Fire Making By Percussion The White Man's Method; How To Use Flint And Steel -- Where To Obtain The Flint And Steel -- Chucknucks, Punk Boxes, Spunks And Matches -- Real Lucifer Matches -- Slow Match -- How To Catch The Spark -- Substitutes For Flint And Steel. Fire Making by Percussion. THE preceding methods of producing fire by friction are not the white man's methods, and are not the methods used by our pioneer ancestors. The only case the writer can remember in which the pioneer white people used rubbing-sticks to produce fire, is one where the refugees from an Indian uprising and massacre in Oregon made fire from rubbing-sticks made of the bits of the splintered wood of a lightning stricken tree. On that occasion they evidently left home in a great hurry, without their flints and steels. But this one instance in itself is sufficient to show to all outdoor people the great importance of the knowledge and ability to make friction fires. Like our good friend, the artist, explorer and author, Captain Belmore Browne, one may at any time get in a fix where one's matches are soaked, destroyed or lost and be compelled either to eat one's food raw or resort to rubbing-sticks to start a fire. It is well, however, to remember that the flint and steel is... THE WHITE MAN'S METHOD And notwithstanding the fire canes of our Colonial dudes, or the Pyropneumatic apparatus of the forgotten Mr. Bank, fire by percussion, that is, fire by friction of flint and steel, was universal here in America up to a quite recent date, and it is still in common use among many of my Camp-fire Club friends, and among many smokers.
How TO USE FLINT AND STEEL In the age of flint and steel, the guns were all fired by this method. Fig. 33 shows the gun-lock of an old musket; the hammer holds a piece of flint, a small piece of buckskin is folded around the inside edge of the flint and serves to give a grip to the top part of the hammer which is screwed down. To fire the gun the hammer is pulled back at full cock, the steel sets opposite the hammer and is joined to the top of the powder-pan by a hinge. When the trigger is pulled the hammer comes down, striking the flint against the steel, throwing it back and exposing the powder at the same time to the sparks which ignite the powder in the gun by means of the touch hole in the side of the barrel of same. This is the sort of a hammer and lock used by all of our ancestors up to the time of the Civil War, and it is the sort of a hammer used by the Confederates as late as the battle of Fort Donaldson. In the olden times some people had flint lock pistols without barrels, which were used only to ignite punk for the purpose of fire-building. But when one starts a fire by means of flint and steel one's hands must act the part of the hammer, the back of one's knife may be the steel, then a piece of flint or a gritty rock and a piece of punk will produce the spark necessary to generate the flames. In the good old pioneer days, when we all wore buckskin clothes and did not bother about the price of wool, when we wore coonskin caps and cared little for the price of felt hats, everybody, from Miles Standish and George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, used flint and steel. Fig. 27 shows ten different forms of steel used by our grandsires and granddames. Flint in its natural condition may be found in many states, but, as a rule, any stone which was used by the Indians for arrowheads will answer as a substitute for flint,* that is, any gritty or glassy stone, like quartz, agate, jasper or iron pyrites. Soft stones, limestones, slate or soapstones are not good for this purpose. * To-day flint may be obtained at Bannermans, 501 Broadway, New York City, where they also have ancient steels which were used by the U. S. soldiers. The flints may also be purchased from Wards Natural Science Establishment at Rochester, New York, and the author found a plentiful supply of flints at one of the Army and Navy stores in New York. THE STEEL Most of the old steels were so made that one might grasp them while thrusting one's fingers through the inside of the oval steel, Fig. 28 (left handed). Some of the Scoutmasters of the Boy Scouts of America make their own steels of broken pieces of flat ten-cent files, but this is unnecessary because every outdoor man, and woman, too, is supposed to carry a good sized jack-knife and the back of the blade of the jackknife, or the back of the blade of one's hunting knife is good enough steel for anyone who has acquired the art of using it as a steel. But if you must have steels manufactured at the machine shop or make them yourself, let them be an inch wide, a quarter of an inch thick, and long enough to form an ellipse like one of those shown in Fig. 27. Have the sharp edges rounded off. If you desire you may have your steel twisted in any of the shapes shown in Fig. 27 to imitate the ones used by your great granddaddies. THE CHUCKNUCK But the neatest thing in the way of flint and steel which has come to the writer's attention is shown by Fig. 31. This is a small German silver box which still contains some of the original fungus used for punk and an ancient, well-battered piece of flint. Around the box is fitted the steel in the form of a band, and the whole thing is so small that it may be carried in one's vest pocket. This was once the property of Phillip Hagner, Lieutenant, of the City of Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution, that is, custodian of city property. He took the Christ Church bells from Philadelphia to Bethlehem by ox-cart before the city was occupied by the British. Phillip Hagner came from Saxony about 1700 and settled in Germantown, Philadelphia. This silver box was presented to the National Scout Commissioner by Mr. Isaac Sutton, Scout Commissioner for Delaware and Montgomery Counties, Boy Scouts of America. PUNK BOXES The cowhorn punk box is made by sawing off the small end and then the point of a cow's horn (Fig. 30). A small hole is next bored through the solid small end of the horn to connect with the natural open space further down, a strip of rawhide or whang string larger than the hole is forced through the small end and secured by a knot on the inside, which prevents it from being pulled out. The large end of the horn is closed by a piece of thick sole leather attached to the thong, by tying a hard knot in the end and pulling the thong through a hole in the center of the stopper until the knot is snug against the leather disk; this should be done before the wet leather is allowed to dry. If the thong and leather stopper are made to fit the horn tightly, the dry baked rags, the charred cotton, or whatever substance you use for punk, when placed in the horn will be perfectly protected from moisture or dampness. SULPHUR HEADED SPUNKS AND MATCHES These old sulphur "spunks" were nothing more than kindling wood or tinder, because they would not ignite by rubbing but were lighted by putting the sulphur end in the flame. According to our modern ideas of convenience they appear very primitive. They were called "spunks" in England and "matches" in America, and varied in length from three to seven inches, were generally packed in bundles from a dozen to two dozen and tied together with bits of straw. Some spunks made as late as 1830 are considered rare enough to be carefully preserved in the York Museum in England (Fig. 32-1/2). The ones illustrated in Fig. 32 are a Long Island product, and were given to the author by the late John Halleran, the most noted antique collector on Long Island. These are carefully preserved among the antiquities in the writer's studio. But they are less than half the length of the ones formerly used on the Western Reserve. With the ancient matches in the studio are also two old pioneer tinder boxes with flints and steels. The tinder boxes are made of tin and contain a lot of baked rags. The inside lid acts as an extinguisher with which to cover up the punk or tinder in the box after you have lighted the candle in the tin lid of the box (Fig. 32). The matches we use today are evolved from these old sulphur spunks. When the writer was a little fellow up in the Western Reserve on the shores of Lake Erie, he was intensely interested in an old lady making sulphur matches. Over the open fire she melted the sulphur in an iron kettle in which she dipped the ends of some pine slivers. The sulphur on the end of the sticks was then allowed to cool and harden. These matches were about the length of a lead pencil and could only be lighted by thrusting the sulphur into the flame. So, although having been born in the age of Lucifer matches, the writer was yet fortunate enough to see manufactured and to remember the contemporary ancestors of our present-day "safety" match. THE REAL LUCIFER MATCH That is, the match which lights from friction, is the invention of Isaac Holden, M. P. According to the Pall Mall Gazette, Mr. Holden said, "In the morning I used to get up at 4 o'clock in order to pursue my studies, and I used at that time the flint and steel, in the use of which I found very great inconvenience. Of course, I knew, as other chemists did, the explosive material that was necessary in order to produce instantaneous light, but it was very difficult to obtain a light on wood by that explosive material, and the idea occurred to me to put sulphur under the explosive mixture. I did that and showed it in my next lecture on chemistry, a course of which I was delivering at a large academy." Because every real woodsman is a student, as well as a sentimentalist, a brief history is given of these fire implements to entertain him as we jog along the "trace." All these things are blazes which mark the trail to the button in our wall which now produces the electric light. Some of them, like the clay cylinders found in the ruins of Babylon, are only useful in a historical sense, but many of them are essentially practical for woodcraft. How TO MAKE A CHUCKNUCK The slow match or punk rope to fit in the brass cylinder may be made of candle wick or coach wick purchased at the hardware store; such wick is about three-eighths of an inch in diameter. Scout Commissioner John H. Chase of Youngstown, Ohio, suggests that the rope may be made from the wastes of a machine shop or a garage; but one of the best woodsmen I know is Mr. Frederick K. Vreeland, and he uses the apparatus shown by Fig. 34, which is made of the yellow fuse rope, or punk rope, which may be purchased at cigar stores. He fastens a cork in one end of the rope by a wire, he pulls the other end of the rope through the end of the brass cartridge shell which has been filed off for that purpose. The end of the fuse rope must be charred, so as to catch the spark. To get the spark he takes the back of the blade of his knife (Fig. 35), and strikes the bit of flint as you would with flint and steel, holding the charred end of the punk against the flint, as shown by the diagram (Fig. 29). Loose cotton and various vegetable fibers twisted into a rope soaked in water and gunpowder will make good punk when dry. To GET THE SPARK Place the charred end of the rope on the flint, the charred portion about one thirty-second of an inch back of the edge of the flint where the latter is to be struck by the steel; hold the punk in place with the thumb of the left hand, as in the diagram (Fig. 29) . Hold the knife about six inches above at an angle of about forty-five degrees from the flint, turn your knife so that the edge of the back of the blade will strike, then come down at an angle about thirty-five degrees with a sharp scraping blow. This should send the spark into the punk at the first or second blow. Now blow the punk until it is all aglow and you are ready to set your tinder afire. Push the punk into the middle of a handful of tinder and blow it until it is aflame, and the deed is done! All these pocket contrivances for striking fire were formerly known as "striker-lights" or "chucknucks." A SUBSTITUTE FOR FLINT AND STEEL The Malays having neither flint nor steel ingeniously substitute for the flint a piece of broken chinaware, and for the steel a bamboo joint, and they produce a spark by striking the broken china against the joint of the bamboo, just as we do with the flint and steel. 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