Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Compressed Air Fire Starter

This Maker Faire project facinates me. I had never heard of a "fire piston" before. A device which uses the rapid compression of air to create fire. A device which is based on a tool used by indigenous people in Malaysia and elsewhere. It was introduced into Europe in the early 1800's and was a common household item until the match became widely available.

Watch the video to see how you can make your own.

As a former social studies teacher, I wondered how I had never heard of this device before. I went out and bought a flint to try mimic early mountain men. (A success). I also tried to build a fire-bow once. (Not so successful). So I went on line and did a little research. Turns out there are lots of videos an info out there on the subject. Here are a few if you are curious.

Detailed article about the fire piston. And of course a link to wikipedia.

This little video is a quick demo from a site where a guy makes them out of Buffalo horn and bamboo.

Another video of a traditional Malaysia fire piston. This one also uses materials that could be found in the wild including a strand of thread as the seal. I read somewhere in my browsing that the natives could also use saliva to wet the thread around the piston. (When I first watched this, I thought it might be a hassle to find water to soak the thread.)

If you are a teacher, this could be an engaging activity for students. I am thinking it might be fun to look at some of the different ways man has been able to create fire and let the kids try a few. Children and fire....sounds like a winner to me!

[via Make] [Image captured from Make:]

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