Talk:Fire piston

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Request photograph[edit]

Edward 11:28, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

I second that. Klosterdev 14:31, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

Physics of gases[edit]

I've removed a wildly oversimplifying (but also wrong) explanation of the heating effect that conflated temperature, momentum, and pressure, and linked to adiabatic process for those who are interested in the non-obvious details of why this actually works. -- The Anome 08:30, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Factual Error[edit]

I removed this "By using the right sort of tinder a pressure of only about 3 pounds-force per square inch (20 kPa) will allow the tool produce a glowing coal." I author may have ment 3 pounds force on the piston. Note this article specifies the fire piston has a compression ratio of 25 to 1. theis means we have 24 atmosphears thats somthing like 1260 psi guage pressure. 3 psi is not even remotly close.68.83.199.209 (talk) 23:52, 2 November 2008 (UTC)


Also changed compression ratio of gasoline engine from 8:1 to 10-11.5:1 8:1 was the compression ratio of very early gasoline engines, but even rather antique developements obtained 9,5:1 or 10:1 compression ratio with high octane gas. Modern gasoline engines have 10:1 to 11,5:1 compression ratios. Note that this is geometric compression ratio. Actual dynamic compression ratio may vary. Turbo or supercharged engines have 8:1 or 8,5:1 or 9:1 geometric compression ratios, depending upon super/turbocharging pressure. —Preceding Marco comment added by 88.43.230.194 (talk) 08:33, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Ancient origin: citation needed[edit]

I've been able to find no evidence backing up the idea that the fire piston is of ancient origin. Pretty much all information I've been able to find online seems to derive from the Wyatt R. Knapp article linked by this article, which describes it as an "Ancient Firemaking Machine" in its title but describes nothing earlier than its invention by Europeans in the early 19th century, and their discovery of its use in Southeast Asia in the same century. I've been able to find no reports of either earlier historical record of the device and no reports of them being found in archaeological digs. So if someone has such evidence, please cite it. Otherwise we should strike the claim of it being of ancient origin. --Ericjs (talk) 21:10, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

Lorentz's fire piston of 1807[edit]

Henry Balfour in his article of 1907 — Balfour, Henry (1907) "The fire piston," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution … , pp. 565–598. — states on p. 567 that in 1807 Richard Lorentz of England received patent 3007 for "an instrument for producing instantaneous fire". And British patent documents confirm this: Patents of Invention from March 2, 1617 to October 1, 1852, part 1 (London, England: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1857), p. 389. On p. 569 of Balfour's article, there is a sketch (Fig. 1) of Lorentz's fire piston: it shows a narrow cylinder with a rod-like piston, which forces compressed air onto a lump of tinder. Balfour even quotes, from the patent, a description of the operation of Lorentz's fire piston.

However, Paolo Brenni — Paolo Brenni, "Volta’s electric lighter and its improvements: The birth, life and death of a peculiar scientific apparatus which became the first electric household appliance," Proceedings of a conference held in Pognana sul Lario, Italy during June 1–6, 2003. — on p. 12 of his article cites (and on p. 13 illustrates) the same patent, but describes a completely different fire starter. Here, Lorentz's apparatus generated hydrogen gas, which was ignited by an electrophorus (an electrostatic device). This is clearly not a fire piston.

Due to this inconsistency, I'm removing Lorentz's patent as a reference.

VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 08:48, 21 July 2017 (UTC)

Thank you for researching and clarifying this. It sounds like the Volta/Lorentz gas/electric device should be added to an article on cigarette lighters, instead of this article on fire pistons. Reify-tech (talk) 12:20, 21 July 2017 (UTC)
I don't know how two careful scholars (Balfour and Brenni) could have looked at (supposedly) the same patent but then shown and described two completely different devices. One of them must have made a mistake. But until I can find Lorentz's original patent, I can't cite his patent as the first fire piston that was patented in 1807. VexorAbVikipædia (talk) 01:53, 22 July 2017 (UTC)

I think that I've resolved the inconsistency between Balfour's and Brenni's description of Lorentz's fire piston. BOTH scholars were correct.

I found Lorentz's patent. In 1807, he was granted ONE patent for TWO different fire starters -- one of which is clearly a fire piston, whereas the other is a gas generator with an electrical igniter. Here is Lorentz's patent:

(Staff) (1807) "Specification of the Patent granted to Richard Lorentz, … for certain inventions (communicated to him by Foreigners residing abroad) of different Machines or Instruments, one of which will produce instantaneous Light, and the other instantaneous Fire. Dated February 5, 1807." The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture, 2nd series, 11 : 250–253.

Notice that Lorentz was filing the patent on behalf of foreigners residing abroad. Britons filing patents on behalf of foreigners was quite a common practice at that time. The French patent office was notoriously slow to grant patents, whereas Britain was known to grant patents quickly. Consequently, French inventors would protect their inventions by filing in both Britain and France, knowing that they could rely on Britain to grant a patent sooner. Therefore, although Lorentz filed for the patent, the inventor was very likely to have been French.

The French inventor has been identified as a "Colonel Grobert", who is probably Jacques François Louis Grobert (1756-181?), a French colonel in the artillery. He conceived the design, but he had his fire piston fabricated by a professional maker of scientific instruments in Paris, "Dumotier" (variously spelled Dumoutier, Du Moutier, and Dumotiez). See:

  • Krehl, Peter O. K., History of Shock Waves, Explosions, and Impacts (Berlin, Germany: Springer Verlag, 2009), p. 273.
  • Morelot, Simon, Histoire naturelle appliquée à la Chimie [Natural history applied to chemistry] (Paris, France: F. Schoell and H. Nicolle, 1809), vol. 1, p. 94. From page 94, footnote 1: (1) Inventé par le colonel Grobert, exécuté par M. Dumotier. ((1) Invented by Colonel Grobert, executed by Mr. Dumotier.)