Ways to Start a Fire

We need to talk about athe fuel used in a fire befoe we talk about ways to start a fire.  There are three different types of fuel used in a fire.

Tinder is the easily ignited but fast burning fuel used to turn the spark from your firestarter into fire.  In the olden days a piece of charred cotton cloth was carried in a tinder box along with a flint and steel.

Tinder can be anything from pine needles to broken up tree bark or fluffy material from within certain plant pods.  Look around in your area and you should find quite a few appropriate materials.  You will need to break up this material to increase the surface area for oxygen.  Tinder fire starters are commercially available.  An old, low tech trick is to saturate cotton ballw with vaseline and carry them in an old 35mm film canister.

The next step after your tinder is burning is to add kindling.  Small, dry twigs are most commonly used for this.  Dead trees that contain a lot of sap are especially good for this.  Pine is a common example.

When the kindling is burning hot enough it is time to add the main fuel.  Slow burning hardwoods are the fuel of choice if available.

There are several ways to start a fire that we will not discuss in this article since they are too slow and laborous.  These include the hand fire drill and the bow and drill methods.  People usually think of these as rubbing two sticks together to make fire.  These advanced techniques will be discussed at a later time in another article.

Another method that some people advocate is to short out the terminals of a battery with steel wool.  Electricity sets the steel wool on fire.  A very hot fire I might add.  This is an effective method if you have a usuable battery and steel wool.  I would have another method available if I was depending on this method.  Batteries have a way of losing charge at the worst moments.  There is also a limit to the amount of steel wool that can be carried.  It is light but bulky.

Matches are the next step up from the fire drill.  Small, light and easy to carry, they should  be in every survival kit.  Buy only good waterprood mathces.  Carry them in a water tight container and make sure you have a dry striking surface available.

Magnesium fire starters are the most popular fire starting tools.  They deserve this popularity..  They are small enough to carry with you at all times.  Some will even fit on a key chain.

There are actually two types of magnesium fire starters.  The first type is a round cylinder which had magnesium mixed in with a material that sparks when a piece of carbon steel is pushed across it.  A small amount of material may be shaved from the cylinder to help start a fire.

The next type is a rectangular piece of magnesium with a separate flint along one side.  This is the type our military uses.  Magnesium is shaved off of the block and set on fire with a spark from the flint.  Please note that carbon steel must be used on the flint.  Stainless Steel will not give a decent spark which could be a concern if you carry a stainless steel knife.

Like any other piece of survival gear you should practice with your firestarter to get used to how it works.  There could be tricks that are unique to your tool that will make it work better.  Some units can be struck with a carbon blade whereas other will have to have the blade pushed across it.  The blade will also need to be cleaned after several trys with the firestarter.  Contaminants from the combustion will stick to the blade and stop the firestarter from working well until they are cleaned off.

People may look at you funny but starting your charcoal BBQ is a great way to practice with these.