Tongs are a simple tool, used around the world in various jobs. Used to handle dangerous material with safety, tongs are a useful addition to the workplace, in professional and commercial use. Its list of uses is almost as long as the history that surrounds it.

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Who Invented Tongs?

Function

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Pair of standard tongs.

The general function and usage of the tong is simple. The design of the tongs itself is that of oversized tweezers or pincers. The tongs are held and operated at the center, where they are squeezed so that an object can be lifted and manipulated with precision. Tongs are commonly used as a cooking utensil when grilling, to turn whatever is being cooked without risking injury by using unprotected hands. They can also be used in many ways, from transporting anything too dangerous to handle (such as hot coal or ice) to reaching objects at a distance from the user.

Invention

Tongs are an ancient invention, and given their long history no one inventor can be named. It's possible that modern tongs have developed from pliers, the tool commonly used today in hardware to fasten and loosen screws, bolts and pipes. The two are simple tools, and their usage can be traced to when fire was being used for warmth and cooking. A safe and effective way to move around the fire and its implements was needed, and the first tongs may have been two sticks improvised together to latch on and grab objects. Eventually, wooden tongs would have been replaced by metal ones during the bronze age (3000 B.C.E.).

Types

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A set of "lazy tongs."

The basic type of tongs are those commonly used in cooking, where force is applied to the center and a spring-loaded pivot is located at one end of the tongs. Other variations include "fire tongs," in which force is applied to one end of the tool and a pivot is located at the center, similar to a pair of scissors. As their name suggests, these are used primarily for transporting hot coals and logs. Another variation is a single strand of metal, bent in the center with its ends decorated commonly as claws. These are usually used for picking up and serving sugar lumps or ice, and are decorative.

There is also a form of tongs informally known as "lazy tongs," in which a series of pivoted levers joined together like scissors end in the gripping area of the tongs. These are used to reach and manipulate objects far from the user.

Size

While different tongs come in many sizes, they are usually the size of a large chef's knife--or the length of a standard size of paper. This is for practical reasons in terms of usage and storage. There is no reason for the tool to be any larger, as they are essentially designed to be a short extension of the hand, used when a normal hand has a danger of being injured. As such, it must remain at a manageable size and weight for ease of use. Most tongs are also used and encountered when cooking, and should be the same size as most other kitchen utensils for ease of storage. Decorative sugar and ice tings may be much smaller, because their primary use is to handle smaller, delicate objects.

Significance

Tongs have helped us progress through time. From helping us cook and move our source of warmth when fire was the primary source of our energy to its eventual use as pliers and the advancement that tool has helped us achieve, tongs played an early role in developing much of the technology we have today.