Monday 13 February 2012

Part Four. A Closer Look At Flint & Steel Fire Lighting.

Plant Tinders.

All of the plant tinders I have found I have discovered through experimentation before I read 18th century accounts. Some of these are indeed mentioned in period accounts, some under different names such as this one below, others I have found are not mentioned at all.

“They kindle fire, by striking together a piece of white or yellow pyrites and a flint stone, over a piece of touchwood”.
Alexander Mackenzie; among the Indians, 1789.

Touchwood is another name for punk wood. Here is another:

“This induced me to resolve not to travel more by land without my gun, powder and shot, steel, spunge   and flint, for striking a fire…”
Patrick Campbell, 1792.

Spunge is also punk wood, and this name gives you some indication of what this tinder feels like. With the knowledge of what this tinder looks like and feels like it enables you to search out other plant materials of similar look and feel, and experiment to see if it will catch a spark, or work as an extender. An extender is a plant material that will not necassarily catch and hold a spark like true tinder will, but it will take from a smouldering ember and can add to the heat when blown upon in the tinderbox.
Treating tinder with saltpetre/potasium nitrate is all very well, but it is not a lot of good for extended use in the woods. So whatever material you find, first see if it will catch and hold a spark as is, and if it does not work, then try charring it a little in the fire.

“Fire making is a simple process with the mountaineers. Their bullet pouches always contain a flint and steel, and sundry pieces of “punk”-a pithy substance found in dead pine trees-or tinder; and pulling a handful of dry grass, which they screw into a nest, they place the lighted punk in this, and closing the grass over it, wave it in the air, when it soon ignites, and readily kindles the dry sticks forming the foundation of a fire.”
Ruxton, 1848.

The information in these posts is taken from the revised edition of Primitive Fire Lighting, Flint & Steel, which is now a part of "The New World Woodsman. His clothing, equipment & accoutrements. 1700-1760". By Keith H. Burgess. This new book is in its final stages of editing, and its publication date will be posted on this blog.


Buzzard said...

Very informative,thanks

Keith said...

You are welcome Buzzard, glad you found it of some use.