Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Flint and Steel

The art of fire making has had a history almost as long as our species has walked upright.

"Scientists have found evidence of controlled fire use inside an ancient cave in Israel that was home to several lineages of prehistoric hominins, the predecessors of modern humans. Artifacts discovered at the site, located in the Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve in northern Israel, suggest that fire use became routine among hominins around 350,000 years ago...."

Several theories suggest the two deciding factors in the evolution of Homo Sapiens was the ability to communicate and to make fire....specifically to use fire to cook and gain sufficient nutritional calories to evolve.

"could there be a primitive tribe that survives without cooking? In fact, no such people have ever been found. Nor will they be, according to a provocative theory by Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham, who believes that fire is needed to fuel the organ that makes possible all the other products of culture, language included: the human brain."

With a nod to the benefits of fire making in the success and history of our species I recently picked up a flint and steel kit for no other reason that it is a historically accurate method for creating fire. There are many modern ways of achieving this including matches, lighters and magnesium rods but nothing has the cool factor like flint and steel.

Used (possibly) as early as 3200BC in Mesopotamia but probably not widespread until c.1200 BC with the development of improved iron smithing techniques the flint and steel percussion method of fire making was the predominate form used well into the modern era.

The science is simple. Essentially the sharp edge of the flint is used to shave off tiny molten slivers of iron(sparks) when struck at an appropriate angle that then will create an ember upon a (flammable) tinder material. That ember is then placed into a "bird nest" tinder bundle and encouraged to flame by blowing air (oxygen) upon the sparked ember.

The Kit

Included in the kit purchased from Canadian Outdoor Equipment was a piece of flint, iron striker, small bag of char cloth( spark tinder) and a bunch of jute twine used to make the bird nest tinder bundle.

The kit does not come in a tin or pouch but either can be purchased separately. I actually have three options available from some existing gear I have hanging about....

A - a leather medieval belt bag....

B - a leather Renaissance/ early modern pouch....

C - the classic Altoids tin (depending upon the size of the flint and striker)...

I also picked up the char cloth tin as well. Easy to make yourself if you have a tin handy and some 100% cotton cloth.

Pretty cool fire making kit.
Theory to Practice

Stay tuned.......

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