I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!



Methods to Create Fire

Matches (lucifers) and lighters are obviously not period. Sulfur-soaked cord—known as matches—were from a later time and used with gunpowder.

There are several acceptable period ways for starting fires:

Flint & Steel

The best shaped steel for producing the fire is what is called a strike-a-light. Flint and steel is a primitive fire-making technique dating back into the Iron Age when steel was first available. It is an easy and effective way to start fires in a wilderness environment. But speed is important since the beginning flame may be fragile and fleeting.

A wide variety of strike-a-lights existed at the time, and many did not change much for centuries afterwards. You do not want to use a knife or another tool for the steel unless necessary, since you use the flint to shear off a piece of the steel to produce the spark.

The flint or pyrite must be large enough to hold in you hand, and it should be knapped to a point that is used against the steel. It should be reknapped whenever the necessary point gets too blunt. It is recommended that the steel striker be struck against the sharp edge of the flint. This creates sparks, and these sparks ignite the tinder. The tinder is joined with a larger tinder bundle which is blown—gently—into flame.


While flint and steel can create a fire without necessarily being dry—the tinder must be dry, of course—creating fire through friction requires that the wood being used is dry.

A fireboard is a piece of flat, dry, brittle wood has a depression that will accept the end of the drill, a straight piece of wood with a point that fits into the depression on the fireboard. The drill will then be spun back and forth either by bow or between your hands. When the point of friction is warm enough to smolder, tinder is added to catch fire.

Magnifying Glass

The use of magnifying glasses to start fires is purely hypothetical. However, the Norse and others had magnifying lenses—glass and crystal—of various types and ability.

These lenses were used as jewelry and possibly magnification since that had long been done. However, wearing such a jewel on your chest during a bright day will surely cause warmth, and the Norse would have certainly noticed this and exploited that ability.

The method of fire by use of a magnifying lens should be familiar with any child who has used a magnifying glass too burn ants or who has watched “Ball of Fire.” The light focused by the lens must be carefully focused and aimed.

Maintaining a Spark

Fires were usually kept going once started, and this is true even if the fire was not stationary. Long-burning fires—actually smoldering sparks—were sometimes placed in a repository—often a shell—that did not extinguish the spark nor burst into fire. This obviously requires a lot of experimentation and practice, and it is altogether easier to start each fire anew in whatever manner is most advantageous!

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