fire lighting

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

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madjon
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fire lighting

Postby madjon » Tue Jan 02, 2007 4:47 am

doing firelighting demonstration in feb, will use flint steel and patches, powder and flash pan, and a few other techniques and twiddle on abit about different fire laying styles etc, whats your way of lighting a fire and what do you see in it as a historical lesson on daily life before gas central heating and parrafin firelighters? do you have a method you prefer? anybody seen the clip of ray mears watching as the cook lights his fire with a can of petrol, look on his face was priceless.



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Postby Fillionous » Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:28 am

I have experimented with a number of ways of lighting fires from the very modern (lighter, firelighters, modern matches, magnesium scrapings etc) through mid level stuff (candle stub and match, flint/steel and char cloth) through to really hard work (various drills and bow drills, smoldering hoof fungus, stone/stone sparks into fine silver birch bark strips).

The methord I am most practiced with is flint and steel - in part due to the period that I do. Indeed even in modern life I find it a very effective fire making system - much less prone to wet, running out or leaking (matches and ciggy lighters) Although what you dop the sparks on changes for conveniance from char cloth to fine silver birch to magnesium scrapings to treated cotton. I do find it the best for a quick reliable spark.

On events our group often only lights one fire and then bank it over night, thus not needing to compleatly start again... mearly build up the fire from the hot embers and moving embers to start other fires. I have had a series of fires running like this for just over a week - then we had to go home... :wink:

I find the main thing is not the inital heat or spark, but getting that to catch on suitable punk, tinder and building up from there... esppecally if (like on many events/places) the quality of wood is debatable... being either wet, green or provided as great big logs or just tiny twigs or even fire resistant treated planks (which were were given at one event!) Even the wrong woods can have quite an effect on the type of fire that you can build, the amount of heat it produces and how well it burns. For the real fire aficinardo different woods are used at different times in a fires life... such as oak for long burning or banking or fruit woods for flavor when spit roasting.

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Postby Type16 » Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:50 am

When in semi-public view & fire lighting is essential I find the "Sweedish Fire Steel" superb in conjunction with some fine dry wood shavings and charred linen.

Transferring any new or acquired embers to British lumpwood charcoal....not that foreign or B&Q stuff!..........gets a fire going fast and looks good when used in conjunction with a bellows. I have found that if I used this quality stuff it was possible to redden a piece of charcoal on a candle flame (out of sight in the tent) then carry it to the fire place & bellows it. If it is a bit damp, add some candle stubbs. Above all cooking materials for camp I prefer charcoal for its heat, adding wood for the 'visual effect'.

I have to own up that when it has been essential to get a camp fire lit before the MOPs arrive, & the wood has been large or damp, I have reverted to plan C..................an acetylene butane blow torch! So, if you hear a jet aircraft early one morning, its just me getting desperate!! :lol:


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Postby John Waller » Tue Jan 02, 2007 12:01 pm

I use flint & steel with char cloth to catch the spark and then transfer to dried fungus/punk/tow and lately home made sulphur tipped spills to get the flame. I did buy some sulphur dipped matches from a trader but the sulphur tended to drop off so made my own which are much better.

I also have a repro 1830's box-lock tinder lighter which works on occasion - my fault for leaving it cocked and weakening the spring.

My magnesium firelighter is good for lighting my gas stove and fires when the punters are not around.


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Postby Tuppence » Tue Jan 02, 2007 2:12 pm

ok, I cheat and use matches (but do it before the show, so no public around - if it were a demo I'd be using flint and steel (sort of)).

but I use progressively larger bits of wood - starting with tiny shaving sized bits, then going up to kindling, then up to logs - takes a while, but easy enough to do.

although didn't learn authentically - learnt from that time before gas central heating - about three years ago for me


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Postby gregory23b » Tue Jan 02, 2007 3:23 pm

Flint and steel and char cloth, although there is debate in our group as to when the char cloth was known to be used from, any ideas?

Years back I had a brass box with some char cloth that was slow in lighting and a friend of mine who shall remain nameless except his surname is a mythical beast and he posts here and buys loads of kit, put some gunpowder in 'to help it along', I said 'that wont take' (Darwin award candidate) and a split second later and a blinding flash I nearly lost my eyebrows - happy times.

Although as Fillionious says, it is easier to use some embers from the night before, we do if we have been smart enough to remember or the fire has been made well enough.

Have started fires with bow and drill, as long as the two bits of wood are dry enough, the 'drill' and piece then it shouldn't take long, just don't do it on a work top :oops:


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Postby guthrie » Tue Jan 02, 2007 6:19 pm

OK, so whats the best way to char cloth so that it will catch off flint and steel?



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Postby Mark » Tue Jan 02, 2007 9:23 pm

Hi Guthrie,
Making Char Cloth is a bit of a knack and I think that everyone here that uses a traditional Flint/steel will have their own tried and tested ways..heres mine.
Preparation:-

My material is 100% cotton,some swear by linen ..no problem.
The cotton I use is actually cut up disposable inner gloves which I get loads of from work.Some people cut up old T shirts or towels but be aware that some 100% cotton clothes have been treated with Fire resistant chemicals.
Cut the cotton/linen up into pieces. Exact size dosn't matter but for arguments sake lets say one inch squares.
You need a metal tin with a lid which seals fairly tight.I use a shortbread tin which is about 8" X 4" but people use large boot polish tins and all sorts.One thing I will say about it is ,burn any paint off the tin on a fire. Let it cool and give it a bit of a scrub with wire wool. Take a nail and knock a small hole (about 3mm) in the lid and in the bottom of your tin (keep 2 nails that fit the holes handy).

To make the Char Cloth:-
Put your cotton/linen squares loosely in your tin..I do about 12-15 ish pieces at a time.
For the fire I use a gas camping cooker stood on an old chair -outside
Please dont try to cook the cloth on your kitchen cooker..it stinks while it cooks and the wife dont like it... :roll:
Put the tin on the camping cooker.After about 30 seconds smoke will be seen coming from the top hole in the tin (if the smoke catches fire-dont worry) When the smoke seems to be dying down a bit (this could be 5-10 minutes later but keep an eye on it) I then use a mega thick glove to pick the tin off the cooker then I give it a good shake and put it back on the heat upside down (this is why we put a hole in the base). We are making sure the cloth is evenly "cooked" The smoke will resume again. I do this for a couple more cycles until it appears that no more smoke is seen coming from the holes..then turn off the cooker, put the glove on,stick a nail in the top hole,turn the tin over and put a nail in the other hole. This is to keep oxygen out of the tin. Then leave the tin to go cold.
Do not be tempted to open the tin before it is cold..The rush of oxygen will make your cloth burn.
When the tin is cold you should find your cloth squares are black and you should find that when handling them, next to no soot is left on your fingers.
To test the cloth take one piece and put a match to it. or use your Flint/steel..It should burn up with a fierce bright red ember....SAFETY......Have water nearby to put the cloth out.The cloth burns very hot,take great care.. If your Cloth dosn't appear to have worked for whatever reason..NEVER throw it away in a bin etc Always destroy it in water...The ember may be very small and if you dont destroy the Cloth you may have a fire when you dont expect or want it!
The windier the conditions ..the fiercer the ember..this is of course the advantage of Flint/steel over lighters/matches but is also a danger.
Keep your Char cloth in a small tin..I use an Altoids peppermints tin which is sold at Morrisons..When taking a piece of cloth out to use always close your tin first.You dont want any sparks in your full tin of cloth.
Please dont think I'm lecturing or teaching you to suck eggs but I,and I bet every one here who uses Flint/steel has made some or all of these mistakes. :oops:

With Char Cloth made this way and with my traditional Flint & Steel I'm VERY disappointed if I dont catch a spark first strike...In any conditions!
ENJOY! :D
Oggie.
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Last edited by Mark on Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:38 pm, edited 11 times in total.



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Postby Dave B » Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:55 pm

ANy thoughts on what you might authenticaly carry charcloth in?

would it keep in a leather pouch? or an eathenware jar with a stopper?


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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:18 am

Hi Dave,
I'm new to reenactment,my first event was Blore Heath.So I also need to think about how to carry my firelighting kit.
I think a small (waterproof waxed?) leather pouch to hold the Steel/flints and char cloth. This small pouch could be inside a larger pouch (more protection for the char) which contains the Tinder,dry grasses,scrunched up Birch bark and Fungii, (I use cramp balls otherwise known as King Alfreds cakes as coal extenders and hand warmers).
I think the whole firelighting pouch will be kept in my Linen scrip along with my rations and other personal kit.
Oggie.



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Postby madjon » Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:56 am

it should keep allright in a pouch, long as you dont sit on it too much, have a few leather pouches for keeping patch in, some with an iron sewn into the bottom of them, also have a few tins for patch and steel depends what point in time you are, but a leather pouch should be allright, a length of beeswax candle goes well to keep as well for getting things going in the damp.



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Postby guthrie » Wed Jan 03, 2007 1:31 am

Ahhh, thanks, ok, so its a bit like charcoal making, but I doubt that you go to completion.
(We carbonise rayon at work and even after reaching 800C its not quite completely carbonised)

I had considered putting it on a dry frying pan or osmething and scorching it, but thats rather hard to control.



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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:26 am

Thats it Guthrie,
Just like Charcoal production..heating the material in an oxygen free environment which leaves the carbonised material behind intact.
This season at events I'll have lots of Char Cloth,strikers,King Alfreds Cakes etc to show the Public but if anyone wants to learn how to use Flint & Steel and get a flame in less than 30 seconds I'm a new member of Buckinghams Retinue (look for the Stafford knot).
Any of you experienced in Firemaking want to get together at events to exchange information or even for a speed Firelighting competition,which I bet the public would love,get in touch.
Oggie.



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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:17 am

madjon wrote:it should keep allright in a pouch, long as you dont sit on it too much, have a few leather pouches for keeping patch in, some with an iron sewn into the bottom of them, also have a few tins for patch and steel depends what point in time you are, but a leather pouch should be allright, a length of beeswax candle goes well to keep as well for getting things going in the damp.


Hi Madjon,
Sewing the Steel onto the Char pouch sounds a good idea.It would stop the steel rattling against the Flint(s) and prevent damage to the Cloth.
I havn't got one yet but I intend to get a Bollock pouch. I think the small pouch with the Steel/Flints/Char/ small pieces of Fungii will go in there as the leather Bollock pouch will be extra protection for the kit.
I believe it is vital that the means of making fire stay on the body in case you get seperated from your kit. The pouch of Tinder can go in the Linen Scrip.
Oggie.



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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:20 am

[quote="John Waller"]I use flint & steel with char cloth to catch the spark and then transfer to dried fungus/punk/tow and lately home made sulphur tipped spills to get the flame. I did buy some sulphur dipped matches from a trader but the sulphur tended to drop off so made my own which are much better.
.....snip............

Hi John,
I've seen these used but never made them. Where do you get the Sulphur from?
Oggie.



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Postby Panda » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:01 am

When exactly was fire steel first made?


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Postby John Waller » Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:57 am

Mark wrote:
John Waller wrote:I use flint & steel with char cloth to catch the spark and then transfer to dried fungus/punk/tow and lately home made sulphur tipped spills to get the flame. I did buy some sulphur dipped matches from a trader but the sulphur tended to drop off so made my own which are much better.
.....snip............

Hi John,
I've seen these used but never made them. Where do you get the Sulphur from?
Oggie.


Oggie,
I bought the sulphur from Tod www.todsstuff.co.uk/. Melt a small amount in a receptacle - do it outside and be prepared to quickly cover if it ignites - dip the ends of your spills into the sulphur. It sets quickly when removed. When you touch the end to a glowing ember it quickly lights with a blue flame. Use a soft wood for your spills - pine is good. I recycled an arrow shaft that had shattered when a tree jumped in front of it and split it into thin pieces.
I'm not sure when sulphur tipped spills came into use. Anyone know?


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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 1:31 pm

Panda wrote:When exactly was fire steel first made?


Hi Panda,
There is a Ray Mears program where he uses Iron Pyrites which when struck against a Flint produce small cool sparks which,with a lot of patience could be caught on various Fungii which acts like the Char Cloth.
Oggie.



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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 2:01 pm

John Waller wrote:
Mark wrote:
John Waller wrote:I use flint & steel with char cloth to catch the spark and then transfer to dried fungus/punk/tow and lately home made sulphur tipped spills to get the flame. I did buy some sulphur dipped matches from a trader but the sulphur tended to drop off so made my own which are much better.
.....snip............

Hi John,
I've seen these used but never made them. Where do you get the Sulphur from?
Oggie.


..........snip....................
I recycled an arrow shaft that had shattered when a tree jumped in front of it and split it into thin pieces.
I'm not sure when sulphur tipped spills came into use. Anyone know?


Hi John,
I know that tree! Its a bogger for jumping out in front of perfectly aimed arrows! :roll:
Doing a quick net search and it seems that Sulphur matches are mentioned in Roman times by Pliny the Elder.Thanks for the information.I shall give the Spills a go.

Oggie.



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Postby Dave B » Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:24 pm

I don't know if this will interest anyone...

http://charcloth.webhop.org/


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Postby Mark » Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:29 pm

Hi Dave,
Interesting site! I think thats quite a good price for a bag of ready made Charcloth.
Oggie.



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Postby gregory23b » Thu Jan 04, 2007 2:17 pm

Nice summary of charcloth Mark.


There really is something satisfying about striking a light.

Any ideas re provenance of charcloth in middle ages?

re container, I had a small latten/brass box, it stopped the cloth from being crushed or folded, you don't really want load of char dust, the weave helps keep the ember.

re spills, really avoid breathing in the smoke, if the sulphur ignites, you may not see the small blue flame and a lungful of sulphur fumes is really unpleasant, I speak from experience.


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Postby RTB » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:30 pm

A square 9 volt battery and some wire wool work well, although not for public veiw.

A freind of mine (JT), used to do adventure weekends with kids. They'd have a jolly good time during the day, and at night camp on the beach. A fire would have been pre-built, and JT would bet the kids that he could get the fire within 5 seconds. The kids would scoff, but JT would duly put a nearly out match near the fire and WOOF! up it would go.
Not once did they catch on that his mate would be hiding behind a rock with the bottle of gas, from which a buried pipe led to the fire.


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Postby Mark » Thu Jan 04, 2007 8:46 pm

gregory23b wrote:Nice summary of charcloth Mark.


There really is something satisfying about striking a light.

Any ideas re provenance of charcloth in middle ages?

re container, I had a small latten/brass box, it stopped the cloth from being crushed or folded, you don't really want load of char dust, the weave helps keep the ember.

re spills, really avoid breathing in the smoke, if the sulphur ignites, you may not see the small blue flame and a lungful of sulphur fumes is really unpleasant, I speak from experience.


Hi Gregory,
Thanks for the advice. I should be experimenting with the Sulphur Spills next week.
As for the provenance of Char Cloth, to be honest I'm not too sure.
I was originally under the impression that due to the value of linen cloth that people would not use it to start fires, however the more I think about it the more I doubt that assertion.
I believe that everyone wore Linen underclothes, Brais,Shirts,Coifs and that people were also buried in shrouds which I believe were also made of Linen. So there was plenty of Linen about and if an item of Linen clothing became totally beyond repair then I'm sure there would be enough for Char Cloth.
However,there are other things that can be used instead of Char Cloth. One example is the King Alfreds cakes I mentioned in an earlier post or to give them their proper name Daldinia Concentrica. They grow on dead or dying Ash trees and can be used in the same way as Char Cloth and they dont need any special preparation,they just need to be really dry.(They also make great hand warmers on a Winters day and can be used to carry an ember from camp to camp.
I'm happy enough using Char Cloth in a Medieval setting but I'll think I'll explain to the Public about the lack of certainty.
All the best,
Oggie.
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Postby guthrie » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:00 pm

Yes, provenancce of char cloth would be helpful, given that I have not yet come across anything about it.



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Postby Alan E » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:25 pm

:idea: A ghostly voice just spoke to me :!:
:shock: Told me he lived in MudEvil Times and Never Washed :x
Said that meant he had to BURN his underlinens twice yearly :oops:
Which made great fire-lighters :!:
And is why we'll never find find evidence of them :cry:













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Postby Dave B » Fri Jan 05, 2007 8:40 pm

Put in a bit of a silly way, but valid; this is one of the cases where LENEL does apply, you just wouldn't expect any archiology or illustations for this, all you could hope for is a documentary source

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Postby gregory23b » Fri Jan 05, 2007 9:18 pm

There are documentary sources for other types of fire making kit, Mappa Clavicula and others. Recipes for incendiaries of all sorts.

But charring cloth, like making charcoal actually needs some preparation, at the very least a luted ceramic jar (sealed with clay or dough), at least that is how charcoal is described. You can't just make it with fire.

However it may be one of those ubiquitous things that people don't talk about. One way I would look at it would be as a credible guess in a range of possibilities, rather than an incredible one. But succumbing to LENEL leaves me a little queasy.


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