|Painting of a German Smoker|
Using (large) Tongs to Light His (large) Pipe
Image Courtesy of pijpenkabinet
After surveying many examples recovered by archaeologists, I began to wonder if any completely intact versions had survived "above ground". Archaelogists call these little tools Smoker's Companions as they were apparently designed for multiple functions. I discovered that the Jefferson Patterson Park site has an archaeology section with a "Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland" chapter devoted to helping identify Smoker's Companions. Even though many of the featured examples are degraded relics, it's interesting to see the variety of interpretations of this object. A classic version of the tool was found at Jamestown and is posted on their Preservation Virginia site. The fact is, these small, iron objects seem to turn up in 17th century sites all over the east.
| Smoker's Companion, Before and After Lab Treatmennt|
Image Courtesy of Crista Alejandre's
|A Smoker's Companion Found at Jamestown|
Image Courtesy preservationvirginia.org
|A Nice Example From a Maryland Site|
Image Courtesy jefpat.org
The hunt was on, as I needed to find a more complete example if I was going to make an accurate reproduction. I love the internet when it works and this is a perfect case of why it's worth digging. The example I dreamed of turned up on a relic hunter's forum called treasurenet and lucky for me the owner had posted multiple views of his find. It was truly a wonder to see a nearly 400 year old iron object so perfectly preserved, even though it had come out of the ground.
As mentioned earlier, historians have speculated that this tool had multiple functions, not the least of which was its use as a flint striker to spark that neccessary ember. The larger mass of the lower part of most examples does suggests a striker. It's easy to understand the tong function and the turned up and rounded end of the upper handle definitely looks like it could be used as a tamper. Every pipe smoker knows, you need a tamper (or as they called them in the 1600's, stoppers). Lastly, the larger, rounded paddle end of the lower handle has lead to speculation that it functioned as a reamer to clean the clay pipe bowl. Sounds reasonable, don't you think, except when you consider how tiny some of the early pipe bowls were.
|The Holy Grail, Lucky Me|
Lucky Bob !
Image Courtesy of Bob and treasurenet.com
So, armed with some idea of size, form and function, it was time to make my own version of this fascinating object. Let me start by saying that I am no blacksmith but I know enough to begin with a sample of high-carbon, hardend steel for the lower, "striker" part of the tool. This came in the form of a 1/4 inch thick leaf spring scrap I scored from work. With an abrasive blade on my saw, I cut out a roughly shaped piece to start . With the help of an acetylene torch, the piece was twisted on one end to roughly define the reamer. By heating the piece, I also removed some of the temper. This really helped, as I was looking at a lot of grinding and filing to bring out the final shape. The upper part of the tool was challenging for different reasons, with its sculptural form and decorative elements. For this I used a piece of 1/4 mild steel stock, which was a lot easier to work with than that old leaf spring.
|The Main Two Parts of My Replica, Near Finished,|
With Templates and Remaining Scrap
Photo Courtesy Lindy Miller 2011
After the rough shaping and some tweeks (with the aid of a torch) I filed the two pieces to their final shape and sanded their surface to a near polish. The next step was to heat the lower part to the critical temp and quench in oil. My research pointed to quenching the striker area first and then later lowering the remaining part into the oil. This would hopefully harden the working part (striking surface) more and leave a little temper in the rest. Following this came the final polish of all parts with varying grits of abrasive paper. After riveting the spring in place, the main parts were joined by peening over the pivot pin.
|My Replica Version of a Smoker's Companion|
Photo Lindy Miller 2011
Now that was a fun project but with all the filing and shaping, it's no wonder these tiny tongs aren't all over the place as reproductions. Now....where's my pipe, I want to try this thingy out !
Try it out I did, and here's what I learned about a possible way they lit their pipes when a ready source of fire was absent. There is a specific technique that works well when trying to ignite Amadou or Tinder Fungus with flint and steel. Once you've figured it out, it's amazingly simple. I had previously purchased some pieces of this earliest, natural tinder material from Jas. Townsend, so I was ready for the experiment. In one hand I held a nice, sharp shard of flint with a piece of Amadou (about the size of a fingernail ) on top, just back from the edge of the flint. With the pipe tongs in the other hand and the striker surface held out, I struck down on the flint, with the steel. In this manner, you can easily catch a hot spark on the Amadou (it caught on the second try !). With the pincher end of the tongs, I picked off the glowing part of the Amadou (after some gently blowing) and layed it in my clay pipe full of tobacco. WIth a few draws on the pipe, I was puffing away in no time. It might work equally well by just holding on to the ember with the tongs turned sideways and maintain contact with the tobacco until ignition. The Amadou has a pleasant smell when it's burning and didn't conflict with the tobacco's taste at all. Now that was fun and a great lesson about our amazing ancestors.