One of the most important skills anyone can have if they hope to survive away from civilization, is building a fire. Many people may assume that they know how to build a fire already. Gather some fire wood, pour on some lighter fluid, and set it aflame. Well that is the easy way yes, but what if you don’t have lighter fluid? Or more importantly, a lighter or matches? What then? Could you still get a fire going? Probably not, I’d guess. So that’s the goal of this article. To teach how to properly build and light a fire without the help of normal materials. I’m going to explain this a bit backwards. First I’d like to go through the steps of building a fire, and then I’ll talk about the ignition process. Remember the three ingredients to a proper fire are heat, fuel, and oxygen.
The first thing you’ll need to get a good fire going is tinder. Tinder is the initial fuel. It’s any dry material that will burn very easily, but also long and hot enough to catch your kindling aflame. A good source of tinder is dead dry plants, grass, and thin bark. You can also use things like wax, lint, moss, wood shavings, and paper. Any highly flammable material. You’ll need to ignite the tinder and get it burning well. If you are using friction, your fire will start as embers and you’ll have to feed it oxygen to get the embers burning. You can do this by blowing on them softly.
Before you light your tinder, be sure to have all your materials ready and a fireplace built. Dig out a slight hole in the ground to nest your fire. You may surround your nest with rocks if you like. Though it’s not particularly necessary. Build up your entire fire with tinder, kindling, and firewood into a tipi shape in the nest. You must make sure you have enough firewood to maintain your fire for a while. A good rule to remember is, once you feel like you have enough firewood, collect five times that much. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Once your tinder is flaming nicely, you can add it to your fireplace. Be sure you have good kindling that will catch fire quickly. Kindling can be dry twigs, small pieces or strips of wood, sticks with shavings cut into them, cardboard, or anything else that will catch fire relatively easily. A good way to make kindling from a larger piece of wood is to chop strips away with an axe. You can also smash the end of a piece of wood with a rock and pull strips away from it that way.
The next and most important part of the fire is the firewood. This is what will keep your fire burning for a long time. Tinder and kindling alone will burn out too quickly to be used without proper firewood. Firewood is usually branches from trees, small logs, or pieces of wood. I must stress that you can never have too much firewood on hand. Once you get that fireplace burning in full swing, you have to have plenty of firewood to sustain it.
Now that I’ve covered how to build the fire, I’ll talk about the all important process of lighting it. Obviously, if you have a lighter or matches, you can just use those to light the tinder straight away. However, if you don’t have these things, one way to create smoldering embers is by friction.
Get yourself a dead dry, sturdy stick(spindle) no less than 2 feet long and a equally dry flat piece of wood(fireboard). Dig out a small V shaped notch at the edge of the fireboard with a depression in which to place the spindle. Place some of your tinder beneath the fireboard. Place your spindle in the depression and use your palms to turn the spindle back and forth as fast as you can. Make sure to maintain pressure on the fireboard with the spindle. This will take a long time and will beat up your hands, but if you do it correctly, eventually you’ll create enough heat to spark embers.
Another way to turn the spindle is to make a small bow with some string and a slightly curved, flexible stick. Loop the bow string around the spindle. Get yourself a socket, which would be a stone or a another harder piece of wood, and use it to push down on the top of the spindle. Moving the bow back and forth, turn the spindle as quickly as possible. This, or any, method will take a lot practice and determination. Friction fire ignition is by far the most difficult and labor inducing way to start a fire.
You can also opt to dig out a long depression from your fireboard and rather than spin the spindle, rub it back and forth against the fireboard until it creates heat and embers. This is called the Plow method.
Another method is if you have a magnifying glass or a mirror. You can try to catch the sun to create smoldering on a piece of paper or dry plants. You can also rub a battery against steel wool. This will create sparks.
Once you have your tinder piece smoldering, add that piece to the rest your tinder and feed it oxygen until the tinder ignites. Continue from there with the process I described above. Using these instructions you can create a fire without the use of matches or a lighter. You should always have plenty of fire starting materials in your pack, including a flint and steel set. A flint and steal set will allow you to create sparks fairly easily.
There are many methods to build and start fires and, as always, I suggest you research these methods further and practice them many times.
You can never under value having a fire. It is absolutely vital to your survival to know how to build and start one. With these instructions, you can start a fire without the help of lighters, matches, or a flint and steel set. However as I mentioned before, and must stress, it will not be easy. Practicing is the best way to feel confident when the time comes to have need of these skills. So go out into the woods, get some material and practice, practice, practice! You’ll be glad you did.