So you want to make fire, without using matches or magnifying glass or even a flint and steel? Here are a few tips to focus you on the most important aspects … get a drink and settle down to read this blog …
(Also read other posts I have added here already) You will notice a lack of pictures – but you have seen many other sites, so you have any idea (otherwise you’d not be reading this!)
Ultimately, if you really want it bad enough, you will get it, you will master fire making … but don’t expect anyone else to do it for you … you have got to WANT to LEARN. You can read all the books and watch endless video clips … but in the end it comes down to how badly you want to do it. If you are in a real survival situation, freezing and dieing, it is a bit late to learn!
Think about your fire making to date – be it camp fires, bonfires, a stove, whatever. The basics are the same:
- Water is a problem. It boils at 100 degrees C, well below the combustion temperature of wood or other fuels. As it evaporates off it takes energy with it (latent heat). Dampness means energy lost through evaporation. Water also can cause the material to rot (break down) and thus become too soft. Water also excludes a vital component of fire … oxygen.
- Oxygen – in the air, 21%, most air being Nitrogen. The air you breathe out contains approx 16% oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapour. Your breath is moist (think of cold days) yet still has oxygen in it. Oxygen is essential for burning to occur! Not enough – it chokes, but too much air will remove the second vital component of fire – heat!
- Heat – or energy – the spark, or the ember, an existing flame or the sun, chemical or electrical. You need this energy and enough of it for combustion. Not enough and you may only warm things, to much and you have either rapid combustion or other materials start to also burn, and you have a big problem – fire out of control. Making fire is about CONTROL.
- Fuel – the material that is burning, combusting, giving off more heat and to you is the fire. Fuel has a certain amount of energy and you can release that (burn it) slowely or fast, depending whether you want an explosion, a flash in the pan or a smoulder. You control the rate of burn – but how?
The Rate of Burn is controlled by you – regulating the amount of oxygen and the size of the fuel, and how much energy is available – how much is being diverted to evaporate off moisture (say from green logs), or radiating or convecting away before it does any use / work warming fuel. (Don’t waste precious heat with a fast burning flaming fire – it looks good but all that heat is warming the atmosphere – not your next fuel which will be cold and damp. Even ‘dry’ fuel contains water!)
Think of fires you have lit, or controlled. Think of the amount of air you let in, the fuel sizes and how you managed the fire. This is it – this is what you do – except, when making fire by friction you are doing it on a mini scale … with tiny fuel, a tiny amount of heat and some amount of water moisture. There is usually plenty of air about outdoors, maybe too much (wind) – so your job is to control this environment in which your tiny amount of heat and fuel is … look after it like it is a new life … protect it, feed it and help it grow.
OK – if you have got that – you are well on your way to making fire!
Practice safely – have water to hand, maybe an extinguisher and ensure the environment around cannot accidentally become fuel itself!!! Think of the wind direction and strength – think of the consequences and what might happen. Always be in control. Never leave a fire unattended until it is totally safe to do so – and if you don’t know that, do not start a fire!
Assess the risk – have you phone connection with the emergency services? Have you a safe exit? Who and what else is potentially in danger? Get it wrong, just once in your life, and you are an arsonist. Don’t!
Fire kills – never play with fire.
Some useful links:
The best books on the subject from my library:
Mears, Ray – Outdoor Survival Handbook
Brown, Tom – Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival
Kochanski, Mors – Bush craft: Outdoor Skills and wilderness survival
Gatty, Harold – Finding your way without map or compass
Akkermans, Anthonio – Bushcraft Skills and how to survive in the wild
Mabey, Richard – Food for Free
Wiseman, John – SAS Survival Handbook
Montgomery, David – Mountainman Crafts and Skills
Wescott, David – Primitive Technology: A book of earth skills
That’s more than enough! Good luck – and don’t give up!
OK – a couple of pictures showing good bowing technique:
Write if you need help