Trench Lighter

This lighter has been known by other names such as “shepherds’ lighter” or “rope lighter”. What makes it unique is that conventional fuel is not needed, and there is no flame. The method of operation is to strike the attached flintwheel to create sparks, which are caught on a charred cotton rope, that has been partially withdrawn from a metal tube housing. This was typically used for lighting cigarettes which does not require a flame to accomplish. Once an ember is generated, it is windproof, and is extinguished by retracting the cord back inside the tube and an attached lid snuffs it out. This flame-less feature made it somewhat covert and was often used during WWII. The windproof feature is also advantageous and was useful to shepherds who were out in the windy field while watching their flocks. It is an easy way to create a live ember, when, combined with tinder, can be coaxed into a flame for starting campfires. A related item called a tinder tube was used during the civil war to keep a live coal for lighting cannon fuses during battle. Some black powder rifles used a smoldering rope known as slow match to light their charge rather than a flint. Slow match was often treated with potassium nitrate to enhance it’s smoldering capability. For folks who enjoy a more primitive approach to igniting tinder, this is a fun device to use.

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10 thoughts on “Trench Lighter

  1. I have one of these and they’re great, BUT the embers go flying when you flick the wheel and can easily burn a hole in your clothing before you have a chance to see it, something I know from experience! Use with caution.

  2. The Trench Lighter shown in the photo has been manufactured. I’ve tried modifying an empty flintwheel lighter to do the same, but so far unsuccessfully. You can char the end of a woven cotton rope to catch sparks on and keep it in a tube or other water-tight container for storage. Cotton piping used for upholstery works great and can be substituted for charcloth.

  3. HINT -> With a new rope lighter, burn the end of the rope before using it with the flint. The end must be blackened for the spark to catch.

  4. I have found mine on ebay… look for “trench lighter’ “rope lighter” “shepherd’s lighter”…

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