Recently I told you about the best fire starting technology available.
I told you what the simplified list of fire starting material was. To recap:
- Slow Burning Fuel (Wood)
- Fast Burning Fuel (Tinder)
- Spark Making Tool (Too many to count)
The best fire starting technology available provides two of these things. One of them, the fast burning fuel, is finite. The spark making tool element is finite as well, but there are ways around it. Today, though, I’ll tell you a couple more sources of fast burning fuel.
As my marine friends like to say, “One is none and two is one.” If you have two methods of making sparks, like a lighter and a ferro rod, you should have at least two sources of fast burning fuel.
I could tell you about making feather sticks, but feather sticks take skill to create. Today I’ll give you a few easy to find or make types of fast burning fuel to use while you sharpen your woodcrafting skills.
The primary advantages of these methods are being able to light wet tinder and acting as a tinder substitute when none is available. Ideally you’d still use tinder to light your fire, but your situation will be what it will be. You will have to make do.
#1 – Char Cloth
Char cloth is fiber (cloth) that has been altered by being cooked in the ashes of a fire. It is what it says – charred cloth – and it catches a spark fairly well. You can make a good fire with char cloth.
Char cloth is the most labor intensive fire starting item on this list. It takes a little work to create, but once you’ve got the art mastered you can create a big batch of the stuff. Don’t get discouraged if you botch your first couple attempts.
Char cloth is considered slow burning fuel, but not by my definition. To me, slow burning fuel is what you’re going to be burning for the duration of your fire. Some folks still consider char cloth a slow burning fuel because it will burn for a good while.
Compared to gasoline or lighter fluid, char cloth is indeed a slow burner. It still won’t make a night-long fire by itself, though.
Here’s a video on how to make it.
A few bits of advice:
- Most folks don’t have steel water bottles because most folks don’t practice woodcraft. You could use an empty altoids tin instead. There’s some debate as to whether or not you should put a hole in the lid – I always have. You do what you want.
- DO NOT remove the lid from your container until it has cooled. If you do, your char cloth will burn up as soon as enough oxygen is present.
- If you didn’t leave your container in the fire long enough, no worries. Just put it back in. If you overdo it on the second run, no worries. Take your time.
#2 – Impregnated Cotton Balls
This one is far easier than char cloth to make. Simply put, you impregnate cotton balls with oil. A popular choice is petroleum jelly.
You may wonder why petroleum jelly is such a popular choice. To that I would ask you why napalm was used in flame throwers instead of straight gasoline. If you don’t know much about combustibles, the answer is that napalm is jellied gasoline. Being jellied makes the gasoline burn longer, making the flamethrower more than just a novelty.
Petroleum jelly will burn for longer than straight oil or alcohol. That gives you a greater chance of actually catching your fuel (wood) on fire. Here’s a video on how to make it.
A couple tips:
- Try not to overdo it. A little goes a long way here, or as the saying goes, “a little dab’ll do ya.” You want enough dry cotton to catch the spark. PJ is a lot like diesel in the fact that it is flammable but not explosive – if it’s too wet, it won’t light without fire.
- Another method to make them is by putting your cotton balls into a container (like a pill bottle) and pouring melted, liquid PJ into the container. The obvious downside of this method is that the cotton balls will not be evenly saturated.
- An alternative to PJ is a mixture of crisco and bee’s wax. Use just enough bee’s wax to get a PJ-like consistency in the climate where you live. This mixture also makes great lubricant for black powder guns.
#3 – Impregnated Dryer Lint
If you own a dryer, this method might be for you. Very similar to the cotton ball method, but different enough to merit its own segment. The difference should be obvious.
Cotton balls are very tightly woven. Dryer lint is flimsy, and falls apart when wet. It can be made to work, though. The trick is the kind of clothing used to make “Vasolint”. Here’s a video discussing this issue.
A couple of tips on using “Vasolint”:
- Lint made from a whole load of cotton clothing is preferable to lint from any other kind of clothing you dry.
- Some have recommended using WD40 to impregnate the lint. This can work very well, but depending on the kind of lint, your tinder may burn up too quickly to be useful.
- If you decide to use “Vasolint”, try to make sure you have some natural tinder to use with it. This presents its own issues, the primary issue being that you don’t really need the lint at all if you have natural tinder.
Be Careful With Fire Starting Materials!!!
Whatever you do, be careful. I accept no liability for you choosing to experiment with these fire starting methods. We’re all grown ass men here, you’re responsible for your own actions.
One thing to be especially careful of is the natural material around your fire. That goes for any time you make one.
One of the first fires I made got out of hand. Thankfully, someone on the other side of the woods saw smoke and got the fire department out to help. What caused the fire to get out of hand?
A smoldering ember from my campfire caught some matted pine needles on fire. Pine needles can burn and retain a spark for so long you don’t even realize they’re on fire. I could have very well died in my sleep because I thought my fire was out.
Imagine my surprise when I awoke from a nightmare to the tune of Johnny Cash’s old hit.
Stay safe, practice your skills responsibly, and pray you never need them for anything more than a camping trip.