Ice pick

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A standard ice pick

An ice pick is a tool used to break up, pick at, or chip at ice. In shape it resembles a scratch awl for wood. Before 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 finds use in referring to a category of mountaineering tools sometimes referred to as ice axes,[1], whose gross form has two members somewhat perpendicular to each other, thus evoking a scythe or hoe rather than a rapier or needle.)

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.


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.

(It is often stated that Marxist revolutionary and theorist Leon Trotsky, following his banishment from the U.S.S.R. by Joseph Stalin, was assassinated in Mexico with an ice pick. The contrary version is that the weapon was a "sawed-off" contemporaneous version of the mountaineering ice axe, and that "ice pick" is the product of a mistranslation into English involving the French word "picolet", of a first- or second-hand account of the weapon.[2][citation needed]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionaries – Ice pick
  2. ^ History Channel - Trotsky Assassinated in Mexico