Ice pick

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"Icepick" redirects here. For the climbing tool, see Ice axe. For the hardcore punk band, see Icepick (band). For the fictional character, see Icepick (Transformers).
A standard ice pick

An ice pick is a tool used to break up, pick at, or chip at ice. It resembles a scratch awl, but is designed for picking at ice rather than wood. Before the invention of modern refrigerators, ice picks were a ubiquitous household tool used for separating and shaping the blocks of ice used in ice boxes.

The term ice pick also commonly refers to a mountaineers' tool known in the USA as an ice axe.[1]

Other uses[edit]

Medical uses[edit]

Neurologist Walter Freeman used medical instruments called leucotomes, and later orbitoclasts, both of which were essentially ice picks, to perform transorbital lobotomies. This operation was informally called "ice pick lobotomy": the leucotome was hammered into the patient's brain with a rubber mallet via the eye's tear duct.


Like most other tools, ice picks have been used for more than their intended use. For example, mafia hitman Abe "Kid Twist" Reles used an ice pick as his weapon of choice. Fellow Murder, Inc. hitman Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss also employed an ice pick as a weapon.

The murder weapon used in the assassination of Leon Trotsky was a mountaineering ice pick, which, in the United States and Canada, is also called an ice axe.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The plot of The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler revolves around the murder of a blackmailer by an ice pick.

Jason Vorhees kills Alice Hardy with an ice pick in the opening scene of Friday the 13th Part 2.

Ice picks are used as murder weapons in the 1992 erotic thriller Basic Instinct.

In the film Goodfellas, Tommy murders Morrie by plunging an ice pick into the back of his neck.

Joe Pesci's character Nicky in the film Casino mentions sticking ice picks into the testicles of a gangster he interrogated.

In the film Basic Instinct, Catherine Tramell often kills her victims with an ice pick.


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionaries – Ice pick
  2. ^ Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment. Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19-507132-8, p. 418.