Thursday, June 12, 2008
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
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.