A LIVING HISTORY BLOG.

18TH CENTURY LIVING HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Gun, The Knife, And the Axe, Oh and don't forget the Tinderbox!

The gun, knife and axe have always been the symbols of the woodsmen and pioneers, with these tools they could/can survive in the wilderness indefinately. I suppose the tinderbox was taken for granted as it does not get a mention, or perhaps these hardy people depended on the flint lock for making fire. Certainly many old cabins still have the bullet holes in the interior walls to the left of the fireplace, this from people who forgot to plug the vent on a loaded gun before making fire with the lock. One spark to find it's way into the vent is all it took to fire the gun!
Fire has been important to man since it was harnessed/used in the paliolithic period. It cooked meat which helped older people eat and therefore they lived longer. Fire meant warmth in winter and it kept carnivourous animals away from the camp and sleeping places. It is said that fire was responsible for the first social groups, the warmth and protection bringing people together. Fire is still important.

"Fire and candle" was a term used in the 17th century meaning one's home or dwelling:
"And if any ffreeman should bee absent out of the Citty a space of Twelve moneths and not keep fire and candle and pay Scott and lott should lose his freedom."

"The Pattent with the rest of Papers needful Given to the Jury, and the Sheriffe sworn to Keepe them from fire & candles & etc untill they bringe in their verdict."
Colonial American English; Words and Phrases Found in Colonial Writing, now Archaic, Obscure, Obsolete, or Whose Meanings Have Changed. Richard M. Lederer, Jr. A Verbatim Book, Essex, Connecticut. 1985.

Not being able to make fire in the wilderness at best could mean a very uncomfortable night, and at worse, death.
“…rain began hammering down so heavily that, one hundred miles from the nearest trees, and with nothing available but moss, nobody could start a fire.”

Samuel Hearne, 1770.
“Fierce winds and blowing snow reduced the men to huddling among large rocks, unable even to start a fire.”
Samuel Hearne, Canada, 1770.
“This induced me to resolve not to travel more by land without my gun, powder and shot, steel, spunge (punk wood) and flint, for striking a fire…”
Patrick Campbell, 1792.

So the ability to make fire is important, so we should do all we can, even when using primitive methods, to make sure that our equipment is first class. Here are some things you can do within historical boundaries to ensure that you can make fire under the worst conditions.
1) Learn the skills involved in primitive fire lighting, whether it be flint and steel or some other method. Learn where to find dry kindling in wet weather, and what you can do if you run out of prepared tinder.
2) Make sure you are carrying with you: Dry prepared tinder; a small amount of dry kindling in the form of dried grass and twigs; keep your fire works in a greased fire-bag to keep them dry; and make sure your fire works are always with you even when you are not carrying your main pack.


My greased leather fire-bag which contains my tinderbox, some kindling, and a small beeswax candle for helping dry out damp kindling and making it burn.


My gunpowder bag which when empty of gunpowder contains spare tinder. This bag or wallet is also greased to make it water resistant.

“ takes fire readily from the spark of a steel: but it is much improved by being kept dry in a bag that has contained gunpowder.”

Samuel Hearne, Northern Canada, 1772













4 comments:

Mad Anne Bailey said...

Greetings Good Sir,
We found your instruction quite useful, thank you. I would beg your leave to add one small thought for consideration. Having recently found oneself unexpectedly at a loss for my usually handy firekit one might consider a very small second kit or even just a bit of char be kept in a second and separate place. Perhaps contained within the confines of one's shooting bag.
Again, merely a thought, but sadly based upon experience.
Your humble servant,
Anne

Le Loup said...

Great to have you on my blog Ann, and a good comment.
If for some reason I should be without my tinderbox, I would use my firelock to make fire, and I carry my gunpowder wallet with spare tinder in my knapsack.
My tinderbox I carry in a belt pouch which is on my person all the time.
Your advice is noted though and very welcome as other readers will read your post.

Regards, Le Loup.

grimbo said...

another reason to learn the bow drill etc..

Le Loup said...

Yes, always a good back-up.