Spring finds me doing some knapping and making knives, processing sinew, and continuing to experiment with the marcasite and flint firemaking. Sometimes I get off work and have to fire up a bow drill hot coal just to smell the aroma of smoldering yucca. I've been anxious to get out and sleep under the stars, but family commitments have kept me busy.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Decades ago, I remember looking at an old library book, that had a line drawing of a round nodule with a groove in it. It said it was one of the oldest artifacts, from Europe, of a piece of iron pyrite that was used in fire making. Over the years I had tried banging rocks together in an attempt to understand this method. Refining my understanding, I've come to understand that the form of pyrite used is what is called 'marcasite'. There are various forms of iron pyrite with varying crystal formations. The type here has a crystal starburst pattern. I received this piece, in the mail, from Storm in 2008 shortly before he passed away. You can see his work at: www.stoneageskills.com . I came across an article online that kind of put it all together for me, by Susan Labiste, on the Primitive Ways website at: http://primitiveways.com/marcasite%20and%20flint.html . Great researched article and video...check it out. Al Cornell also had an article in the Spring 2008, Bulletin of Primitive Technology, concerning experimenting with various natural spark catchers. The tinder, or spark catcher, is key as the sparks made by scraping the marcasite nodule with a sharp edged flint are very small and almost imperceptible. In truth, every time I wanted to try this technic I had to go into a darkened area so that I could see the sparks and tinder catch. I do not know if I could do this in the light of day very well. Almost all the time when I read about this technic, tinder fungus was used. As I did not have this, I slowly learned that I could substitute other natural materials. Ultimately, I have been having success with cattail or milkweed seed down. I roll this between the palms to condense the fibers into a mat. Also, I have added rotted punk wood finely crushed to the down to help grow and spread the coal once it catches. In the picture is a milkweed pod with smoldering down in it. I kind of stumbled onto the idea of rolling the seed down, and then replacing it in the pod. I strike the sparks onto the down in the pod. When it catches, I have lit a dry piece of punk wood with the smoldering down, and transferred the punk wood into an awaiting tinder nest to be blown into flame. The pod, I simply fold over and smother the coal, leaving me charred down in it own carrying pod for the next fire. This technic has taken years for me to put my mind around, connecting all the dots, ...and thanx in great part to Susan Labiste, Al Cornell, and Storm.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Finished another stone knife, nice and sharp,...have the cuts to prove it. My posts have been sporadic over the past year as I have had to make some different choices of how I use my time. Primitive skills is still an ever present passion though. I have more ideas of projects I would like to do, than time and energy to carry them out. I have been playing with fire making with a marcassite nodule. The challenge is finding the right natural material to serve as a spark catcher, as the sparks are quite small. But I did come across an interesting article in the Bulletin for the Society of Primitive Technology. Al Cornell was addressing this same subject of spark catchers for flint and marcassite firemaking. So, I have my next project to work on, in between flintknapping sessions, and will report on this later.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Over the Christmas holiday I stumbled across several you tube videos, by Brandon K. from central Nebraska, that kind of blew me away. He was demonstrating the firesaw technic using cornstalks as the hearth and saw...and doing it in 10-20 seconds! Also, he made a hot coal with the bow drill method using a corn cob as the drill component. Wow, I have cornfields all around me and never have considered this. So, with all the snow/moisture in the area latley I settled for purchasing some bagged corn cobs, you use to feed the squirrels, from the local plant nursery. I cleaned the dried corn from the cob and hastily gathered a used cottonwood fireboard, bow, and socket, and found a piece of dry ground under a shelter. After a couple of attempts fumbling around to get the drill situated to the socket, and tighten the bow cord, I produced a hot coal in 20 - 30 seconds. I have never read of corn stalks or cobs being used historically for firemaking, though it was an indiginous plant to the Americas. If I am correct the Indians taught the Mayflower colonists to grow corn in the New World to survive. Brandon related, as he considered the characteristics of plants that would work for firemaking, that he successfully used the stalks of yucca, mullein, sunflower, corn, bull thistle, hemp, and goldenrod. Hmmm....now I have a few more local plants to try I hadn't considered. Check out Brandon's you tube video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZCS-BIFmBQ