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Militia Flint and Steel History

Militia Flint and Steel History

Before the late 19th century there were no matches, lighters, or easy way to obtain a fire to readily light candles, stoves or fires. Instead, people had to produce a flame using skill and luck with a tinderbox. These tin boxes contained a piece of steel which was shaped similar to a horseshoe, a piece of flint, which is one of the hardest substances known to man, a smaller disk of tin to cover and extinguish the loose bits of charred linen which was deemed tinder, and some small splints of wood which were dipped into sulfur and used to catch the flames once the tinder had ignited. The cover of the tinderbox was commonly made with a socket to hold a candle.

The flint was held in one hand and struck against the steel, which fit over the knuckles of the other hand. In this way, particles of metal, were heated by friction to such intensity that they burnt in the air, were torn off, creating sparks, which fell into the tinder and thus it ignited. This smoldering combustion was made larger by blowing into the tinder until it was sufficient to ignite the sulfur tipped splints of wood, which were then known as matches. The inside small cover was then used to put out the tinder and the candle that rested on the top of the lid was lit from the sulfur tipped match.

It was not until around 1830 that matches of wood tipped phosphorus were introduced. Until that time, tinderboxes were the most convenient method of obtaining a fire to light the candles in the home after dusk. After the advent of convenient matches tinderboxes began to lose their popularity and use. Before long the tinderbox was an implement of the past.

Flint and Steel Demonstration Video on YouTube



Flintlock Muskets  Flintlock ignition was used on most European and American firearms from the late 17th century until the 1830s.  Probably invented in France by Martin Le Bourgeoys in the 1620s, the flintlock mechanism could be set in two positions – one for firing and one for safety.

With its basic design improved by only a few details, the flintlock ignition not only dominated the battlefields of all major wars of that period but also was an important civilian weapon as well, used for dueling, self-defense and game shooting. Many of these weapons showed the highest standards of craftsmanship.