Friday, 28 May 2010

Plant Tinder Preparation.

A quick word about using cotton or linen cloth as tinder. Using cloth in the 18th century was probably mostly restricted to the homes, and not used in wilderness situations. Cloth was a valuable commodity and was not thrown away lightly. Cloth would probably have been used as cleaning rags before it was finally used as tinder. Tow rag was a very course cloth and probably the first to be used as tinder.

The term tinderbox can be used to describe a box or container itself used to contain tinder, and to prepare tinder. The tinderbox comes in many forms and is made from a variety of materials including iron, brass, silver, and wood. The wooden tinderbox was the type often used in homes, and it had a damper lid which fitted neatly inside the box for smothering the smouldering tinder.

The term tinderbox can also be used to describe one's fireworks, or all the items used such as flint, steel, and tinder. A lock from a flintlock musket for instance was termed a "tinderbox" by Daniel Defoe in his book Robinson Crusoe.

This flint lock on this gun can be used to make fire on or off the gun. In Robinson Crusoe Defoe chose to have Crusoe use just the lock alone. Whether he removed the lock or found it as a spare lock I can't recall.

In the same way this tinderlighter was used in homes to make fire, and this one also has a candle holder so one can light one's self around the house at night. The tinderbox and the tinderlighter often were combined with the use of spunks, a sulphur tipped splint which would catch fire from smouldering tinder.


To prepare tinder material it often had to be charred. Amadou, a tinder material produced from the fungus Fomes Fomentarius, was treated with potassium nitrate and sold on the streets and in apothecary shops.

Tinder material that had to be charred, such as tow rag, was charred directly in the fire and then smothered in the tinderbox. This method I believe was also used in wilderness places using plant materials. Sparks were struck directly into the tinderbox to make fire, the kindling dry grass or teased rope or other being offered to the smouldering tinder in the tinderbox and blown into flame.

In this image above you can see the damper in place in the tinderbox, and the illustration also shows that sparks were in fact struck directly into the tinderbox. Of course in reality the damper would be removed before striking sparks onto the tinder.
Also it is important to note that the steel is struck a dowward blow with the flint, not the other way round. Striking the steel with the flint directs the sparks downward into the tinderbox.

This is my tinderbox which I carry with me inside my greased fire bag which is carried inside my belt pouch so it is always with me.
Note the uncharred tinder material in the tinderbox, this will become charred from using the charred tinder in the box. Also note I am using a musket flint. This one is an original Brown Bess musket flint.


Stackpool said...

This is such a wonderful, inspiring site! Thank you very much indeed for your musings, which I will await eagerly via RSS. I have the very same tinderbox, which I bought not a month ago at Colonial Williamsburg. (I know it's the same one, as it has the same round warning-sticker residue! :-)

Le Loup said...

Jon, thank you for your kind words, I am glad you find this blog of some interest.
Ah the round sticker mark, SOME modern things it seems last for ever! I thought that mark would have burnt off by now, but it just keeps on hanging in there. Spirit would probably move it but I can't be bothered.
Regards, Le Loup.

DwarvenChef said...

Very interesting stuff for sure. I'm still getting my act together on this stuff. Keep em comming :)

Le Loup said...

Will do, meanwhile if you think of anything you want info on let me know. You know what it is like trying to come up with something each time!

Eddie Stalkperch said...

Nice blog with very interesting material.
Keep up the good work.