Author Topic: tow?  (Read 3053 times)

Offline david50

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tow?
« on: August 07, 2009, 11:52:54 PM »
where is a good place to buy tow,cant find it anywhere
"The reason a dog has so many friends, He wags his tail instead of his tongue"

Offline LRB

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Re: tow?
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2009, 12:38:18 AM »
  Susan Wallace, but I have no contact for her.

george kevil

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Re: tow?
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2009, 03:06:40 AM »
Here's what I have for Susan.
Silver Shuttle
yarns@bellsouth.net
901-323-7975

Peashooterjoe

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Re: tow?
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2009, 04:52:17 AM »
Miss Susan has two grades of Tow in fine and coarse.  ..PeashooterJoe

Offline David Rase

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Re: tow?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2009, 05:06:21 AM »
Make sure you get the TOW that is combed.  I bought some of the uncombed stuff thinking I could card it.  Not worth the difference in price.  IMO
DMR

Offline david50

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Re: tow?
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2009, 05:22:57 AM »
got in contact with her and have some on the way. i got both the combed and uncombed,figured i can use the uncombed for tinder.thanks for the help.
"The reason a dog has so many friends, He wags his tail instead of his tongue"

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: tow?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2019, 03:57:39 PM »
It looks as if you found a good source for tow... That's great!

However, there are several other sources online, including Jas. Townsend, Smiling Fox, Turkeyfoot Trading, and Dixie. 

Tow is certainly authentic for tinder, and there was a nice article in the Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly a few years ago about an intact colonial era strike-a-light kit that had some tow included.  I'll try to look up the issue to give the exact reference if you're interested.

One point about commercial flax tow that is not widely known or acknowledged is that a lot of it is treated with fire retardant.  I'm serious.  You'll want to check with your vendor, who may or may not know if it was treated.  Your best bet may be to buy it directly from someone who grows and processes it themselves.  I have bought tow from several sources, and I'm convinced some of it was treated.  You couldn't light it with a match... it would just smolder, and never really catch fire.  Some of it worked as it was supposed to, but none of it worked as well as jute fiber or the natural materials described below.

While natural (untreated) tow works as tinder, I have found there are other things that work better.  I live in Florida, and locally I can scrounge dead Spanish moss (the black, fibrous material... It won't burn when it's in the fuzzy, gray-green state), palmetto fiber, and shredded inner bark of the southern red cedar, Juniperus silicicola. These are all free for the gathering, and for me they all work better than tow.  I don't know where you live, but chances are you can source some natural material in your area if you are able to get off the pavement.  Ruxton and Winthrop both mentioned using dry grass for this purpose out in the far west, although the grass here in Florida never really gets dry enough for good tinder.

I found a reenactor website from Texas a while back, and the author of the firemaking section said he cruises the local laundromats looking for dryer lint for his fire kit.  Dryer lint?!  We can do better than that!

If you are in a situation that prevents gathering natural tinder, I would suggest jute twine.  I have used the natural jute from both Lowes and Home Depot with great results.  It really makes first-class tinder.  Cut a two foot piece, then cut that into quarters and pull it apart into fibers.  Fluff the fibers and you'll have a "bird's nest" of just the right size, and it catches fire very easily.  It works way better than flax tow, for me.  You can carry a coil of the twine in your hunting pouch and use it as cordage for the odd tying or binding jobs you encounter in the outdoors as well as use it for tinder.  I don't know when jute was first brought to the Americas, so can't vouch for its authenticity, but in this case that detail is not important to me.

Good luck with your firemaking.  Just don't burn yourself!

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Natureboy

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Re: tow?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2019, 09:56:58 PM »
At Fort Vancouver (WA), we have a lot of oakum, and it works great as tinder. It flames so fast that you have to be ready to put it down before your fingers start to hurt. I don't know where they get it, but it comes in loose rolls many feet long. My assumption is that the HBC used it to caulk their supply ships. I use it for strike-a-lite demos. as a living history interpreter. Locals also used red cedar bark, fluffed up between the hands. Cedar had a lot of uses here, for clothing, housing, canoes and cordage.

Online rich pierce

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Re: tow?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2019, 12:24:12 AM »
Just for clarity, youíre not using tow or oakum to catch a naked spark, but to grow an ember into flame, correct?
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: tow?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2019, 01:00:12 AM »
Just for clarity, youíre not using tow or oakum to catch a naked spark, but to grow an ember into flame, correct?

I don't know to whom the question is directed, but speaking for myself, I catch the spark in char cloth or charred punk.  The ember is either placed in or under the tinder (e.g. tow, palmetto fiber, etc.) and blown into flame.  Some of the guys who use ferro rods can shower sparks on the tinder and get it to light up, but I've never seen that done with a traditional flint and steel.  I think some sort of charred material is needed to catch the spark.

I hope that answers the question.

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Online rich pierce

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Re: tow?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2019, 03:08:55 AM »
Yah, I did not want folks wearing out their firesteels trying to catch spark in tow or oakum.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Natureboy

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Re: tow?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2019, 06:44:31 PM »
   At Fort Vancouver, we do a lot of tours for school children, mostly 4th-graders who are studying history. I show them how the steel creates sparks when striking the flint, show them my strike-a-light kit with char cloth and oakum tinder, and then ask if they want to go to the blacksmith shop for a demo. They jump at that, so I do my "magic act" for them. So yes, the first step is char cloth on flint catching the sparks, then wrapped in tinder, and then either blow long and hard, or whip it through the air. They love it. I also do fire starting workshops for grown-ups, and when they successfully get flame, they seem to turn into children, so happy that they made it work.

Online rich pierce

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Re: tow?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2019, 06:52:32 PM »
I prefer charred punk wood to catch spark and make a long burning hot ember. I also do bowdrill and hand drill. Hand drill requires perfect conditions for me and frequent practice.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Steve Patterson

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Re: tow?
« Reply #13 on: May 03, 2019, 09:49:10 AM »
If you're ever wandering the plains or basin, don't forget sage brush. It's the whole kit, minus char and spark
Semper Fidelis

Offline 120RIR

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Re: tow?
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2019, 08:55:25 PM »
Probably a stupid question from a relative new-comer to the long rifle world, but what other uses did tow serve?  There are what are referred to as "tow worms" for the rifles - was it also used in cleaning barrels?  Perhaps serving as wadding material for birdshot loads?

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: tow?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2019, 07:27:21 PM »
... what other uses did tow serve?  There are what are referred to as "tow worms" for the rifles - was it also used in cleaning barrels?  Perhaps serving as wadding material for birdshot loads?

Tow was indeed used for cleaning rifle and gun barrels.  The little gadget most people now call a "tow worm" was called a "gun worm" or "gunworm" back in the day.  Not sure when "tow worm" came into vogue.  I'm sure tow was also used for wadding, as you suggest.  I have used it for that purpose. 

I know that flax tow was in common use in the settled areas, and I'm sure some was carried into the backcountry in the shot pouches (now called "hunting pouches"  ;)) of the frontiersmen, but I've never seen tow on the lists of trade goods destined for the frontier trading posts.  Maybe it was such a common item it was taken for granted, or I suppose the hunters may have used worn out shirt fabric or something for wiping their guns.  The Spanish word for "gun worm" is sacatrapos, literally "rags-puller."

I enjoyed Natureboy's posts regarding oakum, and I appreciate his input.  I had not thought of that before, but it would have made perfect sense to use oakum for tinder.  Any outpost near a harbor or seaport would likely have access to it, as quantities of it were used for caulking the planking of wooden ships.  In reading a little more about it, I discovered a lot of oakum is treated with Stockholm tar, which is a very high grade of pine tar.  I expect this would enhance its flammability, which would make it a great addition to your firemaking kit, but it probably wouldn't be best choice for wadding your fowling piece... you might set the woods on fire!

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Natureboy

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Re: tow?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2019, 08:13:43 PM »
   Notchy Bob is right that oakum wouldn't work well for cleaning a gun. It doesn't hold together as well as tow, and it has a lot of lint that would also gum things up. Tow works best with a gun worm. I keep tow in my patch box, but oakum in my strike-a-light. I wondered why oakum seems to burn quickly, and Bob has cleared that up. I have to be ready to put the flaming wad in place, because its volatility gives me only about a second or two before my fingers feel it.

Offline Smokey Plainsman

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Re: tow?
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2019, 07:59:08 AM »
Tow is the unspun course fibers of the flax plant, it was used by the ancient peoples for gun cleaning.

Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: tow?
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2019, 08:19:46 AM »
Smokey,

I think it was used a long time before guns were thought of as well.  Linen being used a very long time.

Online rich pierce

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Re: tow?
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2019, 07:41:53 PM »
The convenient thing about using a gun worm is that any fibrous material or rags of any thickness can be used to clean a gun.  It would be easy to find something that would work in most circumstances.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline Clark B

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Re: tow?
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2019, 12:59:52 AM »
I never realized Ancient peoples had guns.
Psalms 144

Online rich pierce

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Re: tow?
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2019, 02:43:05 AM »
I never realized Ancient peoples had guns.

Iíve been called ancient.
St. Louis, Missouri

Offline RVAH-7

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Re: tow?
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2019, 04:13:55 AM »
Save your supply of flax tow for cleaning your barrel.  Don't any of you guys ever use fallen or abandoned old bird nests??  Pack 'em back home, store 'em dry and give them a try. Some become loose and messy over time but they're the REAL deal.  Avoid ones found close to barns & stables as they'll be woven with a few hairs which don't smell real swell when burning.

Offline Clark B

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Re: tow?
« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2019, 06:37:23 AM »
I never realized Ancient peoples had guns.

Iíve been called ancient.

The young guys at work call me that. I don't even hardly have any wrinkles yet.
Psalms 144