Challenge - never bring anything to start a fire

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rich59

Maker
Aug 28, 2005
2,212
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London
One of my regular haunts is my allotment. In order to keep up fire lighting skills I run a rule - that I should only use things found there to light a fire.

Way back when I started out I would try to do bow drill and make a cord from the stems of ragwort and make up the other bits from found wood. Never got it to work. The cord always broke.

Later I got better and could do hand drill with an elder drill on ivy. Shaping/ cutting was done with stone edges.

It got easier again when I found a plank of pine and so had my favourite combo of elder on pine for hand drill.

Yesterday I found an old file. I'm thinking to set up flint and steel with this. Anyone got any hints on best setup with a file, and what natural tinders I might find in or around an allotment?
 
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Woody girl

Full Member
Mar 31, 2018
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Exmoor
Old man's beard fluff is a good fire starter Perhaps you could grow a tinder patch. Rosebay willowherb would be another. Would also benefit wildlife. I'm sure there are plenty of natural materials that could be planted. Make a small pond and grow some bulrushes. Food and tinder in one. Can't think further at present but that's what springs to mind instantly without further thought.

Edited due to auto misspell!
 
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Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
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Flax is very good, just dried stem rumpled up ....and lobelia is a member of the flax family. If you grow it as a bedding/edging, let it die right back in winter until it's a tidy bundle of wee stems all from one rootstock. It works to take a spark if you get the fine fibres broken out. I found a dried out thyme plant took well too, and so does the snash of crushed dried over wintered nettles (though I can't see you having them on an allotment). Gorse and broom work too, but unless they're in the hedges around the allotments, not likely to be handy. Old raspberry canes crushed up (or chicory) help draw an ember into flame, but you've to get the ember going first.

Interested to hear what you find that works though; you're rather renowned for sussing out tinders and making fire :)
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
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McBride, BC
The sulfur dioxide combustion gas is poisonous so I'd look for anything else.

We pull the little twigs off spruce trees, the twigs right against the main trunk as always the driest.
They are commonly the most resinous, too. Then you bash the bejeezlies out of the twigs between 2 rocks to
separate the wood fiber into a near fluff. Just about like cotton fiber.
 

PeterRiley

New Member
Jul 2, 2019
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Shropshire
Often use Jute rope? Cut into 6 inch lengths, coil into shoe tin and make char rope.
Also shine up bottom of tin can, with chocolate or tooth paste ( get the alimnum off) then use as a parabolic fire started when conditions are right.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,584
676
Canada
Root around near the communal compost heap .. you'll find tons of stuff ... lots of dry old stems .... courgette/melon, jerusalem artichokes, sunflowers, brassicas, thistle etc stalks, all sorts. Bust them open for the pith
 
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Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
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McBride, BC
Western Canadian wasp nests char but they will not light with a flame.
We have more fun by taking many methods for fire-lighting to experiment with.
+12C and rain since early last evening. The place is dripping.
My central heating furnace just came on again.

My preference is a magnesium block, striker metal rod
and paper birch bark shred to hold the Magnesium and catch the sparks.

I keep a secret = In the bottom of my pack is a 10 minute railroad emergency flare.
 
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Sep 16, 2013
456
142
Rochester, Kent
Are dried, Jerusalem artichoke stems any good for hand drill? They seem straight enough and similar in appearance to clematis.

Good news if they are as I've got lots on my allotment plot at the mo!
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,584
676
Canada
Peoples' sheds have good firelighting things like WD40 and old bicycle tyres too :)
 
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If you spend time in the woods or open country it is good to get accustomed to using only the material at hand. My father when he went on hunting trips by canoe or dog team always taught us to use the materials we could find. That way you learn where to look for dry wood to burn and find the little timber and other dry stuffs for starting a fire. I know my friend in England can start a fire in an English wood in the wet & rain with what is found, so I'm sure you can always find dry materials in your land too.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,706
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McBride, BC
After all these decades, I can still remember being taught where to find the driest wood.
We went out in the rain to make the choices obvious. Dry days are no good.
How to harvest waxy birch bark without leaving an obvious scar for all to see.
Maybe it just stands to reason and makes common sense but to have it pointed out is important
to pass the knowledge on to the next generation. Bashing tinder out of spruce twigs with rocks is fun.
 
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Chalkflint

Tenderfoot
Mar 6, 2017
70
33
Oxford
Very valid point Joe.
I always remember the advice:- If you want to know how to survive, watch what the locals do.

Expanding this thread a bit could you learned folks help with a project I want to do with my cubs and scouts.
The scenario is you arrive at camp and it is vital you get a fire going.
If your life depended on it, how many different ways can you think of to get that fire going?
I have started a list already with the more traditional methods and then some are more obscure depending on what might be at hand.

List so far:-
Match
Cigarette Lighter
Fire steel
Steel and flint
Rub sticks. (Hand drill, bow drill ,ploughing).
Carry Embers with you
Compression lighter (Diesel effect)
Strike two hardened steel items together.
Magnifying glass and sun
9V Battery ,Wire wool
Electrical spark from car battery
Deliberately over load electrical circuit
Deliberately overload mechanical equipment
Light some paper off an engine manifold.
Reactive metals Sodium, Potassium etc
Chemical. (Exothermic)

Any more suggestions?
Chalkflint
 

mousey

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jun 15, 2010
2,210
253
39
NE Scotland
I saw one the other day on youtube, variation of magnifying glass. Using a clear plastic sandwich / freezer / zip lock bag, filled with water, seal and twist the top a lot. Twisting the top forms the bag into a more spherical shape then the water inside can be used to focus sunlight the same way as a magnifying glass.

 
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