Comb (Sax. camb), an instrument of wood, horn, shell, ivory, or other material, cut on one or both sides into a series of teeth, serving to disentangle and adjust the hair, and often worn by women as an ornament to the head, or to retain the hair in place. Its invention belongs to the remotest antiquity. The combs of the ancient Egyptians were usually of wood, having on one side large, and on the other fine teeth, the central, portion being sometimes inlaid or ornamented with carved work. When having but a single row of teeth, the opposite side was often surmounted by a figure of the ibex or some other animal. They were about four inches long and six deep, the teeth on either side being over two inches in length. The Greeks, who dressed their hair with great care, used combs made of boxwood obtained from the shores of the Euxine. Golden combs were ascribed by the poets to the goddesses. Three combs, similar to modern small-tooth combs, are represented on the Amycla3an marbles. Roman combs, like the Greek, were made of boxwood, especially that obtained from the mountains of Cytorus, in Asia Minor, and remains of them have been found at Pompeii. Wood long continued the common material for combs, but during the later middle ages horn, ivory, and gold were sometimes employed, and pearls and precious and artificial stones were added for ornaments; and the comb was thus made an elegant part of the coiffure.
Some modern sculptors, as Canova, have introduced it with fine effect as a part of feminine costume in statuary. - Ornamental combs of gold or silver have often been in general use by women; but the material longest and most commonly employed for this purpose is tortoise shell. The pieces of shell, as found in commerce, are never of suitable forms for combs. They are therefore softened with boiling water and put between iron or brass moulds of the desired shape until they cool. The place for the teeth is next marked. The interstices of the teeth were formerly cut with a thin steel saw, but a machine has been invented in which, by means of pressure, two combs are cut at the same time from the same strip of shell or ivory. The sides of the strip are to be the backs of the two combs, the teeth lying in the middle portion. The strip is fastened to a carriage, which is moved forward until it comes under the action of a ratchet wheel toothed upon a part of its circumference. The teeth of this wheel bring down a lever furnished with a chisel, which cuts out the two combs from the flat piece, the teeth of one lying between those of the other. This process is called parting, and is performed very rapidly and with great precision.
So delicate are some of the saw machines, that from 80 to 100 teeth may be cut in an inch of ivory. Combs are now manufactured from vulcanized India rubber.