Tinder pistol in egg-shaped case, Japanese, 1700-1850.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A tiny Japanese tinder pistol in an egg-shaped, fenestrated, pierced metal case with twin arms and twin steel. This device has been ingeniously adapted from a Japanese netsuke (a toggle used to fasten a Japanese kimono or pouch). Tinder pistols were used to make flame. As in contemporary firearms, when triggered a piece of flint sprang against steel to create a spark which ignited a charge of gunpowder. This in turn set fire to a piece of tinder. Tinder pistols were expensive and were owned only by a small and wealthy minority of households. They were often converted by a gunsmith from ordinary pistols.