A nutcracker is a tool designed to open nuts by cracking their shells. There are many designs, including levers, screws, and ratchets. A well-known type portrays a person whose mouth forms the jaws of the nutcracker, though many of these are meant for decorative use.
Nuts were historically opened using a hammer and anvil, often made of stone.
Manufacturers produce modern functional nutcrackers usually somewhat resembling pliers, but with the pivot point at the end beyond the nut, rather than in the middle. These are also used for cracking the shells of crab and lobster to make the meat inside available for eating. Hinged lever nutcrackers, often called a "pair of nutcrackers", may date back to Ancient Greece. By the 14th century in Europe, nutcrackers were documented in England, including in the Canterbury Tales, and in France. and wood including boxwood, especially those from France and Italy. A ratchet design, similar to a car jack, that gradually increases pressure on the shell to avoid damaging the kernel inside is used by the Crackerjack, patented in 1947 by Cuthbert Leslie Rimes of Morley, Leeds and exhibited at the Festival of Britain. Unshelled nuts are still popular in China, where a key device is inserted into the crack in walnuts, pecans, and macadamias and twisted to open the shell.
Nutcrackers in the form of wood carvings of a soldier, knight, king, or other profession have existed since at least the 15th century. Figurative nutcrackers are a good luck symbol in Germany, and a folk tale recounts that a puppet-maker won a nutcracking challenge by creating a doll with a mouth for a lever to crack the nuts. The ballet The Nutcracker derives its name from this festive holiday decoration.
The carving of nutcrackers—as well as of religious figures and of cribs—developed as a cottage industry in forested rural areas of Germany. The most famous nutcracker carvings come from Sonneberg in Thuringia (also a center of dollmaking) and as part of the industry of wooden toymaking in the Ore Mountains. Wood-carving usually provided the only income for the people living there. Today the travel industry supplements their income by bringing visitors to the remote areas. Carvings by famous names like Junghanel, Klaus Mertens, Karl, Olaf Kolbe, Petersen, Christian Ulbricht and especially the Steinbach nutcrackers have become collectors' items.
Decorative nutcrackers became popular in the United States after the Second World War, following the first US production of The Nutcracker ballet in 1940 and the exposure of US soldiers to the dolls during the war. The recreated "Bavarian village" of Leavenworth, Washington, features a nutcracker museum. Many other materials also serve to make decorated nutcrackers, such as porcelain, silver, and brass; the museum displays samples. The United States Postal Service (USPS) issued four stamps in October 2008 with custom-made nutcrackers made by Richmond, Virginia artist Glenn Crider.
==Other uses== Some artists, among them the multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, have used the sound nutcrackers make in music.
Many animals shell nuts to eat them, including using tools. Parrots use their beaks as natural nutcrackers, in much the same way smaller birds crack seeds. In this case, the pivot point stands opposite the nut, at the jaw.
== External links ==
* [http://web.ncf.ca/bf250/nutcracker.html Black Walnut Crackers]
Category:Culture of the Ore Mountains Category:Mechanical hand tools Category:Edible nuts and seeds Category:Food preparation appliances