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.