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I snapped a photo of this roughly 2 1/2 inch diameter thing nailed thigh-high into the side of an interior stair stringer in a circa 1880's house because: 1) I thought it was about time I posted a photo here, and I figured if anyone would know what it might be, it would be our Mighty Mr. Kibbel. The photo isn't great, but even putting your nose right up to it in person didn't offer a clearer view.

Thoughts?

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All of the shudder adjustments I've seen though rotate. From the placement of the thumb tabs it can not rotate, only move up or down (assuming the tabs are attached to the inner piece of metal).

Gas lighting perhaps?

I really should stop farting around here and get back to my report. [8]

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To me, it looks like the thumb tabs are on the outer piece of metal, so one can align the pointer with . . . something. I have less restraint than Jimmy, and no doubt would have rotated the thing to see what the letters on the inner piece of metal said.

And yes, I probably would have broken it.

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Whatever it is, here are some clues:

1. It's incomplete - the soot staining suggests there was some form of cover.

2. There appears to be solder spots on the back plate - possibly to bond the back?

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The nasty yellow is runoff from an amateurish refinishing of the stairs. Ignore it. And the impulse to suggest it somehow came from me.

Like Sr. Bain, I was tempted to move the interior dial and I did, but it didn't move much.

The interior dial was movable about 25 degrees or so to the left or right, possibly less, but not more.

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The home was built just shortly before the "automatic regulator" (thermostat) was invented to control coal furnace dampers.

The dial turns the center shaft that goes back into the wall cavity. There is an arm or sprocket on the shaft that raised and lowered a pair of chains simultaneously. The chains operated the draft and check-draft dampers of the furnace. The words that become visible in the openings of the dial will include "open" and "closed".

Below the wall of that stairwell, the holes where the chains entered the basement are likely visible.

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I checked just a couple publications and didn't find a diagram of that exact device. I did find this description in Mechanics of the Household, 1918:

"As a means of changing the dampers of the furnace from the floor above, to suit the prevailing conditions, the arrangement does away with the necessity of a journey to the basement, to remedy each change of temperature".

We should write like that in our reports!

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The home was built just shortly before the "automatic regulator" (thermostat) was invented to control coal furnace dampers.

The dial turns the center shaft that goes back into the wall cavity. There is an arm or sprocket on the shaft that raised and lowered a pair of chains simultaneously. The chains operated the draft and check-draft dampers of the furnace. The words that become visible in the openings of the dial will include "open" and "closed".

Below the wall of that stairwell, the holes where the chains entered the basement are likely visible.

Now your just showing off. [;)]

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