How to start a fire!
Now, we discuss the methods of striking a fire.
If I am going to discuss fire building techniques, I needed to discuss the direct fire making tools that everyone should have. When you are out in the elements and are wet, cold, or the combination, then building a more primitive fire can be a very daunting task. For this, we keep backups. If you only have one method for fire starting, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you get anything from this post, it is a very widely used idea of, “Two is one, and one is none.” Failure is imminent, so when something fails on you, and it will, what will be your scenario? Will you have backup methods with the lighter and matches, or will you struggle with nothing.
First, in every wilderness pack, which also has a lot of commonalities with the Bug Out Bag that I discussed in another post, I recommend lighters. I really like flexible butane lighters for their wind resistance, but also like how reliable the cheap Bic lighters are.
I would also recommend having matches. You could get by with kitchen matches in a waterproof container, but waterproof matches would be a better choice.
Although we have a lighter or match, we should look at other techniques of making fire that are slightly more sustainable.
Magnesium and Flint
Magnesium and flint are great tools. Although magnesium itself is very volatile, the magnesium compound in the magnesium fire tools is not at all. What it does do very well, is burn very very hot when it is shaven into a pile. Shave a very generous pile of magnesium, usually with a hacksaw blade, on the top of some dry tinder. When you have enough, strike the flint (either a flint stick, or the flint on the back side of the magnesium block) onto the magnesium pile. You can generally get the tinder started quickly. No details on starting the fire from there because I discussed most of it in my description of fire pit setup. You will generally start the tinder, which you use to start the kindling, which will start a fuzz stick or the fuel. Once you have a good sized fire, have fun.
Steel Wool and a 9 volt Battery
Another way of starting a fire is to use steel wool. Yep, you hear that correctly, steel wool… and a 9 volt battery. It must be the really fine steel wool, not the really thick scrubbing pads that are widely sold today. You place the leads of the battery on the steel wool and it will ignite the wool because there is too much power running through the small fibers, so they heat up and catch fire. Use this to start tinder.
Bow and Drill
A Bow and Drill is another way, you will get tired and must have patience and stamina to do this. You will use a green rigid, but somewhat bendable and thin, stick (green wood) for the bow. You will use a dry hardwood for the drill (poplar/maple), so it causes heat and friction but doesn’t catch fire. Your fireboard that you will spin the drill on should be dry soft wood without any resin. It needs to hold the coal or ember, not the drill. Make bow 1.5 to 2 feet long. Use shoelace, small rope, the paracord I told you to have in your bug-out bag, etc. to attach to the bow with some slack since it has to be twisted around the drill, and then it should have some tension once wrapped. Drill should be about as thick as your thumb. Top of drill should have a pencil tip and the bottom should be more rounded or blunt. The Fireboard should be 2-3 x 12 inches. Make a socket of bone/wood/rock. Choose something fist sized, so you can grip it but it doesn’t overheat. It should have a deep dimple to receive the pencil end of the drill. It is best to use hardwood, or the knot of soft wood.
Find out where you want to spin the drill on the fireboard about (1.5 times the diameter of the drill from the edge of the fireboard) notch it and burn it with pressure with the drill. Then after burning it in, cut a notch to the center of the burned in area to the edge of the board (triangle). Start drilling, you will see black soot, then some smoke, and eventually you will get an ember. You put this on the tinder. Blow to get it to catch fire.
Hand Drill Method
Stick is similar, but you have no bow, use two hands to spin it. Make sure you do the itsy bitsy spider method. This will keep you from getting blisters.
Drill Press Method
I almost forgot to post the drill press! Same drill and fireboard here. There is another board with a hole in the middle so the drill can go through it. you will attach the rope to the drill and wrap it down the drill and attach it to the press. I think that this is a really cool more technical way to get the drill spinning and heating up. Photos at the bottom.
Cotton and Vaseline
Another TOOL to use for starting fires is a Cotton Ball coated with Vaseline. It will be flammable, so it will definitely start the tinder up properly… a good addition to any Wilderness pack.
Hopefully you have figured out how to set up a proper fire, and then how to start it. You can Google most of this stuff and get better directions than what is here, but the main reason for this post is to discuss the different methods, so it is easier to learn all of them. We need to know what methods are out there before we can try to learn them.
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