A crabtree comb. A cudgel applied to the head. To smooth your
hair with a crabtree comb, is to give the head a knock with a stick.
Reynard's wonderful comb.
This comb existed only in the brain of Master Fox. He said it was
made of the Panthera's bone, the perfume of which was so fragrant that
no one could resist following it; and the wearer of the comb was always
cheerful and merry. (Reynard the Fox, chap. ii.)
To comb one's head.
To humiliate a person, or to give him a “set down.”
“I'll carry you with me to my country box, and keep you out of harm's
way, till I find you a wife who will comb your head for you.” —Bulwer-Lytton: What will he do with it? iv. 16.
To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool
(Taming of the Shrew, i. 1) is to beat you about the head
with a stool. Many stools, such as those used by milkmaids, are still
made with three legs; and these handy weapons seem to have been used at
one time pretty freely, especially by angry women.
To cut one's comb.
To take down a person's conceit. In allusion to the practice of
cutting the combs of capons.
To set up one's comb
is to be cockish and vainglorious.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894