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Ok, more proof that even old guys can learn something. As long-time readers of this forum know, the Old Greybearded One does various "primitive" things from time to time. Currently, I am playing around with fire pistons. A friend (ranger at one of our local Open Space Reserves) has a very nice fire piston that I would like to get, but he doesn't remember exactly where he ordered it. He remembers finding the maker via a Google search, but the current Google "fire piston" search does not turn up the same one. It is the traditional coco bolo wood, about 5 inches long, but instead of using the traditional twine on the plunger (which has to be rewound fairly frequently and isn't a really great seal), his has a rubber (neoprene) O-ring. It is about an inch diameter, and has several circumferential decorative grooves on the piston handle and piston body. Google and Yahoo searches turned up only 1 fire piston that uses an O-ring, and it definitely was not the same one (wrong material, clearly much poorer quality). Ray thinks it was from a co-op that does primitive crafts, but again, this does not pop up on the searches.
If you haven't seen a fire piston, they apparently were discovered/invented in the Phillipines, Indonesia, or similar location and discovered in those islands by the British in the late 1700s to early 1800s. They work basically like a diesel engine - heat of compression. They were used in Britain and British North America (maybe French as well) for a short time, but never became popular because sulfur matches became available about the same time. I have used the traditional type with the twine winding to provide the seal, but that requires too much maintenance. Yeah, the rubber O-ring is not period-correct (important for the re-enactments we do a couple times a year), but low maintenance is important, too.
Anyone out there who has some suggestions for sources?