Watch as one historian uses what he calls the Joseph flint and steel fire starting method.
Primary sources, pieces of historic information actually produced during the time period, are our best way of learning about the past. They are the most accurate, show the most detail, and offer a glimpse into the lives of past people better than anything else out there. We can use primary sources to unveil details about the past that were previously unknown. Such is the case of the Joseph flint and steel fire starting method.
Keith H. Burgess, a popular Australian historian, writer, and YouTuber, learned about an old method of flint and steel fire starting by examining a 15th century painting depicting Mary and Joseph. The method therefore has earned the name, “the Joseph flint and steel method.”
Watch as Mr. Burgess explains the method and demonstrates its function.
As you can tell, the Joseph flint and steel fire starting method is easy to master. If you’ve been using flint and steel for any amount of time, you will be proficient in the method. All you would need to light your candle is the special punk that Mr. Burgess uses in the video.
The big takeaway from a video like this is the importance of using primary sources to ask the age-old question, “How did they do that?”
Documents like diaries, journals, and newspapers won’t always answer that question. Many times, we are searching for answers that were simply too well known to people of the time. This flint and steel fire starting method is a great example.
People of the time would never have recorded how they lit their candles; it would be like recording how to turn on the lights. Flat out not interesting.
This is where images are a great resource. The creator of the Joseph painting was just representing something he knew to be an ordinary part of the scene, and in doing so, he unknowingly recorded it for future generations. Many photographers and artists offer us this kind of glimpse into the past.
If you are interested in past skills and knowledge, you may be overlooking primary sources as a window into the past. Often, they are the best way to learn forgotten skills.