Fire pistons - the Old Greybeard asks a question (GASP!)

4:38 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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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?

7:06 p.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
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Next time you search Google for a product, be sure to check Froogle as well...

http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=fire%20piston

Looks like you can get one on eBay for $45. Cocobolo and everything.

7:10 p.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
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7:13 p.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
(Guest)

And one more...

http://www.firepistons.com/

8:14 p.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
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Had a talk with Jeff today (firepistons.com, company is Wilderness Solutions). His company pops up near the top of both Google and Yahoo searches (and others as well). Although his site does not show the O-ring variation, I came across his name and contributions to a "primitives" web discussion group in a section where O-rings were being talked about, so decided to call him to see what he had to say. He makes "custom" designs, such as copies of the ones the Smithsonian has dating back more than a century. The upshot is that he is making me a "custom" one that has the O-ring.

Interesting fellow. We also talked a bit about other "primitive" fire methods - the well known bow drill and hand drill type, lesser known fire plow (unless you saw "Castaway", where Tom Hanks uses a fire plow), "flint" and steel, and (yes, Ed), hitting two rocks together (early humans did not have steel, hence no flint and steel). The two rocks technique is highly dependent on the type of rock, but it does work (I've done it).

11:00 a.m. on May 7, 2006 (EDT)
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Hi Bill,
My 1996 issue of the Great Lakes Primitives have an article on fire pistons. It is in pdf 1.2MB. Reply with your email address at whitetailmec"at"yahoo"dot"ca if you want a copy.
Les

5:15 a.m. on June 14, 2006 (EDT)
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http://www.firepistons.com/
I cant believe that no one here knows about these things. Ive known about them for ages it seems. Anyway hope this helps

1:52 p.m. on June 14, 2006 (EDT)
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Hmmm... Alphawolf, if you had read the posts here, you would note that firepistons.com was referred to by others, and that I had been having discussions (and have a piston) from those folks (actually, that fellow, since it is a 1-person operation). The question was about a specific piston. The vast majority of the info and the people who sell pre-made pistons use the old traditional string-wrap seal (have had one of those for a number of years). This requires a fair amount of maintenance. I was looking for the source of a particular piston that uses a neoprene O-ring. I still have not found the particular source where Ray got his, but the firepistons.com one will serve in the meantime. I might also note that this forum does not include many people who are into primitives, probably just Jim S, Terrible Tom, Les M, and me, and now maybe you.

3:49 p.m. on June 14, 2006 (EDT)
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Errr.... what are you trying to say?

August 22, 2014
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