Nail (Invention)

Will you nail these facts into your head?

  • A nail is an invention used to secure multiple objects together; or used for ornamental purposes; or to hang items, especially on a wall.
  • Typically, nails are a thin cylindrical shape with a point at one end and a flat head at the other, although some versions are without a head.
  • Hammers are most often used to drive nails into objects, although specially engineered air guns are also used.
  • Nails are secured in objects by the laws of friction, and they can bear a secured object’s force due to their sturdiness.
  • The Ancient Egyptians crafted nails of bronze around 3400 BC, while copper ones were also used in ancient history, and at a later stage they were created from iron.
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  • Originally, nails where individually handmade, generally built from a rectangular iron piece, made by families primarily for themselves and also by blacksmiths for commercial purposes.
  • Attempts to mass produce nails via the use of machines took place from the 1790s, although they only became an efficient, commercially viable option in the late 1800s with the introduction of ones made from wire, rather than ‘cut’ ones made from iron rectangular shaped rods.
  • Various metals can be used to make nails, from bronze, brass, aluminium, iron, and copper, and the steel ‘wire’ method of making them is now the most frequently used material and process.
  • The most commonly available nails range from 1 to 7 millimetres in diameter (0.04 to 0.28 inches) and 2 to 21 centimetres (0.8 to 8.3 inches) in length, and there are a wide variety of different types which are used for various and specific purposes.
  • Nails are extremely popular in the construction of many objects, including wooden houses and frames, which use 20,000 to 30,000 per house.
Fourshee P, A Two-Bit History of Nails, 1992, Fourshee,
Nail, 2015, How Products Are Made,
Nail (Fastener), 2015, Wikipedia,


Music Stand

Music stands were once an item of little importance, and now they are a musical necessity.

  • Music stands are an invention used to hold music books or sheet music during a musical performance or practice.
  • Most often music stands are made of a metal material, although they are occasionally made of plastic or wood.
  • Music stands are commonly engineered with the ability to fold and collapse, particularly for compact storage or transport purposes.
  • A music stand is typically a central pole with legs, with a flat rectangle shaped head at the top which holds the music, and the head may be a solid rectangle, or one that has gaps or holes and is possibly collapsible.
  • Music stands range greatly in size, from small, portable versions used in marching bands, to larger versions reaching human height and used in orchestras.

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  • It is thought that music stands originated in 200 BC in Ancient China, although they were not commonly used until the 1300s by European musicians from Germany and Switzerland.
  • Often a small shelf is part of the head of a music stand, which helps to hold the music on the stand and also allows for a pencil or other small items to rest there, while others have clips or other mechanisms to attach the music to the stand.
  • Generally music stands used for professional purposes are coloured black in a matte finish so that they are inconspicuous during a performance, however stands can be coated with chrome, or painted in a glossy black colour, or other alternative.
  • The column of a music stand is often adjustable in height, and the head is often tilted at an angle so the musician can view the music clearly and easily.
  • Music stands are available in different versions, from lightweight ones often used by amateurs, to heavy duty sturdy ones that are typically used by professionals and are able to hold heavy books.
Music Stand, 2015, Wikipedia,
What is a Music Stand?, 2015, WiseGEEK,


Rolling Pin

Roll out the mix with a rolling pin.

  • Rolling pins are an invention of a cylindrical shape that are generally used to flatten and level out food, most often dough, although they are also commonly used to roll out icing for cake decorating purposes.
  • Sometimes rolling pins have handles attached to both ends of the pin, a long rod, although the handle can be a shaped part of the pin itself.
  • Rolling pins range from 2 to 10 centimetres (0.8 to 4 inches) in diameter, and they can be as small as 12.7 centimetres (5 inches) in length and as long as 51 cm (20 inches).
  • Thinner rolling pins are generally rolled using the palm, while wider rolling pins generally have handles and generally have a greater force behind the push.
  • Rolling pins can be made of plastic, glass, wood, ceramic, steel, marble and silicone; and some are designed to have anti-stick properties.

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  • Some rolling pins may be heated or cooled, or filled with warm or cold water, to achieve a better effect when rolling certain foods.
  • It is believed that rolling pins were first used by the Etruscan civilisation in ancient Italy from around 800 BC, and were used to flatten dough.
  • There is a popular stereotype of housewives brandishing a rolling pin as a weapon when angered.
  • One of the first rolling pins to have separately attached handles that moved independently of the pin was patented in 1879, by American Philip Cromer.
  • Some rolling pins have indents or extrusions on the pin surface that imprints designs and patterns into the food.
Rolling Pin, 2015, How Products Are Made,
Rolling Pin, 2015, Wikipedia,



Shadows flicker in the light of the candles.

  • A candle is an invention that was originally purposed primarily to provide light using a burning flame and wax, and they are typically cylindrical in shape, and can be wide, short, thin or long, although other moulded shapes are also available.
  • Candles generally consist of two primary parts, a wick, which the flame travels along, and the actual wax, which holds the wick and fuels the flame.
  • A variety of different waxes can be used to make candles, and historically bees wax; rendered animal fat, known as ‘tallow’, from sheep or cattle; wax obtained from whales, known as ‘spermaceti’; and plant based wax, were used, while modern candles are mostly made from paraffin that originates from petroleum and other products.
  • It is believed that the Ancient Romans were the first to make traditional style dipped candles, as early as 500 BC, while various methods and materials have been used over the centuries by other civilisations.
  • Candles usually do not need outside assistance once lit, as the flame is fueled by the wax melting and vaporising, which is caused by the heat it produces, combined with the atmospheric oxygen.
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Image courtesy of Esteban Chiner/Flickr
  • When modern candles burn, the wick will generally self-combust slowly, due to it curling over as it does so, and this type of wick is known as a ‘self-trimming wick’, while past versions required the wick to be trimmed for the candle to burn efficiently.
  • The term ‘candle’ originates from the Latin words ‘candela’ and ‘candere’ meaning ‘torch’ or ‘light’, and ‘to shine’ respectively.
  • Candles have been and can be used for the purpose of producing heat, and the flame has a temperature that ranges on average 1000°C to 1400°C (1832°F to 2552°F), and while the wax does not get that hot, care should be taken when using the invention, as the wax can burn skin, and the exposed flame can cause a fire.
  • Time has been measured through the use of candles, often by markings on the invention, and sometimes with weights placed periodically in the wax that would drop and clang on a solid object, once the surrounding wax had melted.
  • Candles in the modern era are often used for decorative purposes or to generate an atmosphere for celebratory purposes especially on cake; in ceremonies; for romantic purposes; or to enhance the general mood of a room, and they are also used in an emergency when electric lighting fails.
Candle, 2015, Wikipedia,
History of Candles, 2015, National Candle Association,
History of Candles, 2015, History of Lighting,


Spirit Level

Did you go for the laser level? Well, spirit levels will be with you in spirit.

  • Spirit levels are an invention typically used to determine if either a vertical or horizontal platform is exactly aligned.
  • ‘Spirit levels’ are also known as ‘bubble levels’, ‘levels’ and ‘spirits’, and they are commonly used in the construction industry.
  • Spirit levels are typically made of a tube and a holder, and the tube is generally made of glass or plastic, while the holder is commonly made of plastic, wood, aluminium or other metal.
  • Typically, the tube containing the liquid in a spirit level is cylindrical, rectangular or crescent-shaped, and is marked with a central point and/or into sections, and the tube is deliberately filled with a small air space which creates a bubble.
  • When the bubble inside a spirit level sits centrally, rather than off-centre, the platform or object sitting parallel to the spirit will be level, or if it is sitting perpendicular to the spirit, it will be aligned vertically.
Spirit Level
Spirit Level
Image courtesy of David Jones/Flickr
  • The coloured liquid used in spirit levels is generally alcoholic, hence the level’s name, which is commonly ethanol dyed green or yellow; and alcohol is used instead of water as the latter freezes more easily and provides more friction, preventing smooth bubble movement.
  • To establish the accuracy of a spirit level, the bubble should have an increment from the centre, equal to when the level is rotated 180° on the same surface.
  • The spirit level is said to have been invented in the mid 1600s by the wealthy Frenchman Melchisedech Thevenot, who had studied science duruing his life; however they did not become popular until the 1700s.
  • Spirit levels are said to have replaced water bottles that were used for similar purposes, and these levels are being slowly replaced by laser-based levels that are generally more accurate and can measure in three dimensions.
  • The accuracy of a spirit level depends on the liquid container’s shape, the bubble size and liquid type, as these all contribute to a level’s sensitivity.
Spirit Level, 2015, Wikipedia,
Spirit Level, 2015, WiseGEEK,
Spirit Level Information, 2015, Johnson,



Do you look petite with a parasol or formal with an umbrella?

  • Umbrellas are typically handheld inventions used primarily to provide a portable way to protect the user from weather or provide shade.
  • ‘Umbrellas’ are also known as ‘parasols’, and they are sometimes called ‘rainshades’, ‘sunshades’, ‘brollies’, ‘bumbershoots’, ‘gamps’ and ‘parapetuies’.
  • The term ‘umbrella’ is used more often in referring to the item as a water shield, while the term ‘parasol’ is normally reserved for those used as a heat shield, although both terms are used loosely.
  • ‘Umbrella’ comes from the Latin word ‘umbra’ which means shadow or shade, while ‘parasol’ is of Italian origin and combines the words ‘para’ and ‘sole’, which mean ‘to protect against’ and ‘sun’ respectively.
  • The Middle Eastern ancient civilisation of Nineveh were possibly the first users of umbrellas, most likely used for shade purposes, and reserved only for the monarchy, however there is evidence of other ancient societies, including Egypt, Rome, Greece and India, producing their own versions.

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  • China has the earliest known record of a foldable umbrella, dating back to 21 AD, which was purposed for a carriage.
  • Europeans began to use umbrellas to block rain in the 1700s, and they slowly replaced the cloak that was commonly used for that purpose.
  • While China produced the first retractable umbrella, a modern version that weighed significantly less than others was designed in 1710 by Jean Marius, a merchant from France.
  • Umbrellas are typically made of cotton, nylon, plastic or other synthetic materials, and historically silk or leaves were used.
  • Umbrellas come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes, although generally they have a domed top and a wire frame work attached to a handle that is straight or in the shape of a ‘J’.
History of Umbrella and Parasol, n.d, Umbrella History,
Umbrella, 2015, Wikipedia,


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