Matches - lighting fires before their invention

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Wiblick
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Matches - lighting fires before their invention

Post by Wiblick »

So I spent 2 hours this morning lying awake pondering this question.

before matches were invented in the 19th Century, were people still using flint and steel to light a fire? (assuming they had no access to another fire)

This was fascinating between 4 and 6 this morning.

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Post by Jim »

Yes
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Post by gregory23b »

Or by rubbing two dessicated Hussites together, a common way to start a fire muhahahaha
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Post by Wim-Jaap »

or with gunpowder and flintlock.

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Post by Dave B »

Yep, the wheellock gun was probably developed from an automatic tinderbox, which the germans were known for making.
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Post by the real lord duvet »

they used the earliest version of the zippo lighter.

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Post by Steve Stocker »

I think a lot of fires were kept going to avoid the hassle.
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Re: Matches - lighting fires before their invention

Post by Mark »

Wiblick wrote:So I spent 2 hours this morning lying awake pondering this question.

before matches were invented in the 19th Century, were people still using flint and steel to light a fire? (assuming they had no access to another fire)

This was fascinating between 4 and 6 this morning.


Matches were cleaner and more user friendly, although some of the early designs were dangerous!
However the Flint & Steel is very efficient and reliable. I usually catch a spark with one strike and light sulphur spills in just a few seconds.
If anyone is interested in learning how to do it,I'm instructing at the Medieval Boot Camp
http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewt ... 9&start=90
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Post by Cat »

As we found out at the fayre this w/e (from Miel), flint/steel/charcloth, blow up the cloth bit into a glow, hold it to the sulphur-dipped match which takes light. Takes about twice as long as striking a modern match.

Apparently women in country areas of Germany etc still wrap embers in damp newspaper overnight to keep the fire in until morning.

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Post by Dave B »

Yep,

I reccomend Meil's tinderboxes. I can get a reliable light of them, although I wouldn't claim to be as quick as Cat, it takes me about a minute to get a candle lit as long as I'm out of the breeze. once you've lit a candle you can light anything else.

I wonder if the better off would have left a candle burning overnight?

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Post by Hraefn »

Earliest fire 'steel' found is 5bc from a grave in Afganistan and the method gets used as the primary firelighting method, for the lower orders especially, well into the victorians (matches get used once and then you have to buy another), in fact the striking match was viewed as a bit of a parlour trick (Indoor fireworks) as t'other method was so ingrained, less chance of getting phossie jaw too. Curfews(firecovers) could be used to restrict the air supply and so keep embers glowing all night or covering them (embers)with ash does the same job. In the east the fire cylinder gets used as well, (think putting your finger over a bicycle pump nozzel and pumping).
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Post by Cat »

Ah, wasn't me, it was Miel doing it, which is why it was quick!
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Post by James Bretlington »

More often than not, the last embers would be covered in a way to keep them glowing, and the fire started again using the glowing embers.

My parents will still keep a coal fire well banked in Winter, and it still works out that there are glowing embers that are enough to light the fire with next day.

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Post by guthrie »

So anyone got any idea when Sulphur spills became widespread? We got taught last year how to use charcloth, flint and steel and sulphur spills, but I am not entirely certain about their authenticity.

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Post by Merlon. »

Per Oxford English dictionary earliest reference to sulphur spills as 'spunks' is 1755.
"1755 JOHNSON, Sponk, a word in Edinburgh which denotes a match, or any thing dipt in sulphur that takes fire: as, any sponks will ye buy?"

Spunk also meant prepared tinder as early as 1582

Spill as in a sliver of wood to light a fire is post 1800 per OED

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Post by Mark »

This was a post by Hraefn on a previous thread on the subject..

From a 16thC book that I've lost the title and date of( 1530-1550ish) it's an English-Latin phrase book for travellers, the idea being when in furren parts(!) you find the priest and point at bits of the book whilst shouting ME NO UNDERSTANDEE JOHNNY FOREIGN, aaah the British abroad.

From the section titled Coquinaria/culinatia/mallcellatria/et ea/quea attinet et affinia sunt iis

'Here as a flynt or a nother stone to smyte fyre can nat begote it must be done with rubbynge of II treen pecis to gether.

Vbi silicis aut alternius viui ignigeni suieignarii lapidis non est occasio lignorum attritu ignis eliciendus est

I shall gette me drye tode stoolis or fyne lynnen clothe half brent to make tynder of

Coquiram fungos aridos aut semiustum xilinum ad excipiendas esilicescintillas

we lack matches to take fyre of the tynder

defunt sulphurata ad excipiendos ingnigena semina'


and then it goes on to ask for anirons non smokey wood complains that the chimney doesn't work ask for a fryng pan/brazen vessel and various other bits and pieces to do with cooking a meal tending fire washing up
One that made me go HUH!? was 'Brennynge colis of palme tre kepe fyre longe but geueth lytll heate.'

Hraefn


From Gandi in the same thread..

It's called 'Vulgaria uiri doctissimi Guil. Hormani Caesariburgensis' and it's printed in 1519


This is a link to the thread..

http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=6519

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Post by Mark »

I shall be instructing on Flint & Steel Firelighting at the History Boot Camp in April.
http://www.history-boot-camp.co.uk/
This will include Charcloth,Fungii,Sulphur spills,Rushlights etc .I shall be asking for a small donation which will go to Cancer Research UK.
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Post by Vermin »

On a side theme

If Charcloth was used in the medieval period (I'm thinking C12th / C13th)

How would they have made it

(I'm assuming they didn't have an old travel sweet tin lying around like me :) )

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Post by m300572 »

Another method of firelighting before matches was to send a bloke in full plate out in a thunderstorm and have him running round in the open fields shouting "God's a Bastard" - the resulting lightning strike would cause ignition and your fires could be lit from that! :shock:
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Post by Mark »

Vermin wrote:On a side theme

If Charcloth was used in the medieval period (I'm thinking C12th / C13th)

How would they have made it

(I'm assuming they didn't have an old travel sweet tin lying around like me :) )
Hi Vermin,
Here is a copy of one of my posts from Jan 2007.

You can make a poor quality Char Cloth without the tin.
Just take a piece of your cotton or Linen and set fire to it in as many places as you can... give it a couple of seconds to burn..then put it out with your foot. Some of the Cloth will have burnt to ashes but bits will survive and they will take a spark.
Oggie

Having said that a ceramic pot with a lid would do the trick!
Oggie.

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Post by Vermin »

Mark wrote:Having said that a ceramic pot with a lid would do the trick!
Doh :oops: :oops:

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Post by Nigel »

so you lihjting the fire this year Mr L ?
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Post by Vermin »

Nigel wrote:so you lihjting the fire this year Mr L ?
only if the term 'eventually' is acceptable

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Post by Nigel »

So its the usual trick then

packs gallon of petrol
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Post by guthrie »

How I made some linen charcloth:
http://calcinations.livejournal.com/15933.html#cutid1
Complete with pictures of the process.


THanks for that quote about sulphur spills, Mark. So they were definitely in use by the 16th century.

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Post by Mark »

No problem Guthrie,
Are you the chap that came to speak to me after I had done a Firelighting demo in the Staffords camp at the last Blore Heath?
Best Wishes,
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Post by guthrie »

Yes, that was me. I managed to find, by accident, a bloke up here who teaches firestarting using a few methods, including flint and steel. My charcloth worked pretty well with flint and steel.

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Post by Borsch Monster »

Get Ray Mears to stare at it - that's all he needs, he just puts the bits of wood in the way for effect. The great devourer*, can start a fire by rubbing ice cubes together.



* As the chubby legged one is known by native tribes across the planet. Because he turns up & eats every ounce of food within 20 miles of thier village. Even the bugs that they think taste bad.

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Post by Hraefn »

Fire pistons in action :D NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED ONE NOW!

http://www.firepiston.com/ and the blurb on them is here
http://www.onagocag.com/piston.html
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Post by Gockee »

I have at least three period pictures of sulphur matches, but the only two I can lay my hands on now are both by Pieter Claesz, 'Still life with pipes and brazier' 1636 and 'Still Life with Wine & Smoking Implements'

Johannes Comenius 'Orbus Pictus' (an early childrens book) translated into English 1658, wrote (picture/section 5) ‘The fire gloweth, burneth, and consumeth to ashes. A spark of it is struck out of a Flint or Firestone by means of a Steel and taken by tinder in a tinder-box, lighteth a match, and after that a Candle’

I've been doing the firelightling as above, flint & steel, charcloth, tinder, bracket, crampball fungus bit, along with making rushlights for about 20 years now.

Can usually get from a spark to a flame to a candle in about 10 seconds.

The hardest one of all is natural iron pyrytes nodules (firestones) and flint, both straight from the chalk cliff, but I'm getting there!
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