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I Forge Iron

See the Firestarter on Pawn Stars tonight?

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Without more I have to question Pawn Stars Rick Harrison's attribution to Rome for the firesteel. That form of firesteel has been around from biblical times to the 19th century and it is very tough to accurately assign an age. It does seem to me that this "chain link" form is generally European while the form which looks a little like a pick or is an asymetric U shape (the pick part or the point is for knapping flint) is more mid-eastern/eastern Europe/Turkish/Persian. Symetrical U shapes were also common. Basically, it is extremely difficult to assign an age and culture to any particular firesteel based on morphology.

That said, there are diagnostic Tibetan/Chinese firesteels which have a gently curve steel attached to a small leather purse for tinder.

The only reference that I have ever found on firesteels is a little book I picked up at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London some years ago. It is Gli Acciarini/Fire-Steel by Paolo De Sanctis and Maurizio Fantoni, Be-Ma Editrice, Milan, Italy, 1991, ISBN 88-7143-118-9. Fortunately for me it is bi-lingual in Italian and English.

There are, of course, references to individual firesteels in various archeological reports.

The Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, NE has a very extensive collection and display of North American types.

Simmons, Marc and our own Frank Turley in Southwestern Colonial Ironwork, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1980 illustrates a number of southwestern types on pages 120-121. BTW, this is a really excellent book that should be in any smith's library IMO.

I like the word "firesteel" in preference to the equally correct "strike-a-light" or "flint striker." It just sounds cooler.

George M.

PS One garage door spring will make a LOT of firesteels.

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"Early Finnish Art: From Prehistory to the Middle Ages" Istvan Racz; as several examples of firesteels IIRC and I definitely remember them in "The Viking", Tre Tryckare, Crescent Books, 1972.

As mentioned many common styled were used for over 1000 years---the ones in "The Viking" were identical to some of the ones used during the early 1800's in America.

(and I have seen several examples of the pouch with a firesteel built into it from strictly european contexts too)

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