Vintage Garden Syringe Sprayers    

Back Barrel


Barrels are typically made of brass. The wall thickness is normally very thin, usually around about 1/32 inch (1 mm) . Barrel external diameter is from about 7/8 inch (24 mm) to 1½ inches (38 mm). Length varies from about 10 inches to 21 inches. Volumes are from about 120 ml to 500 ml . The higher volumes coming from the large diameter rose sprayers. Barrels can have both front and rear threaded collars which are soldered on. The thread for the barrel end cap is sometime machined directly onto, or less often into, the barrel. Nozzles can also be soldered directly onto the barrel , but if the nozzles are detachable the collar is needed for strength.

Some syringes have a much thicker walled tube. I have seen this on early syringes and on ones made by blacksmiths who probably used whatever tubing was available. Also there is the ‘undentable’ syringe from the Four Oaks machine company, which has corrugated ribs which prevent denting. There are galvanised syringes in the catalogues, but I suspect few of these have survived . Plastic syringes were also made.


Barrels are often damaging by dents. The very thin walls make them very easy to dent, especially as they look much stronger than they are. Small, dents do not prevent the syringes from working, but It isn’t easy to spot the extent of dents especially if the barrel is dirty. They can sometimes be felt and will be revealed if the barrel is cleaned. If the pump is operational then dents can often be felt when the plunger is pulled back. Dents can allow liquid to get past the washers when the plunger is pushed in and cause liquid to run from the air holes, although there may be other reasons for this problem.

The larger diameter syringes (rose sprayers) are prone to splitting. Sometimes these have been repaired by soldering on a patch, but this is not usually very effective. Corrosion can also be a problem and can eat right through the walls causing holes.

In addition to dents and splits the barrel can be bent. This causes more problems with the cotton reel type of piston, as these are not as flexible as the cup washers type. Take care when removing spray heads or end caps from barrels as it is easy to bend or dent the barrels when doing this.

Dents shown up during cleaning. None of these dents would prevent operation .

Corrosion probably caused by chemical residue left on the barrel. In this case the level of corrosion has caused a small split, which opens under pressure.

This apparently small dent in a 7/8 inch barrel causes the plunger to stutter in use, It may not have caused a problem on a larger diameter barrel.

The barrel walls are very thin.

Manufacturer’s information can be stamped on the barrel, or on an attached metal plate, or transferred on. Many have no identification.

Four Oaks Spraying Machine Co. Ltd. Showing the ‘undentable’ barrel. The working barrel is within a corrugated outer sleeve. The protrusion on the end cap is the air vent.