Objects,  The Curious World

Curious Objects: Bomb Detonator Spike and Key

Back in 2017, I acquired this unusual and interesting brass object. I did not know what is was, and spent months trawling through pages on google trying to find out. Having had no success, I put the picture on my Facebook Page and asked if any of my follwers knew.

The bomb detonator with the spike fully extended.
The Bomb Detonator with the spike out


First, an explanation of what the object looked like and what it did. So, as I said, when I acquired this piece, I didn’t have a clue what it was. Perhaps it was some sort of window opener or perhaps a plumbing tool?

It’s real use was a big surprise. It turned out to be a bomb detonator spike and key. It consisted of two pieces of brass hinged together. One piece appeared to be a plain spike and the other part, which sheathed the spike, had an unusual outer end. This end had two unusual protrusions which looked something like a mechanics wrench. These were the detonator keys. The third protrusion housed a perfectly round hole. Probably to attach it to a belt or perhaps a set of instruments. A number 4 was stamped right in the middle of the end.

The piece seemed very well crafted, beautifully smooth and made from solid brass. It easily fitted into your hand and measured about 16cm long when closed and just under 25cm when opened.

The end of the detonator showing the keys
The end of the bomb detonator showing the keys

How the Bomb Detonator Works

Eventually, a Facebook follower told me what it was. He had been a soldier and had used a version of one of these in his military career. He and a couple of his colleagues explained the job of this unusual tool. Its official name was a demolition explosive detonator key and spike, which fully explains its purpose.

Apparently, the pin on the end pierced the explosive to make a hole for insertion of the detonator. At the other end of the key/spike there were two detonator keys. These detonated the explosive. (I still don’t know how this was executed!).

Its smooth working and composition was critical. Brass does not create sparks like other metals and so brass was the optimum material at the time. Also, the smooth operation was very important to help prevent any accidents.

A fantastic piece of military history!

The bomb detonator spike and key has been sold. But please take a look at the Curiosity Shop for other interesting pieces for your collection or your own curiosity cabinet.


  • mothmyth

    The keys are made to fit the detonator/fuse and allow it to be screwed into position or removed. The detonator sets the bomb off when triggered by a fuse mechanism of some sort that is built into it. It is an assembley tool for an explosive device, not a tool for setting it off.
    If my understanding of the use of this device is accurate, it is a device for the arming of explosive devices in the field. I think that the explosives, being nitrates, tend to absorb moisture from the atmosphere and this can cause instability and possible corrrosion. For this reason they are probably sealed with a foil seal underneath a threaded hole which is left open for the fitting the detonator/fuse. This incomplete and storable form is the way in which explosive devices are made and safely transported to wherever they are needed. When the time comes to arm the device the pin makes a hole in the foil and the detonator/fuse screws in, sealing the hole and completing the device ready for use.

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