For some reason, I’ve recently read a lot of unconnected things regarding various wood objects (weapons in particular) that were “hardened” in fire to make them, well, harder than the item would be normally. The two examples I’ve come across were pre-anything age people sharpening sticks to use as spears and then fire hardening them so they maintain their point and things like my Kali sticks which are supposedly baked to get the moisture out, dipped in an herbal solution to…do something, and then hardened over a fire so they don’t break as often. Given how often the damn things break, I wonder how often they wouldn’t if the “fire hardening” process wasn’t used.
Thinking back to my Boy Scout days when everything that could go in the fire went in the fire, I don’t recall our homemade “spears” (even if they were just to hold marshmellows) any tougher.
Any insight? It seems to me that a dry piece of wood is more apt to snap than a live/still moist piece of wood.
I know that Louisville Slugger “flame-tempers” some of their baseball bats. Supposedly this “seals the pores” in the wood, thus making it harder. This is the same principle behind “boning” bats, where they are rubbed with a piece of bone.
Personally, I doubt there’s any real difference between a tempered bat and a non-tempered bat. Probably just a marketing gimmick.
i know this isnt what your talking about… but in woodshop when we sand things on the belt sander if you push too hard or leave it for too long itll burn, and from what ive noticed the burned parts are harder than the non burned parts…
The belt sander thing is related. If you toast a piece of wood over a fire, not burning it to more than a light char, you drive off the moisture, plus you polymerize some of the more volatile cell components. The polymerization makes the wood harder. I’ve made a fire hardened spear from a green sapling, and its tip was a lot harder than that of spears simply carved from a sapling or dry wood.
In Homer’s They Odyssey there’s a passage where they describe fire hardening a log in order to drive it into the cyclops’s eye. Given that numerous experts have poured over the text for information on Greek ship building, navigation, metallurgy, etc., I’d think that if it didn’t work, this would be commented on in the footnotes indicating that it was something which wouldn’t work.
OK, I have a related question. I ran across a site that mentioned “Second, I now use a historic staining method. Historically, gunsmiths used to bury the gun stocks in horse manure in horse barns. They found that this not only darkened the wood, it also aged it, making it harder and far less likely to warp. If you have ever taken fir beams out of old houses that are being demolished, you will know just how hard hardwood gets after about fifty years - its hard like concrete. I don’t bury my stocks in horse manure, but I do treat them in an ammonia fuming process which accomplishes the same thing.”
(from rhis site) http://jaspersports.com/fencing/mark2.htm
how does this process work?
My next question is: if I were hardening something over a fire, how long am I going to hold it over? Obviously, if I hold it too long, it’s going to char, so do I just hold it until it starts to dry up a little? Slight browning? Am I holding it near the top of the fire, or in the center?