Tinder Pistol Lighter, ca. 1710–1730

Tinder Pistol Lighters are the earliest lighters. They were invented in the mid-seventeenth century. They were converted by gunsmiths from broken guns and used the barrel to store tinder instead of gunpowder. The working mechanism was simple though not very save to use at home - the trigger released a mechanism that struck a piece of iron and directed the sparks onto the tinder which ignite. Tinder pistols were expensive and were owned only by a small and wealthy minority of households.

The described flintlock tinder pistol was most probably made between 1710 and 1730 in Europe. It has a interesting shaped wooden handle finished with a ivory bead. The body, trigger and hammer are made of steel. In the picture below one can see the compartment for tinder and a receptacle for a small candle. This Tinder Pistol is not marked.

How does a tinder pistol lighter work? Tinder pistols do have a hidden compartment on the back side of the action used for storing tinder. When the trigger is pulled the cock drops throwing a shower of sparks into the tinder thus starting a small flame from which the candle is ignited. The lit candle was then used to light fires, stoves, other candles, etc. around the home.

Type: petrol (wick) lighter

Scarcity: very rare

Value for very good condition: $700.00900.00 (approx €500.00–700.00)

Weight: 240 grams (0.53 pounds)

  • height:   8.5 cm (4.35")
  • length: 18.0 cm (7.1")
  • width:   4.5 cm (1.78")


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