Monday, January 19, 2009

Playing with fire....steel

I've been messing around with alternative methods of firestarting a lot lately. I've been watching videos, reading blogs and researching articles trying to figure out some "easy" ways to light fires without using stuff like alcohol, drier lint, petroleum covered cotton balls or other cheats. I've come to a few conclusions. First and foremost...if you have anything on hand to cheat with then USE IT! It will save you much frustration. A bit of rubbing alcohol works wonders and it's cheap to stock up on. I just can't believe that some of these guys making these videos didn't pour a bit of alcohol or some gas on their kindling before lighting it with one or two strikes of their firesteel. I can shoot sparks over a pile of bone dry grass with absolutely no wind all day long and never achieve more than a few wisps of smoke. I pour a few drops of alcohol or a dab of petroleum jelly on it and it goes up in no time.

Even magnesium firestarters are garbage. The gust of wind created by swiping your knife across the flint is all it takes to blow the little pile of magnesium slivers to the four winds. Usually I just take the slivers and mix them up with my kindling to keep them from blowing away. Even that doesn't result in much more than a few extra sparks and some smoke. Once again, though, with a bit of extra fuel it's easy to get it burning in no time.

Give me a match or two or a lighter and I can get a campfire going in a thunderstorm. You can even give me a firesteel and some lighter fluid and it's at least possible. Tell me to gather some kindling and try to get something going, though, and we'll all freeze to death before I can get that fire started. I haven't even bothered attempting the bow and drill method. If I can't even get a fire started with a firesteel then how am I supposed to get one going with a couple of pieces of wood and some string? So what's the trick? Maybe I've missed something. Once I get the flint and steel method down then I'll work on getting more primitive.


mmpaints said...

LOL, I'm right with you! I've got livestock so there's always a bit of straw or hay laying around, I've even had success with leaves. I "cheat" when I build a fire always. Not a big fan of fluids tho and have also tried the magnesium block, I hated it too. Good old fashioned stick match or bic for me. Got a ton of both in the prep kit!

Shy Wolf said...

With the flint and steel, try useing a piece of charred cloth as the tinder and hold it in the striking hand. You can make charred cloth from anything made with cotton thread: use your favorite match to light a 2" wide by 12" long piece of cotton (on the narrow end), blow it out and store it with your steel and flint. That may work a bit better than grass.
One secret to maing fire without matches is a very fine tinder and soft puffs on it, not hard blowing. Make it gentle. See if that works better for you.

ka said...

I have personally watched this guy:

make fire with the drill method in less than 15 seconds of drilling. The rest of us spent 2 hours and I think one person in the group got it. It is all in the technique. Tracker Dan will tell you that making fire is a skill you have to learn, practice, and keep practicing for life.

Anonymous said...

I agree,give me a lighter any day! I know knowing the other skill's would be beneficial in the long run,but I'm sure we'll be busy with way too many other thing's to bother with this! I alway's have a bunch of bic lighter's, a couple of cheap zippo's, flint and fluid ready. A zippo can use gas, fluid, or even rubbing alchohol in a pinch. Just a note,pinecone's make a great kindling! burn fast,but light easy.

The Urban Survivalist said...

I know that it's easier with a lighter. I also realize that building a fire without one is a skill that you're not going to be able to suddenly learn the day that you need it. That's why I want to figure out how to do it now. I don't want to worry about learning how to do it when I need it. I want to already be able to do it easily.

Aaron Thorne said...

I understand the frustration, but I've had good luck with my firesteel. Admittedly helps to have something VERY fluffy/combustible