Thursday 28 June 2012

What They Are For-vent pick, pan brush & vent quill.

Recently I saw a youtube video describing what various gun tools were used for. The presenter said that the vent pick was used to occasionally clean out the vent in the barrel. This is not strictly true. It would be more correct to say that the vent pick is used to CLEAR the vent.
The vent rarely needs cleaning in between normal barrel washing chores. The vent pick is used to make sure that the vent is clear of gunpowder. The flash from the pan of the flint lock has to pass through the vent to reach the main charge in the barrel. If there is gunpowder blocking the vent, the flash from the pan has to first burn through the gunpowder in the vent. This can delay the ignition time, not by much, but it will delay ignition of the main charge.
Another precaution against a blocked vent is to insert a vent quill in the vent when loading, this will keep the vent clear.
The vent quill is also used to mark or signal a loaded gun even though the pan is not primed. This is to avoid any chance of double charging. The vent quill is left long enough that it can clearly be seen sticking out of the lock.
The vent pick can be fancy, or it can be a piece of wire bent to shape. Both work equally well.
The brush on the left is a bought one. The brush on the right is mine, and I made it from horse hair bound with linen thread.

The pan brush is used to clean the pan of any gunpowder residue. If you have the time, this should be done between shots, especially on damp days. The potassium nitrate in the gunpowder attracts moisture so you need to clean the pan well. After using the pan brush I often wipe the pan out with a piece of cloth if the weather is wet.

1748 Inventory .

1748 Inventory For Marie Catherine Baron's possessions.

Household Items:

14 napkins--20 livres

4 linen table cloths--20 livres

3 window curtains of brown linen--5 livres

2 chests and 1 valise, well bound and closed with a lock--40 livres

2 caskets closed with locks and covered with red copper--20 livres

3 calico window curtains--24 livres

1 bed furnished with a straw mattress, a pillow, a bolster, a calico bedspread, a feather bed, a green wool blanket--120 livres

1 cot--40 livres

1 large framed mirror--70 livres

1 old chest closed with a lock--5 livres

2 silver goblets--25 livres

2 crystal goblets--2 livres

1 armchair--12 livres

20 plates, 1 large dish, 1 small dish, 1 pot--85 livres

12 iron forks and dinner knives, 5 spoons, 1 little pewter basins--18 livres

6 crockery plates--3 livres

1 medium-sized frying pan, 1 grill, 1 fork to draw food from the pot--15 livres

2 medium-sized pans--20 livres

1 small cauldron--3 livres

1 old wardrobe--20 livres

1 frying pan--7 livres

1 small framed mirror--6 livres


1 capot*, jacket and breeches--60 livres

1 capot of cadiz and 1 black jacket--40 livres

2 jackets of cholet, 1 capot of limbourg--25 livres

1 capot of cadiz adorned with silver lace, 1 waistcoat of red camelot adorned with silver lace and with silver buttons--60 livres

1 purse and 1 hat of half beaver--20 livres

1 wool belt, 1 pair of gloves--4 livres

3 pairs of breeches, one of cotton, one of basin, one of cadiz--15 livres

4 shirts (chemises)--40 livres

2 shirts (chemises) of Beaufort linen--20 livres

1 dressing gown, 1 taffeta petticoat, 1 cotton dress, 1 calico dress--220 livres

1 pair of silver buckles--15 livres

2 old pairs of slippers--5 livres


1 hunting knife, 1 silver pistol--30 livres

1 bullet mold--20 livres

400 hundred pounds of lead--100 livres

4 oxen--400 livres

4 cows--300 livres

2 mares, 2 colts--220 livres

40 fowl (chickens), large and small--40 livres

1 family of slaves (a Negro, a Negress and 2 baby boys)--2,000 livres

Original Shot Pouch & Horn.

Possibly early to mid 18th century. Note the button closure and the ball or bullet board/block.

My shot pouch that I made many years ago.

Friday 22 June 2012

Fire lighting & Tinder Quotes.

Their grow’s here Large Berch trees…on the Root of the branches of the Said tree, grows Large Knobs of wood of Different form’s, which they style posogan, which posogan is of great service to the Natives, they use it to strike Light to, as we do touch wood… its Substance Resembles Spunge…once Light is Very Difficult to put out…will Glow and Bur’n till Consum’d to ashes and never Blaze.”
~James Isham, Hudson’s Bay, 1743-49

“They employ tree mushrooms very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in goodness, and next to them, those of the sugar birch, for want of these, they likewise make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
~ Peter Kalm, Canada, 1749

"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
Jolicoeur Charles Bonin,
Memoir of French and Indian War Soldier, 1750's

“…fungus that grows on the outside of the birch-tree…used by all the Indians in those parts for tinder…called by the Northern Indians Jolt-thee, and is known all over the country bordering on Hudson’s Bay by the name of Pesogan…there is another kind…that I think is infinitely preferable to either. This is found in old decayed poplars, and lies in flakes…is always moist when taken from the tree but when dry…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

“I said to them…you Fools go to the Birch Trees and get some touchwood,”
~David Thompson, Lake Athabasca, 1790s

“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, Canada/New York, 1792

“A Canadian never neglects to have touchwood for his pipe”
~David Thompson, Red Lake River, 1798

Thursday 21 June 2012

Family Fire Bags/Tinder Pouches & Contents.

A Warning For Braddock.

Warning For General Braddock by Robert Griffing. The lead scouts of Braddock's command found a warning carved into this downed tree. Braddock ignored the warning, lost the battle & was killed during the battle now known as "Braddock's Defeat".
Braddock did not think much of the Indian allies. His attitude towards them riled them so much that they left the column. Braddock & his then young officer Washington came up against French & Indians before they even came in sight of the French fort.
The Red coats stood in ranks in the forest, & they died in ranks. Daniel Boone was helping one of the wagoners in the column. He cut the wagon loose & escaped on one of the horses.

I have this painting in my study over my desk.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Small Lappland Fire Bags or Tinder pouches.

Original Fire Bags. Images.

This small fire bag I suspect was carried by a woman and it was not intended to keep the owner supplied away from the village.

Clothing & Etc For an earlier period.

I have no idea what these people are like to deal with, but I am occasionally asked where to purchase things from. These people emailed me, so here is their site address:

Winter Camp. Pike & Musket Society of Australia.

I have great admiration for Living History Ladies. As well as cooking they participate in other aspects of the events. If you are thinking of joining a Living History Group like this one, do not assume that you will be stuck with chores! You choose what you want to do.

Monday 11 June 2012

How to Keep Beverages Cool Outside the Refrigerator


Full Battle Scene. Revolution. Video.

Refining Saltpetre in the 18th Century. A Link.


Starting Them Young. Keeping Pioneer Skills Alive.

This video was produced by one of our group members and a good friend of mine known as Mopoke. I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I did.

A Heads Up. Discounted Books.

How does this promotion work?
Tell your readers to go to Lulu.com. On our homepage, we will have the name of a savings coupon that they can add to their cart to save. This promotion ends Friday, 15 June at 11:59 PM. We reserve the right to change this offer at any time. Coupon codes are unique to each Lulu.com country store.

42nd Royal Highland Regiment 1815 Australia Inc.


Saturday 9 June 2012

Flintlock Fire Lighting.

 “…he was left to amuse himself all night a long side his fier (fire) which he made with his gun.” ~A. McKenzie, 1804.

 “provided with candles and a tinder-box, which I had made of the lock of one of the muskets, with some wildfire in the pan”.Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, 1660-1731.

Spoon to Lead Ladle? Just a thought.

Whilst searching for items up in the old cottage today I came across a hand forged spoon that had belonged to a close friend of mine. I already have a wooden spoon that I carry in my knapsack, so I thought that this spoon might easily be turned into a lead ladle. Of course we already have a couple of lead ladles too, but we lack one for the .74 calibre fusil.

Washington Irving's Chouteau post:
"The little hamlet of the Agency was in a complete bustle; the blacksmith's shed, in particular, was a scene of preparation; a strapping negro was shoeing a horse; two half-breeds were fabricating iron spoons in which to melt lead for bullets. An old trapper, in leathern hunting frock and moccasons, had placed his rifle against a work-bench, while he superintended the operation, and gossiped about his hunting exploits."
Washington Irving (1783-1859)

Friday 8 June 2012

The Matchlock Musket. Video.

Guest Speaker, Listen Up!

My friend Vieuxbois is not only a follower of this blog, but he is a valued international member of our 18th century living history group. What he has to say below regarding knives & battoning is in response to my recent article. It is really good to get the point of view from another person whos life is spent in the wild and often depends on the blades he carries with him.
My sincere thanks to Vieuxbois for this information.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

Frozen wood is ``brittle`` and easy to split. But it’s also very hard. Furthermore, steel is also more brittle when it’s very cold (it’s better to keep the protected blade warm by holding it close your body). So if I need to split frozen wood (which is rare and exceptional) there is more risk to damage a knife than an axe : an axe edge is generally thicker than a knife, there is more material to support the stress.

In my opinion, there are no reason for batoning with a knife unless if :

1. It’s not your choice, you need to do it : you are in a survival situation (or a survival training) with only a knife to work with, so you do with what you have, and you do it carefully because you want/need to preserve what you have like a treasure because your life depends on it. If you are in a true survival situation why would you risk breaking your knife? Break your knife and your chance of survival goes down.

2. You are playing like a kid, so you pay the game price.

3. It`s your choice, you want to do it : so you will use a very strong knife with an appropriate design/materials and heat treatment if you want to keep this tool in good condition. But does this very strong knife will do the same job than a thin blade? Of course I can carry both.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

From Thin, Sharp, Knives - Posted: 9 September, 2011 in http://bfelabs.com/2011/09/09/thin-sharp-knives/ : `` If you look around the working world, at the knives that are regularly used to do work, you might notice some startling differences between those knives and what is prominent in the popular knife industry. Particularly the “survival”, “tactical”, and “hard use” arenas of popular knife-making (both custom and production).
In these arenas we typically see heavy knives, from thick stock, with study handles and generally robust construction. We are told that this robustness is desirable, even absolutely necessary, for these tools to withstand the rigors of hard use. And the market sucks them up about as fast as they can be made, with companies like TOPS Knives producing ever-new variants of these beefy blades for battle and conquering barren-wastes. But what is being bought, and what is actually being used, are far different. What people actually work with is often something very different. The prominent working knife is not a robust, stout, knife but rather a thin, sharp, knife.
I was at a branding recently, out here in cattle country, and took note of the knives being used. For those unfamiliar, when branding calves it is also common practice to ear-mark with a notch in an ear and castrate. These tasks require a deft hand with a sharp knife, particularly when the calf is not forced into an immobilizing squeeze chute, but is rather roped out and held down. I’ve taken part in and observed this process numerous times in my life, and there is a great commonality to the knives being used: They are thin, sharp, knives. The same knives most of the cowboys and ranch hands carry in their pockets daily, and use for everything.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

The thin, sharp, knife is not unique to this environment, but rather common to every other. Moving out from the traditional slipjoint folder common to the ranching west, a survey of other traditional folding knife designs would turn up a variety of styles, locks, and construction methods, but one commonality: Thin, sharp, blades. Moving from folders, to fixed blade knives, we see the same variety in design and construction in traditional designs, but a great many have the same commonality of thin blades. The traditional Scandinavian knives, as typified by the Mora so common to woodscraft, are an easily accessible example of the type.
Thin blades are not limited to small knives, either. Many old-time woodsmen, frontiersmen, mountainmen, etc. who used big knives carried ones that, rather than resembling the Iron Mistress of Hollywood, more resembled a butcher knife, being thin although long. Now, some may use the argument that we know more than they did, and thus make more appropriate choices, but that is simply nonsense. Anyone who makes a living with a tool, or depends on it for his own life, on a day-to-day basis, knows far more about selecting the right type of that tool than anyone who does not do the same, no matter the other mans “knowledge”.

Vieuxbois has left a new comment on your post "Knife Battoning! NOT!":

If so many who’s lives depended on their knives choosing thinner blades historically holds little sway, then the fact that the trend is a modern one too should tell us something. Today, if we take a survey of the knives being used routinely, we would find many of them to be far thinner than what we’ve come to expect (or been told to expect). And not just small knives: While so many Americans and others influenced by the major knife market are of the opinion that a heavy, thick-spined, knife is required for chopping or “serious” woods work, much of the rest of the world relies on something far different; The machete, or some variant thereof.
Different tools are appropriate for different tasks. There is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a place for robust knives. One of the most valuable characteristics of contemporary knifemaking is the rise of robust locking systems for folding knives. The matching rise of the robust blade, however, may not be the best thing. But it is important to recognize that place, and use the right tool for the right job. For the majority of tasks for which a knife is used, a thick bladed knife is not the right tool. This includes many “hard” tasks, from woodscraft to cowboying to “tactical” environments (whatever those are). You aren’t necessarily wrong is you carry a robust knife for these, or even more mundane, daily uses, but you should ask yourself if that is truly what you need. Give some thought to whether cutting performance is a greater need than brute strength, and take a thinner knife better suited for cutting out for a spin sometime.``


Tuesday 5 June 2012

Fire Steel versus Ferrocerium Rod.

Some people do not realise that there is a difference between a ferrocerium rod and a traditional fire steel used in flint and steel fire lighting. With this short article I hope to correct this misunderstanding so that new comers to 18th century living history are not misled.

The Ferrocerium Rod.
(1) A ferrocerium rod is not made of steel. Despite being advertised as a "fire steel", it is NOT a fire steel. A ferrocerium rod is made from manufactured flint material, much like the flint in a cigarette lighter.

(2) A person will learn little of fire lighting lore from using a ferrocerium rod unless they study other fire lighting methods. A ferrocium rod will light any small kindling material providing it is dry. It will not light a candle.

(3) If a ferrocium rod is dropped, it can break. The shorter the pieces of broken ferrocerium rod, the less affective its capacity to make fire.

(4) Skill wise, using a ferrocerium rod requires no more skill or knowledge than using a cigarette lighter or matches.

(5) Ferrocerium rod users often carry a limitied supply of cotton balls and other types of prepared kindling materials. When these are used, they cannot be re-used. This type of kindling is not readily available in a wilderness situation.

(6) The use of a ferrocerium rod relies on having a piece of steel or a knife in order to create sparks.

The Fire Steel.

(1) A fire steel is made from carbon steel and creates sparks when struck correctly by a hard sharp edged rock such as flint; chert, agate, quartz or other similar rock types.

(2) Using flint and steel leads to learning more about plant tinders and fire lore in general. The method of using flint and steel for making fire goes back several hundred years.

(3) If you drop a fire steel it is not likely to break, but if it does it can still be used for making fire.

(4) It takes a certain skill to use a flint and steel for fire lighting, it also requires some knowledge of plant tinders and different kindling types. Users of flint and steel tend to be more dedicated to research and experimentation and are better prepared for making fire in all weather conditions.

(5) Tinder is always carried along with a flint and steel. Tinder can be used to light a candle and a lit candle can be used to light damp kindling.

(6) Tinder plants are found in the outdoors and they are easily prepared. By using a tinderbox the tinder lasts longer and if you collect a fresh supply of tinder plant material whenever you see it you will never run out.

Tinder & Tinderbox Facts.

(1) Charred cloth is a good tinder, but it does not last as long as tinder made directly from wild plants, and cloth for charring is not available in a wilderness situation.

(2) All the plant tinders I have used to date have been easily prepared by charring. Some tinders in the 18th century were prepared by soaking them in nitre, but Potassium Nitrate is not easily processed in a wilderness situation unless you use urine. Even so, charring is an easier preparation than urine and it works better.

(3) The tinderbox is used for storing and carrying tinder. It is used for making fire by striking the sparks directly into the tinderbox. It is used for preparing tinder by placing freshly charred tinder in the tinderbox and closing the lid to smother the smouldering tinder. Uncharred tinder material can be placed in the tinderbox with charred tinder, and it will get charred with use when making fire.

(4) Not all tinderboxes are waterproof. I recommend that you keep your tinderbox, a candle stub, and a little kindling in a greased leather fire bag. Make it large enough that the top/opening can be rolled down for closure.

(5) I recommend that you always carry spare tinder in a greased leather bag. I carry my spare tinder in one of my gunpowder bags.

 My brass tinderbox and fire steel.
Tinderbox with charred plant material; bracket fungus and punk wood.

Tinderbox with both charred tinder material and uncharred tinder material.

My greased leather fire bag.

My greased leather gunpowder bag. I carry unprepared tinder material in this gunpowder bag. The residue from the gunpowder coats the tinder so it will catch a spark without having to char it.

More useful Kindling.

Raining and altrnately snowing outside yesterday so I decided to take these images inside!

Sunday 3 June 2012

Tinder Confusion!

Due to new terminology, some people are getting confused with the term Tinder. The old meaning of tinder as used with flint, steel and tinderbox means a plant based material that will catch a spark and produce an ember from which fire can be made.
But in modern terms, mostly due to some people refering to the commercially made flint Ferrocium Rod as a "fire steel" (which it is not), tinder now includes kindling. As you can imagine, being now no distinction between kindling and tinder, Pilgrims are getting confused when they are unable to catch a spark on kindling when they have just read that you can.
So my purpose here is to try and make it a little more clear and understandable. Firstly whenever you read the term "fire steel", take the time to ask the person if they are using a ferrocium rod. If they are, then you can ignore most of what they are talking about because it will have no bearing on YOUR use of a REAL flint and steel. Below are some examples of Kindling.
 Top is some sisal rope strands, and below that the outer bark of the Stringybark tree.
 A disused birds nest mostly made of dried grasses. In this form such kindling is often called a "tinder nest", which again can be confusing. This is kindling, not tinder.
Dried grass.

Dried leaves from trees.

To the right in this basket are the dried stalks of the Jerusalem Artichoke plant, and to the left Mountain Gum bark. Sizes of kindling going up from this would be twigs and sticks of various sizes.