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Thread: Fire Starters And Tinders

  1. #81
    Junior Member backup1911's Avatar
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    Great videos! Thanks for sharing them.

    Most of the reputable commercial tinders I've had good luck with. I carry a small supply in my survival kit but try not to use them except in the worse wet/rainy/windy/snowy conditions. Outside of those times I try to use natural tinders that I find around me in the woods.

    I live in high desert country and I find that bark from an older juniper tree on the main trunk is almost always dry, and it makes pretty good field expedient tinder. I take long strands of the bark twist them, and roll them in my hands in a motion similar to that you would use to spin a fire drill. As I spin and crush the bark it breaks down into small, hairlike fibers. I can use these to make a nest and generally I can get it to ignite with a few showers of sparks from my fire steel.

    In areas where there is no juniper trees, I have used sagebrush bark as well in the same way.

    I use the swedish army style fire steel. It's large diameter, easy for me to hold, and durable. Leave the striker attached to it but I typically use the back of my folding knife blade to strike it. I feel like I get much better leverage and control with my knives than with the small strikers that typically come with the fire steels.

    I used a blast match for a while but I broke my first one. I thought it was a fluke and I really liked how they work so I got another one. It failed on me in the field after a short period of time to though so I stopped using them after that.
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  2. #82

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    So I've just finished watching the first video and I must say, extremely well made. I'm a bit fanatical when it comes to fire. I keep a ferro rod in my wallet, a magnesium bar is usually in the coin pocket of my jeans, and my survival pack has multiples of both of those plus steel wool and a 9-volt battery, a small round tin of pj with cotton balls and cotton rounds, and a cheap "windproof" butane lighter. My first WS excursion early this year was a lesson in tough love as our instructor made us suffer for several hours because the person assigned to handle fire, fumbled and none of the rest of us came prepared. Hard lesson but a lesson nonetheless. I've taken to carrying a garbage bag in my wallet (ferro rod is partially wrapped in it) as well.

    I've never considered using any of the commercial tinders since cotton is dirt cheap (a penny each at the dollar store) as is pj. I'll check out the videos to see if I'm missing anything.

    Thanks for making them!

  3. #83

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    Maybe this has been mentioned.....but has anyone tried the "Gobspark" products? I have one with the magnesium rod and it works great. Was fairly cheap too. Would recommend this product. In fact it rides 24/7 right on the side of my pack.

  4. #84
    Senior Member DomC's Avatar
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    Crashdive those are "top o da line" videos. I use sisal as TINDER bundle material also, but I find it somewhat difficult to reach ignition at times. Jute is easier imo and a mixture of the two is even better. I like to prep sisal and jute twine beforehand and store it in 4"X4" ZIPLOC baggies. Cotton balls combined with Vaseline is my go to man-made TINDER. I also like using flint & steel w/char cloth. I like to use old denim jeans material for making char cloth. Oil lamp wicks are good to use for making char material. For natural TINDER I like monkey fur (saw palmetto/sabal palm fiber), dry grass, old man's beard & shredded pine needles. I also use the Coughlans and LMF Ferro rods. But nothing beats a good ole BIC lighter imo...
    All these items are part of my fire kits.

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  5. #85

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    I have a tin of Murray's pomade that is half empty. I pack the empty space with cotton balls. The pomade burns about twice as long as PJ. Also, the tin is a good container and could be used to make char cloth once empty. I seal it closed with a ranger band, which itself can be used as tinder and burns hot even when wet.

    Hand sanitizer is flammable and can be ignited with a fero rod. But I've experimented with it and come to find out it doesn't stay lit very long. Don't squeeze it onto wood that you intend to burn, as it will not act like a normal liquid accelerant. It should only be used to produce a small flame at the base of your fire lay in order to light the kindling. Once the alcohol burns out there is a non-flammable gel that remains which will prevent whatever it is on from burning. So you have to be aware of that drawback.
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  6. #86

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    Has anyone tried piston fires? it may be posted else where.

  7. #87
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    Yes. There are actually a number of threads on them. Just do a search on "piston" and scroll through the results. You'll see a number of them.

  8. #88
    Senior Member wilderness medic's Avatar
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    Ok what's the deal with char cloth? I used it a lot for natural birds nest tinder with good success. But when using them they work as supposed to, and just heat up and smolder. Is there any plus to this over PJ cotton balls? They seem to burn a lot hotter, bigger, and long, plus you don't need to transfer and blow on it to get it to ignite like char. Is there a reason to use char besides simulating a bow drill coal and practicing that i'm missing?

  9. #89
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Using (and making) char cloth (and material) can be an important skill IMO. Are there better, more efficient methods? Absolutely, but understanding how it works and being able to make it - even in the field from natural sources can be a very valuable and possible life saving thing. Additionally, using char as a coal extender (charred rope, fungus, etc) can be very helpful when ignition sources are scarce.

    I do believe for most of us it is normally just use it as a fun thing to do, but that fun may lead to a life saver some day. Of course there are some that enjoy period type outings where its use may be more "correct" than modern methods and that is great too.
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  10. #90
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilderness medic View Post
    Ok what's the deal with char cloth? I used it a lot for natural birds nest tinder with good success. But when using them they work as supposed to, and just heat up and smolder. Is there any plus to this over PJ cotton balls? They seem to burn a lot hotter, bigger, and long, plus you don't need to transfer and blow on it to get it to ignite like char. Is there a reason to use char besides simulating a bow drill coal and practicing that i'm missing?
    There is no deal....just another method and useful skill.

    Flint and steel with char cloth when used in a primitive re-enacting setting (many time periods) is the preferred method follow by the burning glass....the bow/hand drill.
    Making and using char cloth is part of it.

    Char cloth allows even the smallest spark to catch, glow smolder and be blown into flame with additional tender.

    No one has to use it.....just another skill and tool in the box.
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  11. #91
    Senior Member wilderness medic's Avatar
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    Got it. I used it a lot to recreate a bow drill coal, or catch one to practice fire making. But that was all I carried. For some reason I was under the impression you still needed it to catch a spark and ignite PJ cotton up until a while ago.

    PJ seems superior, so for emergency non bushcraft use, that's what i'll use.

  12. #92
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    Default Great videos, always learning new techniques

    Very well done videos Crash. For me all these different techniques are like tools in a box in my shop, if one fails or is lost I will be glad I have learned to use an alternative. I have found that "natural" tinders and starters found in the wilderness can be very inconsistent and definitely not as reliable as those you demonstrated. Some of those "Survival Shows" are very miss leading, however it is worth trying them out mostly for fun but also just incase you ever need them or just want to save your emergency PJ+cotton balls etc for a real emergency. Personally I need practice making char cloth, not my first choice to use but there are highly available materials to make it from in primitive conditions.

    Once I was car camping and an older friend who had been camping for many decades asked if anyone had lighter fluid to light the group campfire. I was busy cooking food for the pot-luck supper but told him I had an emergency pint of fluid in an aluminum fuel bottle in my truck. He got it and poured the entire bottle on the wood and lit it. I was like WTF. No rain, the wood was dry he only needed an ounce or two to get some kindling started with a spark. I don't even lend out a plastic lighter anymore, people used mine set it down on the ground step on it, destroyed; same thing with fire steel, which are easily broken. OMG, City Folk Camping, it just kills me, with laughter. Inexperienced people who stop learning can be highly entertaining. I learn something new every time I go camping and on forums like this, and from others in group campouts. They also laugh at my mistakes, or just the strange ways I do things, like how I obsess about backups.

  13. #93

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    Quote Originally Posted by intothewild View Post
    I am going to try to make some charcloth this weekend. Does anyone have an explanation why one would use petro jelly on cotton balls? is this the best gel? I am thinking of applying some fire paste to some cotton pads or balls and use that as emergency tinder. anyone see a problem with that? like most of us, if i go into the wild i always carry several fire starting instruments. i like at least a triple back up! say, a bic lighter, mag bar, and nato waterproof matches. now i will also carry some charcloth.
    I use the YELLOW PJ worked into 100% cotton balls, it has healing properties. I have 1 or 2 plastic match holders full of them, for making fire, and for first aid. It's good for cuts, scratches, chapped skin... and lights my fire. ; )

  14. #94
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    I used flint and steel for the most part. For tinder I've used cattail fluff, dry pine needles and shaved birch bark. Dryer lint works well but burns quickly.

  15. #95
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    I tried something once just for fun - don't see it as being necessary, and most times might be more work than is needed (building it first). Except...I can see it being a solution when conditions are a bit more challenging (lower oxygen at high altitudes or high humidity, damp material) and you are alone - no help:

    Borrowed something from the crooked-stick method. The crooked-stick is basically using a curved drill, holding it in the middle at the peak of the curve and cranking it round and round with your hand. This curved drill is much heavier and longer. Whereas other methods are using speed to create the threshold friction, the hand-cranking action is slow yet creates more pressure...reaching your friction threshold with more pressure instead of speed. You put together a big branch with a Y, so that the Y is on the ground (stabilizing itself without you holding onto it much) and the single member rests upon your drill...with a really big stone or even small boulder on top of the Y, pushing down on the crank-drill/crooked-stick.

    Well, the part that I "borrowed" is using the Y. Really I made two Y's, each with some good weight on them, their relative positions holding the drill in place without me touching it. The drill was straight, and I put a bow on it. I made the bow kinda long. I could hold the bow with both hands, and saw with a good long stroke...and didn't get close to wore out at all. So now I have lots of downward pressure, AND lots of speed with the bow, AND can use both hands on a long bow...being comfortable, stable, and not getting worn out.

    Obviously, you have to make the drill and board accordingly to handle the weight and sideways forces. And carving the right tip at bottom of drill. And make sure the board even stays in place. But the way I did it, it wasn't a problem at all. And I even lubricated (with something so commonplace as just wetting them with water, or maybe something else, can't remember) the top of the drill where the Y rested upon it, having also made those two surfaces really smooth where they were against each other. And really, it didn't take that long to build in the first place.

    That sucker almost brought flame to the board instead of just tinder smoke, and in VERY few saws. Fast. I didn't do all conceivable experiments, but I tried a couple of things which wouldn't work otherwise, like something not being as dry as you'd like or a board that was hard instead of soft. And there was fire in virtual seconds. Some attempts brought smoke/flame in four bow strokes. Pow, done.

    By the way, question: Anybody ever tried MAKING a fire-piston out of non-modern materials (found in the woods) and without modern shop tools, and have it also work?
    Last edited by WalkingTree; 07-24-2015 at 10:34 PM.

  16. #96
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    By the way, question: Anybody ever tried MAKING a fire-piston out of non-modern materials (found in the woods) and without modern shop tools, and have it also work?
    I have not.
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  17. #97

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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingTree View Post
    By the way, question: Anybody ever tried MAKING a fire-piston out of non-modern materials (found in the woods) and without modern shop tools, and have it also work?
    I did watch this a while back. The video description has some history.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NKq4ChNOew

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK2yqcKdUZc

  18. #98
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eastree View Post
    I did watch this a while back. The video description has some history.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NKq4ChNOew

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK2yqcKdUZc
    WT, as you can see by these video's even with natural materials, need to locate and process parts,...and several specialized tools, looks like maybe hack saw blades modified, other several knives....and plant fiber.....Still quite a process.

    I can picture the maker in the vid's cussing himself for losing his Bic as he's working

    When completed you now have a fairly large tool, that needs char cloth to work well......all for a glowing ember.

    I do not consider this practical, as an emergency tool for fire starting, but has a cool factor.
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  19. #99
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    Yes, like my contraption, for normal occasional instances, this is something which calls for more time and work than just spinning a stick in your hand for a few minutes for fire. However, once made, for someone who'd frequently need to start a fire from scratch, I can see this as being more convenient, assuming the skill is there. I figure that's why it's use was commonplace for some indigenous peoples. It seems like their equivalent of our modern magnesium/firesteel. Just a quick pop of the piston and you're done. 'Bout as fast as our firesteel. Excepting whether or not you use charcloth with firesteel (have to make it).

    And I never considered charcloth to be that hard to make. Is basically the same goal/method as making the kind of charcoal for treating drinking water (Not the kind you find in a campfire). For charcoal, you're basically just raising some wood to ignition temperature, but you don't let it actually ignite...burn...because you don't let it get any air (oxygen). My first time doing this was with a small metal trashcan (I figure you can do it without even the trashcan...in the primitive wild just dirt and maybe stones will do) - Fill the can with some wood. More wood fitted in just right for less air. Hardwood, oak, is best but just because the resultant coal falls apart less and lasts longer. Dig into the ground a few inches, plop the can upside down onto that spot. Build up dirt around the base to choke the air. Start a fire around it and let it burn...

    ...How big a fire and how long it burns is key. You want to completely transform the wood, yet not take it so far that it turns into powder. For about a 3-cubic-feet worth of wood, my half-arsed recipe is a "medium fire for a medium period of time". Medium "campfire", and not just starting the initial fire then letting it burn out yet not kept burning all night either. After maybe a couple or few hours of marshmallow roasting ritual, leave it. Let it cool overnight, and done...

    ...so well, keeping that concept in mind, just put some cloth in a can, kept from getting ventilation. Put it over a candle or close to a fire, whatever. When smoke tries to force itself out of the can, cloth is done - You're just trying to heat that cloth to burning temperature, yet not letting it actually burn. So it remains intact, but what you have now is some material which catches fire (ember) easier...at a lowered ignition temperature.

    I seen/heard about people putting together complicated contraptions for making water-treating charcoal...but this, and I believe charcloth as well, is more forgiving than I think some feel that it is - several ways to do it with some flexibility but not complexity. Don't even need only one kind of material for charcloth.

    The trick of course, as many of you know I'm sure, is "holding your tongue just right"...the practice and skill in using these things. Making and using the fire piston. Drills. Charcoal and charcloth. Starting a fire with different kinds of charcloth and tinder.

  20. #100
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Cotton works the best for char cloth........
    Just saying.
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