Back in the olden days, when matches were scarce in the outlying areas, many bushmen went back to their ancestral roots and used flint and steel instead. I’m not talking about the spark-showering ferrocerium rods sold today as “firesteels”, ferrocerium wasn’t even invented until the early 20th Century. No, what I’m talking about is a lump of steel (high carbon is best) struck against a lump of rock (flint or quartz, etc.) with the resulting spark caught by some form of tinder (charred cloth or dried fungus) and then coaxed into a flame with the addition of some bullswool (such as a bundle of dry grass or shredded stringybark). That’s a crash course in the use of the traditional flint and steel. The good news is that the use of a traditional flint and steel becomes much easier with practice.
Knowing a bit about the man, this little artefact is quite poignant. It’s the little dip pen used by Australian writer and poet Henry Lawson during his time living in Leeton NSW in 1916 and 1917.
Despite all the acclaim, Lawson never forgot his roots. He was a bush bard and even when he was mixing it up with the gentry and wearing a topcoat and hat, his spirit was still in his old moleskins and a Crimean shirt. He never forgot the hardships of the 1890 – 1893 Depression.
This is a dead-easy project. Dads or mums, build one of these with your son or daughter. Scout or Guide leaders, use it as a project for camping weekends or slow weeknight meetings. Guys and gals, put one together for those rustic bushwalking or hiking trips and amaze your mates.
It’s a candle holder in a tin designed so that when it’s all packed up it’s pocket-sized and easy to carry around with you for use when you’re swaggin’ it next to a creek or river, or eating a feed of damper and bushman’s stew on a camp table. It’s not windproof or waterproof, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a way to hold a candle and to reflect a bit of light. Same sort of concept as a traditional slush lamp, but without the bad smell. For high performance in bad conditions, use a proper glass or mica-windowed candle lantern like a Stonebridge or a Swiss Army/Excelsior Lux type. Keep the candle away from wind, water and of course, from flammable materials and vegetation while lit.