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Beak Horn Stake

1750-1820
Origin: England or America
OH: 16" OL: 27 3/4"
Iron / steel
Gift of Judith and William McMillen
Acc. No. 2012-29
"Beak horn" stake. The offset narrow flange is flat-topped with two square edges and a skewed tip. Round-sectioned, tapering "beak" with a skewed end. Squared post with chamfered corners.


Label:This tool had a myriad of uses, limited only by the various shapes of its working surfaces. With a heavy integral post, stakes were set into square holes in either workbenches or tree stumps, and functioned much like blacksmith's anvils.

Nicknamed a "beak horn" stake for its appearance, the beak end was used to shape a piece of tin into a rounded shape, like the cylindrical body of a mug, its gracefully curved handle, or even a candle mold. The skewed end could be used for upsetting or "burring" and edge as part of the seaming process.

Opposite the beak is a narrow, offset flange with a flat top and square edges. Used to create perfectly square bends by beating the tin along one of its sides, this feature is markedly narrower than other examples. Its top surface exhibits a prominent fold, and the forged joint of the stake's three components is plainly visible.

As a modern screw driver can also be used to open a can of paint, these early tools were used for other, less obvious purposes by the highly creative and artistic tinsmiths that made their livelihoods using them.