Tools of the Trade

Ice dogs are an integral tool to the ice carving trade. Made from steel, they are used to manoeuvre blocks of ice by “biting” in and creating a vice-like grip as the jaws are pulled closer together. The Hamiltons use them every day and despite their importance, they have actually changed extraordinarily little since they were first used in the 19th century.

Here you can see ice dogs being used to move a block of ice that was sawed out of a fjord in Norway. This block would then have been shipped to London and delivered to people’s homes. If you were under the misapprehension that buying ice in the supermarket is a new craze, then you’ll be interested to know that the affluent Victorians would purchase ice to store in a cupboard with a lead lined compartment which would act as an early fridge. One block of ice could last for several days.

The first records of imported ice to the UK came from Boston, Massachusetts. However, an eccentric Swiss entrepreneur called Carlo Gatti began importing ice from Norway for commercial purposes circa 1860 and is also credited with being the first person to make ice cream available to the general public. It would be fair to say that Gatti had fingers in many pies. He imported a chocolate-making machine from France for the Great Exhibition in 1851, as well as becoming a restauranteur and pioneer of music halls. In cockney rhyming slang Carlo Gatti means “batty” (crazy), but putting aside his idiosyncrasies, one can’t deny his influence.