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92/1759 Trephine, metal / ebony wood, maker unknown, place of production unknown, 1820-1900. Click to enlarge.

Hand-operated trephine

  • 1820-1900
This surgical instrument, called a trephine, was made in the 1800s and used as a saw to remove a disc of bone from the skull. Like early surgical instruments it has an ebony (wooden) handle with hatching to provide grip. Grooves, crevices, decorative trims and porous materials on instruments all provided harbours for bacteria.


Object No.


Object Statement

Trephine, metal / ebony wood, maker unknown, place of production unknown, 1820-1900

Physical Description

Hand-operated trephine comprising a metal shaft with an adjustable screw pin and an ebony handle fitted at a right angle to the shaft. The end of the shaft is fitted with a circular serrated cutting end.


No marks.



112 mm


94 mm



  • 1820-1900


The trephine was probably made between 1820-1900. The design of this instrument, with small modifications, was standard from c. 1820 throughout the nineteenth century and into the 20th century (ref. Bennion, Antique Medical Instruments, Univ. California Press, 1979, pp. 27-33). However, by the late nineteenth century, the ebony handles were being replaced by aseptic, i.e. metal, handles.



The trephine is a circular surgical saw for removing a disc of bone from the cranium. The centre pin is for engaging the instrument in the skull, while the saw is rotated by the handle. A trepanning operation might be carried out to remove broken bone pieces, relieve pressure on the brain after an injury or remove a brain tumour.


Credit Line

Source unknown

Acquisition Date

16 September 1992

Cite this Object


Hand-operated trephine 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 September 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Hand-operated trephine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}