Tinder made of agave flower stalk

Bryant and May collection of fire-making appliances.
Bow and Bow and
Piece of touchwood (from flower-stalk of Agave).

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Piece of touchwood (from flower-stalk of Agave).
Science Museum Group
The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Tinder, described as touchwood, made from the flower stalk of an agave plant

Humans have throughout history used different techniques and tools to create fires. All of them work through increasing the temperature of tinder, which combusts, creates an ember, and then heats up other material, called kindling, until it starts to burn as a flame. Tinder, like this one made of the flower stalk of an agave plant, is a fine material with the ability to combust quickly. Depending on region and the fire-making tool that is used, what exactly these materials are varies. Apart from plant fibres, they can be amadou made from fungus, wood or bark shavings, dried leaves, grass, pine needles, as well as artificial materials like paper strips, steel wool, char cloth, or petroleum.

These plant fibre specimens are part of the Bryant and May fire-making collection, which used to be displayed in a private museum within the Bryant and May match-making factory’s offices. The collection comprises around 1200 objects, dating from the Stone Age to the early 20th century that illustrate the variety of tools and techniques humans across the world have used to create fires.

The collection was mostly acquired by the ornithologist and fire-making enthusiast Edward Bidwell and cared for by the collector Miller Christy. Bidwell collected between the late 19th and early 20th century – when Britain's colonial power was at its peak. Tracing the objects’ provenance is therefore difficult and part of the long and problematic history of colonial exploitation.


Object Number:
plant extract
Wilkinson Sword Ltd.