1. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Primitive, yet efficient ways of making fire

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Shadow Dragon, Nov 6, 2008.

    My fantasy world, Aether, currently has tech that is about equal to what the Romans had during the late part of the roman empire. I know there has to be easier ways in a less devoloped culture of making fire other than just rubbing sticks together, but I can't really think of them right now. Any ideas would be helpful. Please and thanks. :)
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Magnification? They had mirrors and glass. They had fairly good chemistry so I'm sure that combustible properties of certain elements could be used to create fire, with a little imagination the combination of elements to create fire or explosion could be created in the form of an ancient molotov cocktail, store elements A and B in a partioned, clay gourd, and throw. The ancient Chinese used sulphur I believe. Failing that, flint, is very primative and effective on dry materials.
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Gannon pretty much described all the things I could think of...but then my mind began wandering.

    1) The Lightning Rod Fire Starter - Imagine a powerful king walking past a row of junior knights. He selects the tallest guy in line and hands him the official, portable lightning rod. It has a ceramic jar with a metal cover hanging from the bottom and inside the covered pot is a bundle of wool with lots of wood twigs intertwined. Outside, a thunderstorm is raging and the young man is assured that if he survives the lightning strike, he will take his place along side the other senior knights at the king's table. In the background, a dozen old men sit in shining armor, all sporting burnt fair and carbon smudges across their foreheads.

    2) A young boy in an African tribe receives special chants from the medicine man and tribal adulation before going to get fire for his village. He is instructed to climb the nearby volcano to fetch fire. The medicine man gives him a long pole with a bundle of thick twigs tied to the end, a heavy blanket and three small green leaves. The young warrior-to-be asks how items are to be used. The medicine man answers:

    "Climb the mountain until you find a glowing, red river of fire. Dip the end of your stick into the river and run down the mountain to the village before the flames burn out. If it is too hot for you to approach the river, wrap yourself in the blanket to protect against the heat until you can complete your task."

    The willing boy thanks the medicine man. Then he notices the leaves and asks, "Why did you give me these?"

    "The river of fire constantly changes its course. If you are standing at the edge and you notice that it suddenly cuts off your retreat, then eat all three leaves right away. They are the strongest poison we have."

    3) During a beheading, the executioner notices that small rocks on the chopping block give off sparks when his blade nicks them. He reports the phenomenon to the village chief and every time they need fire, the village chief plans an execution!

    (So sorry - I just could not resist.)

    BTW - there are many ways to use wooden sticks to make fire. The quickest is the bow and pedstal combination...takes maybe two minutes to actually get flames. Gunpowder and flint also make quick fire. Lint from wool blankets or clothing makes excellent kindling and wool has been used in many ancient cultures. Natural sources of fire include the residual effects of lightning strikes, volcanic activity, and spontaneous combustion from decaying vegetation during hot dry seasons or droughts. I would think it is very rare but meteor strikes could also cause fire in the vicinity although such a source would not be reliable or predictable.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, flint is probably the simplest way, but ask people said, the Romans were pretty good with chemistry.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The bow and spindle method has been around a long time and in many cultures. The spindle is a pointed stick with the point in a rounded dimple in another peice of wood, with tinder piled around the point. The bow is used to spin the spindle, generating a hot spot at the point of the spindle until the tinder ignites.

    A cap stone with a hollow is held at the top of the spindle to apply pressure to the spindle and stablize it.
     
  6. Lusira
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    Lusira New Member

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    Well, I know back around those times, it may have been after the Romans, so forgive me if it was; they had tinderboxes. Tinderboxes was stocked with rocks like flint and I believe they carried dry mosses that would easilly ignite so they could carry fire everywhere they went. If it's Fantasy, anything goes, I suppose.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey Cog...as a chemist, you might get a kick out of this fire starter.

    The MC carries a small, sealed pouch containing a chunk of pure sodium covered in oil. He carefully breaks off a time piece of the alkali metal and wraps it in some kind of kindling or fur. Then, he/she drops a tiny amount of water onto the metal (sodium or potassium) and the resulting fire ignites the tinder. Here is a video actually showing the fire that results from the chemical reaction of water and alkali metals.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9z5-mJ8NZk

    The fire caused by this reaction can be seen about 3.5 minutes into the video (if you want to fast forward through the dull stuff). Counter intuitive, huh...water "burning"!
     
  8. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I was suggesting above. You could house the two elements seperately and have controlled fire as suggested here, or develop the molotov cocktail idea with little extra effort. Pity I failed chemistry or could have beaten NaCl (salt, right?) to the punch on the correct elements to mix. I think pure sodium may be difficult to obtain, but in fantasy anything goes as also said above. There's a column of these reactive elements that would combine with water to explode in flames, so don't necessarily be restricted to sodium.
     
  9. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing that has been done by (I think) the native americans is to take a coal from the last fire and wrap it with grasses and bark into a bundle that'll smoulder for several hours. Then you use the coal to start the next fire.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've done it, but it's not exactly low tech. Getting alkali metals in metallic form requires fire to begin with, as well as a means to keep air away from the newly reduced metal.

    A slightly more practical method requires finding oxidizing minerals in nature - not easy at all - and mixing them with an oxidizable substanse in a wrapping that traps heat but supports combustion. The laboratory version was potassium permanganate (which is not found free in nature) and glycerin *an alcohol obtained from animal fat) wrapped in cotton cloth. It will heat up and catch fire if the quamtities are correct. In practice, with naturally obtainable materials, it would be a lot more difficult.
     
  11. Chey
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    Chey New Member

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    Seems like all the good ways have already been listed here, but what about accidental fire? I know someone who was camping on the beach during a storm and literally saw lightening strike a palm tree next to him and it caught on fire.
    so maybe people can look out for 'accidental' fires and then try to keep them buring for a while.
     
  12. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    This is intresting: from wikipedia

    "Since the dawn of man, about 200,000 years ago, people use the sun as their main source of light.
    70,000 BCE A hollow rock or shell or other natural found objects was filled with moss or a similar material that was soaked in animal fat and then ignited
    circa 4500 BCE oil lamps
    circa 3000 BCE candles are invented.
    circa 900 CE Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi (Rhazes) invents kerosene lamp[1]
    circa 1000 The first street lamps appear in Cordoba, Al-Andalus[2]
    1780 Aimé Argand invents central draught fixed oil lamp
    1784 Argand adds glass chimney to central draught lamp"
     
  13. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    One of the commonest ways is to simply 'carry' the fire with you from the last burning.

    Take a large ember and put it into a ceramic crock, surrounded by dry tinder, with a small amount of air. It will smoulder over the length of a day or so and allow the fire to be carried from place to place.


    Fire bows are also very common - a Youtube search will find you litterally hundreds of results of people starting fire with them. It can take less than 5 minutes to get a flame and the materials are small and portable (a 'bow', a stick/spindle, a small block, some dry punk (moss etc)). It can also be fabricated easily in most places.
     
  14. Patrick Williams
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    Patrick Williams New Member

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    Firepistons are cool.

    http://www.firepiston.com/

    Patrick
     

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