Kids Love Nutcrackers

Nutcrackers attract collectors of all ages and delight children around the world!

location 735 Front Street
Leavenworth, WA 98826

What kind of Nutcrackers are there?

Animals and man have depended on the nuts for food for thousands and thousands of years. Since nuts were an important part of the diet, man has created many different instruments to crack open the hard shell. It has been only in the last century that nuts have come to us all shelled and neatly packaged in plastic bags ready to eat.

In the very early times, rocks called ‘nutting stones’ were used to crack the nuts when they were too hard for the teeth to crack. A nut is placed in the pitted area and is hit by another nut called a ‘hammer stone’. This type of cracking would be called ‘percussion’ because the nut is broken by striking it.

Hammers are also percussion nutcrackers and are often used to crack nuts. Special hammers have been made just for this.

There are other kinds of percussion nutcrackers too. Here is a picture of a simple percussion nutcracker and one called the Tough Nut made in 1897. You place the nut in cavity, and strike it on the top to crack the nut.

When two pieces of wood or metal are joined together with a hinge, or other devise that allows the levers to turn, this part is called the ‘fulcrum’. If the nut is cracked between the hinge and your hand, then it is ‘direct pressure’. Here is a metal nutcracker your grandmother may have in her kitchen. Can you find the fulcrum?

Some direct pressure nutcrackers are called ‘flip-overs’ or ‘reversibles’. They have one handle that will rotate 360 degrees so that it will accommodate larger nuts.

A nutcracker made like a pair of pliers, with the nut being cracked away from the fulcrum is one using ‘indirect pressure’. Here is an old 19th century nutcracker using this method.

There are some nutcrackers that use both direct and indirect pressure, for different sizes of nuts. Here is an old iron nutcracker that uses both methods.

  The word ‘figural’ is used when the nutcracker is in the shape of an animal or human. Most of the carved animal and human heads open at the mouth, but also have a place between the levers that is actually where the nut is cracked. Cracking the nut between the levers is direct pressure.

Cracking the nuts in the mouth would be indirect pressure, but might damage the beautiful carving. You can see that someone did indeed damage the nutcracker’s teeth by cracking the nut in the mouth.

Another way to crack a nut is by using ‘screw’ action. Here the nut is opened by applying more and more pressure until finally the shell cracks. This idea has been used for over 300 years. Many are made of wood, and many of metal. Some are plain and some are very elaborately designed.

And then there are nutcrackers that just squeeze the nut until it pops open!!!

Now after you have learned all the different ways to crack a nut, which is the method used in the Wooden Toy Soldier that you see at Christmas time?????


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Part of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum
735 Front Street, Leavenworth, WA 98826


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