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Gunpowder Tinder Fire Lighting. And more info besides.

Le Loup

Rüdiger Nehberg
Apr 29, 2011
Reaction score
New England NSW
In the 18th century in the New World, woodsmen & woodswomen of many nations always carried a gun in the woods. With this gun they could provide food, & if needs be fire to cook that food (see firelock Fire Lighting). Mostly of course whites & Indians used the flint,steel & tinderbox. This method taught the user many skills, skills that could also be used when using the fire-bow. Also of course they carried gunpowder in a horn, & sometimes extra gunpowder in a gunpowder wallet or bag. When this wallet or bag was empty of gunpowder, they would often store spare tinder in this bag to keep it dry. The gunpowder dust of course would get into the tinder & so make it catch a spark even easier than normal.
“ takes fire readily from the spark of a steel: but it is much improved by being kept dry in a bag that has contained gunpowder.”
Samuel Hearne, Northern Canada, 1772

Another way to make fire if one had neglected to prepare more tinder in the tinderbox was to place a small amount of gunpowder on the uncharred tinder & strike a spark on that.

'Our party having separated, the important articles of tinder and matches were in the baggage of the division which had proceeded: and as the night was rainy and excessively dark, we were, for some time, under anxiety, lest we should have been deprived of the comfort and security of a fire. Fortunately, my powder-flask was in my saddlebags, and we succeeded in supplying the place of tinder, by moistening a piece of paper, and rubbing it with gunpowder. We placed our touch paper on an old cambric handkerchief, as the most readily combustible article in our stores. On this we scattered gunpowder pretty copiously, and our flint and steel soon enabled us to raise a flame, and collecting dry wood, we made a noble fire.
Birkbeck, Morris. Notes on a Journey in America . London: Severn and Co., 1818.


The problem these days is that many people do not have the old skills. Using modern fire lighting tools such as the "ferrocium rod" is partly to blame for this. Using the ferocium rod only teaches you how to use the ferrocium rod. It is so easy to make fire under good conditions, that few bother to further their knowledge.