Antique Treen Nutcrackers
Nuts go back a long way in history. There is evidence of nut processing which dates back as far as 8,000 years: a wide shallow pit on an island off Scotland was found full of the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells. Hazelnuts have been found, but rarely in such quantities or concentrated in one pit. These nuts were dated through analysis. Similar sites in Britain are known only at Farnham in Surrey and one on the Isle of Man.
Nuts go back a long way in history. There is evidence of nut processing which dates bever passing through a mortice in the front of the figure, the two levers pivot together with an iron pin. The one illustrated b is a primitive 19th century example made from a soft wood.
Although striking a nut shell was probably the earliest form, they are still made today. Levers came next and there are some early examples with dates, which are so important to help us date other examples. In Pinto's book he mentions a lever example dated as early as 1570.
The lever nutcrackers are constructed with the back lever passing through a mortice in the front of the figure, the two levers pivot together with an iron pin. The one illustrated below is a primitive 19th century example made from a soft wood.
Some non-figural lever nutcrackers are constructed from one piece of wood as illustrated here. This is a 19th century yew wood example and has the maker's name 'G Clark' on it.
There is a large variety of screw action nutcrackers and some of the simplest were the small pocket ones. Two examples illustrated here date from the early 1800s. One has a carved handle, normally they are plain and sometimes you can see small dents in the handle where the user has used their teeth to help crack the nuts.
Dated early nutcrackers can cost thousands of pounds as few survived intact; levers were broken and the rest of the nutcracker was used as firewood. They are plenty of other, more affordable, nutcrackers to look out for: just within the screw action ones each piece varies in wood, date, ownership, inscription, handles etc.
There are a wide range of other novelty European ones to look out for, so get cracking!