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Over the years my trap collecting activities have enabled me to amass a reasonable collection of traps of various designs, although my main interest remains firmly with the British made gin trap, its method of manufacture and the way of life led by those whose livelihood relied so much on these now collectable tools of the trade.So how did I become afflicted with this slightly odd and eccentric interest? When I was a young boy of about eight, I was rummaging around in an old shed which had once belonged to a long deceased relative, when I came across two strange and sinister looking metal devices about a foot or so in length hanging by chains on the back wall.At first I had no idea what they were, but was completely taken in by their look of sheer menace as they each possessed a pair of evil looking toothed jaws, which were held firmly shut by a powerful steel spring.Despite great determination, the only way I could depress the spring was to stand on it, and watch in awe as those jaws fell open.The hobby of trap collecting encompasses an enormous range of traps designed for just about every conceivable application and originating from across the globe.Attempting to cover them all would be virtually impossible on a web page like this, therefore I will only be dealing with traps of UK origin here.The word 'gin' is believed to be derived from the word 'engine', which was used centuries ago to describe any mechanical device, and indeed traps were referred to as 'engines' in literature from around the 17th century.
Without doubt though, the final nail in the coffin came on the 31st of July, 1958 when it became illegal in England to use any kind of trap designed to restrain an animal by the leg using steel jaws, and the only spring traps allowed to be used after this date were those which had been specially approved as being humane, which required them to be of the instant kill variety, and only then when set according to strict guidelines. From an early age I developed a fascination with gin traps and subsequently became an enthusiastic trap collector.Steel spring traps have probably been in use in some form or another almost ever since the technique of manufacturing and tempering carbon steel in order to create a spring was discovered, although the first mention of a steel trap bearing any similarity to the gin traps described here appears in literature dating from the late 16th century.A wide variety of designs have since evolved based on differing ideas and the intended target species, ranging from the diminutive kingfisher trap through the range of common vermin traps and pole traps right up to large predator traps, and of course the man trap.This design has been well proven over centuries of use in the field and the later designs are masterpieces of simple mechanical efficiency.The two diagrams below illustrate the component parts of a typical gin trap designed in this case for rabbit control.