Scouts-L Mail Archive for April of 1999: Re: Starting a fire w/flint & steel: urls or tips?(long)
Re: Starting a fire w/flint & steel: urls or tips?(long)
Thu, 1 Apr 1999 11:18:57 -0600
I have shown this technique at the last two Boy Scout Basic Adult
Leader training items I have taught at. I can now get the tinder
burning in under 1 minute(to the cheers of the students). I set things
up ahead of time.
Flint and steel. This can be real flint and steel like that at this
Their basic kit is what I use and the instruction book is superb. I
also use the Tobacco Box with Burning Lens to hold the kit.
It can also be the scraping flint like from the magnesium fire
starters or if desperate(really really desperate) any hard rock that
can produce sparks when hit against each other. You can also use the
sparks produced by an EMPTY disposable lighter.
Tinder. This can be dried grass, frayed NATURAL FIBER rope(the pieces
you cut off after the boys whip the ends), or other fine burnable
material. A bird nest(with feathers removed) works great. You can also
use the lint from the dryer but make sure the items dried were 100%
natural and have not been treated with fire retardant chemicals. Most
children's clothing does not meet this requirement.
Most important is Char Cloth. This is any NATURAL FIBER cloth that
has been charred or turned into charcoal. I prefer cotton felt but
have also used sweat socks, old towels, gauze bandage, muslin, linen,
and even tried cotton balls(did not work). This material catches the
spark and begins burning with a glow like the silk of lantern mantles
does. This give you time to put it in the tinder and begin to blow on
it to light the tinder.
To make char cloth take your material and put loosely into a metal
box of some type. I use a Band-Aid box but you can also use a candy
box or a mint box. If your box does not have a hinge on it for gas to
escape then punch a hole in it with a thumb tack. This allows the
volatile gasses(those that produce flame) to escape and leaves the
carbon(burns without flame) behind. The box is then put in a fire
until it stops producing smoke. As soon as this happens remove it from
the fire and let cool. Do not open immediately as the char will begin
to burn as soon as it gets oxygen if it is still hot. This is why the
box must be almost air tight. After the box is cool enough to hold
without burning yourself you can open it. Check the cloth. If it is
black and crumbly you left it in the fire too long. If it still has
brown or non black patches it is not completely done. This can happen
if you pack the material in the box too tight. If you have a mess on
the bottom that looks like tar you used a synthetic material and it
melted. If it is easy to tear but holds it's shape when lightly rubbed
between the fingers it is ready. I keep mine in a ziplock bag to keep
it dry and keep a little tender in another bag for the same reason.
First make your firelay with an easy access to where you have put the
tinder inside the firelay. You will have some tinder to blow in and
more in the firelay to start the fire.
Second lay out the tinder, char cloth, flint and steel.
Third for true flint and steel(right hand person) make left hand into
a loose fist like you would hold a walking staff and place flint on
the bend of the forefinger with a sharp edge hanging over. Put char
cloth on top of flint so it is exposed and hold these in place with
thumb. With steel in right hand strike the flint with the steel so as
to produce sparks. Sparks are the metal that is sheared off by the
flint. When the char cloth catches hold it by the edge(the red glowing
part WILL BURN) and put the flint and steel down. Put glowing char
cloth in the tinder and fold over so it is in good contact with the
char cloth. You can pick it up but do not put too far away from fire.
Blow up into bundle until it becomes flame and then quickly put into
your firelay where the other tinder is. It will smoke as you blow into
it and then suddenly burst into flame. Because the smoke will rise it
is a good idea to have the tinder at eye level or above so that you
will not get a face full of smoke. You will chip the flint as you
strike it so do not be concerned if pieces of the flint flake off.
You can also use the other flints(from magnesium block or lighter) to
get char cloth going also. The easiest way to get charcloth lit is if
the sun is out use a magnifying glass. This is why I like the Tobacco
box with burning lens so much.
For a fire lay I like the following: I will use north and south and
east and west for ease of instruction only. This does not mean you
must have the sticks oriented.
Bottom: two sticks about wrist size laying north and south about 5 to
6 inches apart.
On top of these place a row of thumb size sticks running east and
Next place two more wrist size sticks laying north and south directly
over the bottom two sticks.
Lay tinder LOOSELY on the thumb size stick platform. This is what you
will need access to in order to start the fire.
Lay twigs(up to pencil size) across the sticks running east west.
Allow gaps as large as the sticks between the sticks.
Lay two thumb size sticks running north and south above the wrist
Lay more twigs(pencil to thumb size) across these sticks.
This is about as high as you go at this point. After the tinder is
started it should light the pencil size sticks and the pencil to thumb
size layers of wood. These will start the thumb to wrist size wood you
put on after they get started.
The bottom platform where you lay the tinder allows air to reach all
the tinder at the same time and allows for hotter burning. This gets
the sticks above the tinder heated up and burning faster.
This is how I do it. I hope this helps. You mileage may very.
Woodrow M Dotson II
ASM New Boys Patrol
BSA Troop 363
I used to be an Soaring Eagle...
P.S. make sure all tinder and kindling is DRY. For a quick fire the
night before dry your tinder and kindly by the previous nights fire
and wrap in a tarp before going to bead so it stays dry.
From: Jay Willis [SMTP:j.willis@EVERGREENAVIATION.COM]
Sent: Thursday, April 01, 1999 8:34 AM
Subject: Starting a fire w/flint & steel: urls or tips?
My Scout son and I enjoyed a demonstration a few years ago at Webelos
Woods on how to start a campfire using flint and steel. I made a
attempt to search for the subject on the web, but all I came up with
were commercial sites that were either selling the _magnesium_ fire
starters, or survivalist sites (better be prepared for that nasty y2k
thing), but they tell you only that you should have a fire starter
not how to put one together.
Anybody have any suggestions on where I might find such information
the internet, such as the fundamentals involved, tips on what
to use, or vendors who might be willing to part with their products
only a few $, etc.?