How to make a primitive torch

One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.

That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?

I was extremely lucky to find this fabulous article online: Not only did it explain which, easy-to-find materials were used, it also included a video showing exactly how the torches were made:

The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.

So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?

The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:

Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.

Quote taken from:

I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.

But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. πŸ™‚

Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.

In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… πŸ˜‰

So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.

Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.

With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…

Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.


About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

36 responses to “How to make a primitive torch

  • Widdershins

    Now the bastards have changed my dashboard. What is WRONG with these people?

    Great video, Meeks. πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      lol – this is very similar to the dashboard I’ve had all along [coz I refused to change]. You’ll find that you have much more control of your blog. The lack of any kind of warning or explanation is annoying though.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Yorgos KC

    Very interesting info πŸ€“πŸ€“πŸ€“

    About the Preview thing… right click, “Open in new tab” (or middle click on it).
    New WordPress is … ugh… πŸ˜… “Making things more difficult than they were,” seems to be their motto.
    I use the “classic editor” box (or whatever it is called). But, of course, contrary to the real classic editor, the menu doesn’t go down as you type, so, every time you need it (ie for changing paragraph alignment, or whatever) you need to scroll all the way up to find the menu. Brilliant idea! πŸ˜’


    About the bow’s rosin… it is actually pine’s resin. That’s why it smells like pine 🀣 Tastes like one, too (yeap, done that 🀫). Oxidation (or breathing, if you prefer) is enough for it to turn solid. Heating is used for “purifying” it and, of course, for shaping it. In fact, if you heat it, it turns into liquid. You can burn it, too, if you want. Dammar gum (or dammar resin, or whatever else it might be called) has a strong and pleasant (in my opinion) smell when burned. Closer to frankincense’s resin, rather than to pine’s.

    For torches and the like any kind of resin that doesn’t bulge when heated can be used. The ones that bulge can actually extinguish the fire, depending on how much of it you use. But I’m sure, in places where there wasn’t another kind of resin, they must have found out exactly how much of it they should use. I’m not an expert. Just did some experimenting in my life, and I’ll call it this way, cause it sounds cool 🀣

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      -grin- A man of many talents! I won’t ask about the experimentation but I’m thrilled to get the extra info, especially about the scent as I’m pretty sure that Vokhtah does /not/ have pine trees. Now all I need to do is work out what frankincense smells like. Is it sweet? tangy? a bit like patchouli ?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yorgos KC

        Most of resins are tangy to some degree. Frankincense, benzoin, dammar (myrrh, to, but not good for torches, very good for glue) can leave a days-lasting smell, even if you air the room all day long. Other resins might not be as strong. Pine’s for example and gum Arabic’s (it is a resin) aren’t that impressively strong. Gum Arabic, though, is also not good for torches, unless you want to slow down the burning πŸ€”.

        Also their smoke (especially if you throw them directly into a big fire, when you won’t realise they actually emit odour) sticks on walls and penetrates curtains, clothing, wallpapers, and anything porous, and then the smell can become “permanent”. If for example one lives in a cave, and uses these daily, after a little while you won’t be able to say if they just left, or if it’s been weeks since they abandoned the place.

        Now, as for the smell of the smell πŸ˜†… The frankincense “family” (which includes resins that might not belong to the same biologically correct use of family, hence the quotation marks) is mostly “airy”. Somewhat sweet but also a bit “acidic”. Frankincense itself balances well between the two attributes, but copal is sweeter, while sandrac is more acidic. I’d say the latter smells like you added lots of lemon in the frankincense 🀣. So, no, nothing like patchouli, which smells like moist earth. Also, patchouli’s smell is strong and heavy, but it doesn’t remain for half as long as frankincense.

        Oh! yes! It must be, frankincense that is, a manly odour, too, as it is used in many men’s perfumes. There are some that practically have nothing but (synthetic) frankincense, actually. Also, incidently, it is considered an aphrodisiac smell. Personally, I like it, but wouldn’t go that far πŸ™„ [You can find it in women’s perfumes, too, but usually just traces, and it’s used there for stabilising and harmonising the perfume – it’s its chemistry there more important that the actual smell]

        Finally, this kind of trees and bushes are quite common on earth – or, at least used to be – but mostly in warm climate. For what I know it’s used a lot in traditional Chinese medicine, and as an incense, there. India, too. Ancient Egypt used to use it, in mixes, but their main ingredient would be myrrh. Ancient Greek also used it, a lot. Orpheus suggests it for almost all gods and suggests only this for some of the gods. So, it wouldn’t be odd, in my opinion of course, if another world has something quite similar.

        Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Fascinating, Andrea. Your research is amazing. My had used to make “torch-like” contraptions for when we were camping in the boonies. He’d mix bacon fat with sawdust (dry crumbled wood, basically) in a tin can. The thing would burn forever, but was super smoky. I’ll have to do that with the grandson… a fun project. I’ll tell him the iVokh inspired it. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Oh! Thank you. You’ve just given me another way of making light. Fat would be just as easy for the iVokh to source, well, the eyriebound ones anyway. I’ll keep this technique in reserve for a scene that requires a smoky outcome. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
      And I’d be honoured to have your grandson make an iVokh inspired torch. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  • dumbestblogger

    Very useful information here. I may be a bit of a pyromaniac.

    Liked by 2 people

  • robertawrites235681907

    An interesting post, Meeks. I did know about rosin for violins but not for making torches. Great research.

    Liked by 2 people

  • ChrisJamesAuthor

    Really interesting video, thanks! Amazing stuff, that.

    Totally agree re WP – they have to keep changing it for the folks doing everything on mobile phones and it drives me nuts, too *hugs*

    Liked by 3 people

  • CarolCooks2

    I’m with Chel on a jungle trip for the Happiness Engineers …

    Liked by 3 people

  • Audrey Driscoll

    There is a workaround for the Preview thing: You bring up the default Preview pane. In its top right corner is a Visit Site button. If you right click on that, the preview opens up in a new tab. Then you just close the Preview pane in your Edit Post tab and edit away, flipping to the preview in the separate tab, which you can refresh to show your editing changes.

    Liked by 5 people

  • Chel Owens

    Let’s send the Happiness Engineers out to the jungle and see if they can successfully make a torch…

    Would the iVokh have clay vessels? Any access to reeds or strange animals with useful body parts besides a horn (although that’s a great idea)?

    Liked by 2 people

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