Monday, April 11, 2011

Marcasite & Flint Fire Making

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: . I came across an article online that kind of put it all together for me, by Susan Labiste, on the Primitive Ways website at: . 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.


Keith said...

Excellent post! Thank you. I too have seen the grooved rocks & not understood how the process worked.
Cattail heads & punk wood are charred for tinder use. You will find it catches a spark very well once charred.
Thanks for the links also, appreciated.

Buzzard said...

Great post, thankyou

Triballica said...

Cool, thanks for the post. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Ta: marcasite, rather than my lump of Pyrites, which has bits flying off in all directions. [Just as well that I have a fancy flint rod & metal scraper to play with]