Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tinder Lighter


These images are of a rare signed 17th Century French Tinder Lighter.





The majority of antique tinder pistols, are rather difficult to identify by country, or, to accurately date. Though not a super rare item they are somewhat scarce, probably due to their not being traded as often as firearms. I doubt that many examples, pre 1720’s have survived. There seems to be many of the later box lock types which bear signatures and sometimes
dates.

From what I can surmise, (there is very little published in the way of photographs or written material) so one is really speculating that many were just copied one from the other with subtle variations mostly due to the knowledge or whims of the individual craftsman.

Unlike firearms, I believe most tinder lighters were made not by gunsmiths, but semi professional craftsman. Their influences often leaned more toward domestic artifacts and even furniture. Quality can go from high art designs to very crude. They seem to have come into “fashion” around 1740. There are many variations, with some even being built into writing desks and connected to candle stands. I have seen some examples which have all the identifiable design work of a gunsmith so these can be placed and dated with some degree of accuracy. Their basic flintlock configurations often do not correspond to the more identifiable styles found on pistols and muskets of a particular period and there seems to be no “definite look” i.e. like the style differences between French, Dutch German & English, gun locks. Perhaps American made tinder lighters may have been created or, “made up” from parts available from different sources. Most of the designs have a storage compartment either inside the main body or under the pistol grip.

Smoldering tinder does not give enough of a flame to successfully light a candle wick so there was an intermediate match employed. (Brimstone match). This was simply a small match stick sized piece of soft pine with sharpened ends that had been soaked in sulfur. There were probably many different types of tinder materials used, char cloth or tinder fungus perhaps being the most common. R.W.

Photos by Robert Weil.
This article originally appeared in Flintlock, a publication of the CLA.

3 comments:

  1. My personal thoughts are that charred cloth was not used as much as plant tinders were, especially in the early period.
    Fomes Fomentarius was a bracket fungus used in the northern hemisphere, England, Europe and the New World. From this fungus Amadou was extracted to be used as tinder.
    As you rightly say, spunks were used to create fire from smouldering tinder, though having used them I doubt they were made as short as you think they were.
    Recently I came across an 18th century alarm clock which worked similar to the tinderlighter but utilised gunpowder to light a candle. This got me wondering if this method was ever used with a tinderlighter?
    I have a couple so I will experiment.
    It is possible to blow on the tinder to create heat enough to melt wax/grease from a candle and the resulting drips on the tinder cause it to make flame. This does tend to use a lot of tinder though.
    Great pictures, thanks for sharing.
    Regards, Le Loup.
    http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com

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  2. Hello. I've just been reading your blog entry on flintlock tiner lighters. As a collector of,and dealer in, early guns, I have come across a fair number of flintlock tinder lighters. I think they were made in most European countries, although most ones of the type you illusstrate, i.e. a form of sidelock flintlock, were made in England or Germany. One of the most commonly encountered English makers is John Savage, who appears to have been working from the mid eighteenth century onwards. Most of the French ones I have examined are of the boxlock flintlock type, and are usually well made, but plain. I have seen one or two miquelet lock ones, with locks of the Spanish kind (patilla lock). And I know of two wheellock tinder lighters, and I believe a third one went through the auction rooms a year of so ago. I also came across a musket lock in Denmark which had been blacksmith adapted to form a tinder lighter. It's a subject which deserves more research than has been done so far.
    Kind regards, Mike.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello. I've just been reading your blog entry on flintlock tiner lighters. As a collector of,and dealer in, early guns, I have come across a fair number of flintlock tinder lighters. I think they were made in most European countries, although most ones of the type you illusstrate, i.e. a form of sidelock flintlock, were made in England or Germany. One of the most commonly encountered English makers is John Savage, who appears to have been working from the mid eighteenth century onwards. Most of the French ones I have examined are of the boxlock flintlock type, and are usually well made, but plain. I have seen one or two miquelet lock ones, with locks of the Spanish kind (patilla lock). And I know of two wheellock tinder lighters, and I believe a third one went through the auction rooms a year of so ago. I also came across a musket lock in Denmark which had been blacksmith adapted to form a tinder lighter. It's a subject which deserves more research than has been done so far.
    Kind regards, Mike.

    ReplyDelete