lost bucket or to haul over small items from another ship or shore. A slightly larger version (the French called this one a 'grapin a main'), while the largest, such as my example, was far too large and heavy to be thrown. This example had two uses, first as an anchor in smaller craft or as a support anchor to assist the main anchor. Secondly, they were used to secure two ships together during a boarding action. They would be hung from the tips of the mast spars so that as the they came alongside their enemies, the giant grapples would catch their enemies sails/ropes and snare them. Info on these can be found in 'French Warship Crews 1789-1805' - T. Crowley, Osprey Publishing, pg.63, also plate H, #7. See also 'Pirate'- R. Platt, DK Eyewitness Books, pg 7 for an excellent example.

My example stands 40" tall, about 18" wide where the spikes flare out, has the said ribbing to the main body of the hook and appears to be partially cast. Where so much confusion comes in, even with the literature, is in trying to find out the facts. Most people associate cast iron with late 19th, yet cast metal certainly dates much earlier. Rebar is also associated with modern construction/late 19th, yet rebar has existed since the 1600's. Here we have this giant grapple, nice blackened brown patina of an early construction (spines end in spikes on two of them, flattened flukes on the other two).

I'm just trying to age this thing! If early 19th, as I suspect, it could easily have been used for boarding. If more mid- to late 19th, probably just an anchor.

Pics of the spikes...

M ELEY 7th June 2017 07:08 PM

In pic 5 above, you get a great view of the spiral iron shaft of the main body. You can also see the side seam, indicating it was cast???

Knowing nothing of the art of blacksmithing other then what I get to see on 'Forged in Fire' (a great show, BTW!), I was wondering if perhaps this isn't rebar at all but so called twist core iron? Any smiths out there?

At the end of the 18th/early 19th century, so called 'ribbed iron' hilts were the craze on Brit/Amer cutlasses of the period. Were these type hilts cast? I believe they were, so... :shrug:

Will M 8th June 2017 12:51 AM

Does the "rebar" on your hook have a seam running the length of it? If not then I would think it's made from something other than rebar.
I have a fair amount of rebar in the walls of my ICF house. When building it the rebar seemed to be quite soft and bendable.

Rick 8th June 2017 01:37 AM

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Whatever it's age it is nice utilitarian work; a much better use of rebar than this 'art piece'. :rolleyes:
If it has a straight seam then it is either stamped or cast I'd guess; probably not twisted by hand.

M ELEY 8th June 2017 03:28 AM

Thanks as always for the replies.

Will, it's odd that you mention that because the ribbed bar is smooth and round near the 'eye' where the link is. About halfway down the bar is where it is more squarish, has the ribbing and has two seams on either side. I'm guessing that it was once ribbed all the way to the eyelet, but was hammered out to be more rounded. Note the odd thickened end piece where the spikes spread out. This doesn't appear to be brazed or welded on. It was part of the whole bar! The whole construction is fascinating and confusing at the same time. This piece is solid and not flexible at all like modern rebar.

Rick, your point is well founded. Of course something this thick undoubtedly wasn't made by twisting. I guess I was just thinking aloud. I had proposed cast, but hadn't thought about stamped iron. Still, considering its age, I'd assume cast more likely. The earliest stamping where from trip hammers used in the 1830's, I'm told It was the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Rick 8th June 2017 03:54 AM

If solely for grappling, I wouldn't think flukes would be necessary, and considering the tumblehome on most warships of the time, it would seem like a pretty heavy object to throw very far.

Can you take some better pictures of it in daylight Mark?

GIS for '19th century grappling iron' provides some interesting examples. :)

fernando 8th June 2017 01:27 PM

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Strange beast.
Dimensions are well for a small/mid size fishing boat anchor. This morning i went lurk inside the local harbour and i saw one atypical (to me) device together with a classic anchor. I asked an old man what that was and he said: that is also an anchor, only a different type, with four 'unhas' (claws). Then i went to a local sport fishing store and saw some yatch type anchors with four flukes. They have this locker thing in the shaft that, when pulled up, allows the four arms to be folded in, to reduce its volume and agressive form. Question: would it be possible (once in time) for that section in your item shaft be also pulled up, to fold in the arms ? Another question: are the two flukes a separate piece welded to the two arms, or were the arms flattened to form flukes ?
However bizarre your example is, i bet my money on the anchor version :o :shrug:


M ELEY 9th June 2017 05:27 AM

Thanks, Rick. Actually, the large grappling irons of this size were never thrown. They could be used as anchors or to hang from the spars to snag an enemy ship.

Thanks, Fernando, for your input. The large 'block-like' thickened iron neck appears to be one solid piece, the tines of the prongs are solid and don't bend and the flattened flukes are part of the tine simply pounded flat, not a second piece. In any case, an interesting maritime piece.

M ELEY 9th June 2017 11:48 PM

Hey Fernando, I hope you didn't go to all the trouble of going to the harbor front just for me! :D I do appreciate your efforts, though. But just in case I ever post a pic of a Somali pirate sword, don't feel obligated to sail off that deadly coast for info anytime soon! :rolleyes: :eek:

M ELEY 27th October 2017 08:10 PM

Found it!
After much persistence, I finally found an obscure article which proves rebar was around and definitely used prior to the Revolutionary War both in structures and statues. It was mentioned that the George III statue in NY was pulled down and melted into lead shot for the colonials, but there wasn't tons of lead produced. Only one gentleman pointed out the fact that lead (and even bronze) statues had some form of inner skeleton and it was usually iron rebar.

Extrapolating on this, I still hold to the premise that this giant grapple indeed dates to the late 18th/early 19th century, with perhaps the latest date being around 1850-ish. I know that today's grapples are also made of common rebar, but I'm sure this is simply a much earlier practice that just held on through the years. This is an interesting article about the difficulties of saving these old lead statues as the rebar eventually rusts away.

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