Tuesday, 11 February 2014

More on Flint and Steel and Tinderbox Fire Lighting.

Madam JOHNSON’S Present:
Or, every YOUNG WOMAN’S companion.
To make a Substitute for Tinder made with Linen.
Dissolve three ounces of salt petre in a pint and an half of fair Water in a Kettle or Pan over clear Fire: Then thoroughly wet twenty-four Sheets of smooth brown Paper separately in the hot Liquor, and lay them on some clean Place to dry. When you have Occasion, you may put a Piece in your Tinder-box, and using the Steel and Flint, it will catch like Wildfire. (please note that paper then was made from linen flax. Keith.).
But when you will make tinder for a Gunners tinder boxe, take peeces of fustian, or of old and fine linnen clothe, make them to burn and flame in a fire, & suddenly before the flame which is in the  doth die, choke the fire, & keepe their tinder so made in a boxe lined within with clothe, to the ende that it may not be moyste at any time.
Appendix 20-1,  Lucar, C., Translation of Tartaglia, Three Bookes of Colloquies Concerning the Arte of Shooting in Great and Samll Peeces of Artillerie with Appendix, London,1588.
Finding information directly relating to Europe is a long haul, but I think we can take it for granted that whatever was used in England was also used in France, & if France was using cloth tinder, then most of if not all Europe was also using it.
Mostly cloth tinder was used in the homes, tow rag was a common source, but linen also. Other places of use were aboard ship, as in the quote above. Travellers from one place to another eg from one town to another or from town house to country house would also normally carry charred cloth tinder.
Cloth was charred like other plant tinders, directly in the fire, then it was smothered in the tinderbox. Normally the tinder remained in the tinderbox, fire was made directly from the tinderbox.

Fire lighting using gunpowder was also used, with tinder material & with kindling material.
"There happened to be an iron pot and an ax on board--- they cut off a piece of the boat rope, and picked it to oakum, and putting it in the pan of a gun, with some powder, catched it on fire, which with some thin pieces cut from the mast, they kindled in the pot, and then cut up their mast, seats, &c. for fuel, and making a tent of their sail, wrapt themselves as well as they could;"
From The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1765, 3 men trapped in the ice in their boat during a waterfowl hunt and likely to freeze to death:

'Our party having separated, the important articles of tinder and matches were in the baggage of the division which had proceeded: and as the night was rainy and excessively dark, we were, for some time, under anxiety, lest we should have been deprived of the comfort and security of a fire. Fortunately, my powder-flask was in my saddlebags, and we succeeded in supplying the place of tinder, by moistening a piece of paper, and rubbing it with gunpowder. We placed our touch paper on an old cambric handkerchief, as the most readily combustible article in our stores. On this we scattered gunpowder pretty copiously, and our flint and steel soon enabled us to raise a flame, and collecting dry wood, we made a noble fire.
Birkbeck, Morris. Notes on a Journey in America . London: Severn and Co., 1818.

"Weapons of Warre: The Armaments of the Mary Rose"
"Four unusual boxes have been tentatively identified as tinder boxes,
with the possibility of a fifth (see Chapter 8) of a somewhat
different design and about half the size. Traditionally, these would
contain items required to make fire: dry, flammable substances
together with a flint and a steel. Although the identification is
tentative***, these objects are of a completely different construction
to any other boxes found on the Mary Rose. Each is carved out of a
single block of oak rather than being made of boards or laths. All
are rectangular

310 - 385 mm in length
175 - 212 mm in width
and 90 - 105 mm in height

with a wall thickness of 25 mm. All have sliding lids, or slots to
accept them. All are divided into a large compartment and one or two
small compartments. Most bear cut marks inside the large
compartment; one contained a knife. All have circular impressions
(one or two) on the inside of the large compartment and two have holes
though the base. These are darkened as though slightly scorched.
Three of the boxes contained what was thought to be felt
or soft contents which were sampled for analysis. The boxes
appear similar to boxes used in the eighteenth century to contain
linseed soaked cloths used in caulking. The method of manufacture and
distribution would accommodate both uses, so identification is still

No comments: