Until a couple weeks ago, the only reference I can recall to “clinker” was from the movie “A Christmas Story,” when the Old Man goes to the basement to see what’s wrong with the furnace and proclaims, “It’s a clinker!”
I figured he was using the slang expression for things that continually break down. But it also may have been a clue to what we pictured two weeks ago in our “What’s This?” question.
The object was a long rod with a handle on one end and a claw on the other.
“It is a clinker remover, used for removing clinkers (hot coal lumps) from stoker furnaces,” said Leland Schlake of Cortland, Neb. He sent a picture of himself with his great-grandson, Creighton. “He is holding my old clinker remover (about 100 years old) which I used in the early 1960s in my coal furnace,” Leland said.
There were quite a few reader responses that followed Schlake’s definition — or close to it.
“We used this to take clinkers out of our coal burning furnace on our Cedar County farm sometime in the early ‘50s,” said Don Andersen of Ponca, Neb. “I think clinker remover came with our stoker that fed coal into the original wood burning furnace in our basement. The stoker converted the wood furnace into a coal burning furnace and was controlled by a thermostat in the living room. The burned coal turned into large chunks of ash, softball size and larger and had to be removed from the furnace every couple of days.”
Roger Hatzenbuehler from Beatrice, Neb., said, “We used it to pull clinkers out of the coal furnace. We also used it to arrange wood logs when we burnt wood. I don’t know how old it is but it’s been around about as long as I can remember.”
Steven Perry of Norfolk, Neb., said he has one to remove lumps of coal. “When I was a boy 13 ... 14 we had a converted coal furnace to burn wood. We had only one register to heat the house ... and it was not forced air. Thankful those days are past!”
Others who were right on target included Gerald Simonsen, Matt Benz, Ken Vetter, Ronnie Christensen, Neal Gaul from Earling, Iowa, Barb Shaver, Gary Cooper from Fontanelle, Iowa, and Roger Lyon.
Others, including Steve Downer, said they didn’t know what it was but they had one just like it.
Several responses were either in the right direction or very creative with their possible uses.
“I have one just like it. Mine is not rusted shut,” said Harriett Holman from Plattsmouth, Neb., noting that the claw on the original photo’s object was rusted and couldn’t be manipulated. “No identifying company or date that I can find. Possibly farmers used it to retrieve or place things up high. I have also seen similar items to retrieve finished products from a kiln. Possibly a blacksmith may have used it to retrieve items out of a forge.”
Roger Jessen, Danbury, Iowa, said it was a tool to clean out flues on steam engine tractors.
Jack Peters, Sidney, Neb., knew of the clinkers, too, but “The only thing I use the tool today for is to remove a carcass of some deceased animal that I don’t want to get close to.
Jerry Konert could see it being used to catch a hog by gripping the hind legs.
Carolyn Finney guessed it could be used as a fruit picker. “It could have had a bag to catch the fruit attached to the pole,” she wrote. “Harvesting apples used to be a big deal in rural area where just about everybody had two or three trees. And getting the high stuff without damaging the tree or falling from a ladder was important. (High lift loaders were uncommon when you farmed with a horse.)”