Author Topic: Tinder Tin  (Read 2015 times)

Offline Bill-52

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Tinder Tin
« on: March 17, 2021, 09:19:09 PM »
I picked this tinder tin up several years ago and thought I would share pictures of it.  Not sure of it's date of use.  There are no markings on it.  I just liked it at first sight.





Offline Jeff Murray

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2021, 09:28:35 PM »
that is a cool looking striker.  Can you tell if the working edges were forged in that shape or if it has really seen a lot of use?

Offline Bill-52

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2021, 09:48:19 PM »
Jeff, Based on the uneven wear of the working edges, I would guess its due to a lot of use.  Bill

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2021, 08:55:59 PM »
Wow, what a great find!  I'm assuming the fibrous materials are new, but did the striker and flint come with the tinderbox?

Based on the reading I've done, that particular type of striker is a uniquely New Mexican style, although I don't doubt a few of them traveled outside that area.  These have an advantage over the "C" shaped strikers, in that they provide two striking faces to distribute the wear.  That one does show a good deal of wear, as many of them do.  While I suppose many old strikers were of steel from recycled files, which could theoretically be heat treated, many antique fire steels were case-hardened.  It is my understanding that files back in those days were themselves case-hardened, in many instances.  As the carburized surface on the striker was worn through, wear would accelerate with continuous usage and I would think sparking would diminish, requiring a trip back to the blacksmith to be case-hardened again.

This style of striker was called an eslabon in Spanish.  This translates to English as "link."  It is my belief that the they were called this because the "bright oval" steels of the fur trade do in fact resemble flattened links of chain, and someone expanded the meaning to include other types of strikers.  The term, chispa, meaning "spark," was also applied to some types of fire steels in the Spanish-speaking world, most notably the little coffin-shaped strikers.

Thanks for showing these interesting artifacts!

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 Bill-52

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2021, 11:12:49 PM »
Notchy Bob, thanks for all the information you provided.  Yes, the striker, flint and materials were in the tin when I bought it.  Though I also assume the materials were a more recent addition.  It would appear the striker was a repurposed file -- I've attached a photo of the other side of the striker.  Bill



Offline Elnathan

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2021, 03:40:08 PM »
Bill,

Here is an article on shooting pouches that has a couple examples of Mexican-style strikers supposedly found in Virginia, including a box and striker near identical to yours :
https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.96/82r.d3e.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Hunting-Bags-3.pdf

See figure 25a-c

I wonder if strikers of this style were also used in Florida or Cuba, and found their way up the coast from time to time. Also, there was a good bit of trade between the Spanish, French, and Anglo-American settlers up and down the Mississippi by the 1790s, so I suspect that a certain amount of colonial Spanish handicrafts found their way into the Tennessee-Kentucky-Ohio regions.

Edited to add: I made a replica of one of those horseshoe-shaped Spanish strikers a couple summers back. I was working off memory, though and made tear-drop-shaped instead of having the two sides parallel. I'm guessing that your striker has a very thin edge along the outside of the curve and a very thick one inside, where the metal thinned or compressed in the bend - I tried, with only limited success, to keep mine a consistent cross-section throughout, but the remnants of file teeth on yours suggests that the smith didn't worry about that.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2021, 04:27:08 PM by Elnathan »
A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition -  Rudyard Kipling

Offline Bill-52

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2021, 06:39:59 PM »
Elnathan, thanks very much for your information and especially the link.  All very helpful.  And, yes, the smith didn't bother with a consistent cross section at the bend.  The outside is 3/16" thick and the inside is just shy of 5/16" thick.  The striking edges are both 1/4" thick, presumably per the original file.

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: Tinder Tin
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2021, 12:05:56 AM »
Elnathan, thank you very much for the link!  It was Part 3 of a three-part article.  I poked around some and found the other two.  All were excellent!

I have no idea how those strikers in your link ended up in Virginia.  One can only speculate, at this point.  The "U" shaped firesteels of that particular configuration are nearly always associated with the American southwest, especially New Mexico.  I have always lived in Florida, and I'm interested in our local history.  In researching firesteels, I contacted some of the state archaeologists at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee several years ago, and asked what sort of steels they might have excavated at that site and others around the state.  I was advised that they knew of only one, dug up in St. Augustine, that I believe they associated with the early American phase (post-1821).  It has been my understanding that most of the goods traded to the Indians by the Spanish around the Gulf coast and in Florida during the Spanish colonial periods (1565-1763 and 1783-1821) were obtained from Britain and France, as Spain did not produce much in the way of trade goods.  However, the Spanish crown was notorious for providing very little support for its colonists in the Americas, and Spanish blacksmiths in the colonies had well-developed skills.  You would think the Spanish colonial sites would produce more iron artifacts than have been recovered.  Maybe Dr. Levy will see this and contribute some thoughts.

Here are some other examples of Spanish/New Mexican firesteels, all from pictures found on the web.  This first one is the type frequently called a chispa.  I have heard of using that hole in the steel as a pulling device for a stuck ramrod, but even if it works, you could probably expect a pretty deep gouge in the side of your rod:



This one is a typical eslabon, in remarkably good condition.  Most that you see show extensive wear.  I wonder if this might be a reproduction:



This chispa is in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), and was collected with its pouch from the San Carlos Apache:



The next one is also in the AMNH, and came from Jemez.  It is shorter and broader than the others shown, but I have seen several similar examples:



...and a more typical eslabone, apparently from New Mexico:



These last ones are in my personal collection, and are all reproductions.  The one on the upper left was made by Don Abbott.  It is my favorite steel. The one on the upper right was made by Darryl Aune, and is also a great sparker.  The "B" shaped one on the bottom was also made by Mr. Aune, in an earlier Spanish style.  I think this type may have been more typical of the ones carried during the entradas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, while the "U" shaped ones may be from a later colonial era:



The eslabons made by Mr. Abbott and Mr. Aune are both of uniform thickness.  Both of these steels were made from files, both by master blacksmiths.  I had not given any thought to thickening of the steel on the inside of the bend.  It is interesting to know that Bill-52's original and Elnathan's reproduction both have this feature.  As they say in the scientific community, more research is needed...

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