Firelighting failure

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Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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Today I failed to light a fire - specifically a new wood gas stove - while out and about in the woods. I figure dispair will get me nowhere and I'm better off treating this as a learning opportunity.

Two things conspired against me; children, and high winds. I can deal with one or the other, but not both. Anyone with kids will understand that time is borrowed. It can be a matter of minutes before some kind of tantrum/disaster/tears/fight occurs. Therefore I felt pressured and rushed the fatwood shavings, and the few that I did make were too big. The winds were such that I didn't even bother scraping birch bark. Lesson number one; don't rush the preparation. Do it properly.

I rarely have issues lighting a normal fire but it turns out a woodgas stove is a different beast. Firstly the top area of the stove where the fire is lit is far more exposed to the elements as it is fairly high off the ground. I soon gave up on the natural tinder and pulled out my homemade cotton wool, vaseline and wax concoctions. They positively rejected any sparks I threw at them. Turns out that having them sat around in my fire kit has rendered them devoid of fluff and covered completely in vaseline. I did get one to light following a bit of fluffing up, which then successfully ignited the bundle of grass and fine twigs I had prepared. However I somehow failed to capitalise on this and it all petered out. Again, poor preparation on my part. I needed way more fine kindling. I had another few goes with some more cotton wool balls but again they struggled to take a spark and it was soon time for home.

I did make my pine tea (Corsican pine I beleive), but in the kitchen. Not quite the same.

I was genuinely surprised at how the vaseline soaked cotton balls performed. I had assumed they were a completely fail safe form of fire lighting but when fully impregnated they don't fluff so well. I'm also surprised to find that a woodgas stove is harder to light than a conventional fire, although I'm sure I'll get the hang of it. Bushcraft has taught me on many occasions that there is a world of difference between what I see on YouTube, what I imagine I can do, and how things work out in real life. I'll try again tomorrow, in a more sheltered spot. When it comes to fire lighting, it think preparation is everything. Anyone have any tips and tricks on woodgas stoves?
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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Kids in wood needing hot drink - use some firelighters :)

No, seriously, decide what the purpose of the trip out is and concentrate on that - you can practice your firelighting any time. OK, there'll be some people scoffing at this point but ask yourself: what could you have been doing with the kids in the wood instead of trying to light the fire?

If I'm in the woods to work (a lot these days, there's too much to do) I don't mess around trying to spark cotton wool and light damp kindling. I need a fire fast so I can get on with work, make my tea, burn the brash etc. - I'll use whatever fastest method I have with me :)

Other times I'll specifically decide to challenge myself and light a fire in difficult conditions - but I won't be trying to entertain the grandchildren at the same time :)
 

Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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Some very wise words! I was at least realistic enough to pack them a thermos so they were very happy.
I actually bought the woodgas stove as an alternative to the typical camping gas stove which frankly I'm bored of and has no magic, and for those times that a full fire is not practical or possible. But you make a good point. It's easy to forget that sometimes you have to just make things practical.
 

oldtimer

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Sep 27, 2005
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This reminds me of the time while trekking high up in the Rockies when my cold, tired and hungry fami!y of wife and two young sons were waiting for me to get a fire going to cook our evening meal and I failed them dismally. It was wet, cold and windy and they went to bed on a meal of cold emergency rations.

They have either forgotten or have been too tactful to remind me of the incident but I recall it often with a feeling of shame at my failure.

Two days later an American family of experienced backwoodsmen taught me the virtues of pine resin rich kindling. Nowadays Vaseline soaked cotton wool is always tucked away in my possibles pouch, an esbit stove in the rucksack and a two burner gas ring in the campervan!

We learn from experience: then did and forget it all!
 
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Woody girl

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Mar 31, 2018
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I always keep a small tin of vasaline lip salve and some fresh out of the packet cotton balls in my fire kit. I make them on the spot as I need them so you never get the "won't light " problem.
Done the same as this myself so your not alone! We live and learn!
 
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Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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Yes, I've concluded that separating out the vaseline and cotton wool is probably the way to go for me as a go to homemade fire lighter. Although I'm keen to try Stew's suggestion of pre-mixing vaseline and wax too.
 

C_Claycomb

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Oct 6, 2003
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Is the stove one that is lit from top, or bottom? I have a Bushbuddy, it really needs to be lit from the bottom, same as a normal fire. The ones that light from the top seem to be the ones with forced air, and they often work with a good quantity of alcohol gel or similar.
 

Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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It's a lixada cylindrical one. I lit it from the top on the basis of some reviews and videos... But that doesn't necessarily mean that's correct. I may try from the bottom tomorrow. I did have the feeling I was effectively blocking off the air from underneath by loading it with wood which defeats the purpose a bit.
 
Jan 13, 2018
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Rural Lincolnshire
The likes of Poundland, Home Bargains etc sell small tins of Vaseline (about 1" diameter)
Scrape out some of the Vaseline and fill the space with 'make-up' pads of cotton wool. They squash down well and you can get several in the 1/2 full Vaseline tin.

The tin is waterproof and you have all the 'makings' necessary, wipe pads over with Vaseline and then pull apart.
Perfect and 'fresh'.

Having a tin of Vaseline also gives you the option of treating that 'Chubby-Rub' you get on the inside of your thighs / groin when you are hot & sweaty.
Good for cracked lips etc.

I have found that the small tubes of 'Lip Balm' that you get in the 'courtesy packs' given away on aircraft are almost as good as Vaseline.
 
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C_Claycomb

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Oct 6, 2003
6,385
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I asked about the top vs bottom lighting because when I got my Bushbuddy, I tried lighting from the top, based on general descriptions of wood gas stoves on-line...and it didn't work. The wood blocked the air and what little flame I got didn't travel downwards. Obvious reasons now that I look at it, but was properly puzzled at the time.
 
Today I failed to light a fire - specifically a new wood gas stove - while out and about in the woods. I figure dispair will get me nowhere and I'm better off treating this as a learning opportunity.

Two things conspired against me; children, and high winds. I can deal with one or the other, but not both. Anyone with kids will understand that time is borrowed. It can be a matter of minutes before some kind of tantrum/disaster/tears/fight occurs. Therefore I felt pressured and rushed the fatwood shavings, and the few that I did make were too big. The winds were such that I didn't even bother scraping birch bark. Lesson number one; don't rush the preparation. Do it properly.

I rarely have issues lighting a normal fire but it turns out a woodgas stove is a different beast. Firstly the top area of the stove where the fire is lit is far more exposed to the elements as it is fairly high off the ground. I soon gave up on the natural tinder and pulled out my homemade cotton wool, vaseline and wax concoctions. They positively rejected any sparks I threw at them. Turns out that having them sat around in my fire kit has rendered them devoid of fluff and covered completely in vaseline. I did get one to light following a bit of fluffing up, which then successfully ignited the bundle of grass and fine twigs I had prepared. However I somehow failed to capitalise on this and it all petered out. Again, poor preparation on my part. I needed way more fine kindling. I had another few goes with some more cotton wool balls but again they struggled to take a spark and it was soon time for home.

I did make my pine tea (Corsican pine I beleive), but in the kitchen. Not quite the same.

I was genuinely surprised at how the vaseline soaked cotton balls performed. I had assumed they were a completely fail safe form of fire lighting but when fully impregnated they don't fluff so well. I'm also surprised to find that a woodgas stove is harder to light than a conventional fire, although I'm sure I'll get the hang of it. Bushcraft has taught me on many occasions that there is a world of difference between what I see on YouTube, what I imagine I can do, and how things work out in real life. I'll try again tomorrow, in a more sheltered spot. When it comes to fire lighting, it think preparation is everything. Anyone have any tips and tricks on woodgas stoves?
Mate until now I had never heard of such an animal as a wood gas stove! But I will comment, & this is not meant to belittle your efforts in any way Suffolkrafter.

It has always been my belief that using modern fire lighting methods & gadgets does not allow one to learn any real primitive fire lighting skills. I recommend that if you want to be good at fire lighting, then learn a primitive fire lighting method & use only natural tinders & kindling. I have gone into the forest during the pouring rain, I have collected & made all the parts to make a fire-bow, & I have made fire. Now you don't learn how to do this overnight, & you will not learn how to do this if you only use modern fire lighting methods.
With respect & regards, Keith.

How does a wood gas stove work?
Normal camp fires burn from the bottom up, while a wood gas stove burns from the top down. ... This hot air rises and is vented into the inner can just above the burning flame, creating a bellows effect and a secondary phase of combustion that optimizes fuel consumption, producing a more efficient and hotter flame.
https://sectionhiker.com/wood-gas-stoves-second-thoughts/
 

Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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It has always been my belief that using modern fire lighting methods & gadgets does not allow one to learn any real primitive fire lighting skills.

I agree with this. I see a ferrorod and use of natural tinder as somewhere on the scale between 'modern' and all-out primitive. My primitive skills are a work in progress. I've had success with bow drill and have also had great success with making charcloth. I have yet to try flint and steel, which is next on the list once I find the right bit of steel. It all comes down to how much time I have available really.
The wood gas stove is for those places that don't really allow a campfire. I've been to many family campsites for example where there is no option for a fire, but I'd have got away with the woodgas stove.
As an aside, I'm not sure where they stand with regards to open access land. Schedule 2 of the Countryside and Rights of Way act refers to:
'...lights or tends a fire or does any act which is likely to cause a fire,'
Which to me might exclude a wood gas stove. But then technically isn't any stove a fire of sorts?
 
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Hbc

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Nov 1, 2018
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I haven't had much time to practice any sort of bushcraft (or anything apart from work running my farm really) in the past year or more so I was pleased to have some time to waste in my little wood about a week ago. It had rained and snowed in the night and was still blowing a gale but was slowly drying. I have myself half an hour and thought I'd make a little fire to warm up a bit and have a bit of practice. I had my spyderco work knife and a cheap disposable lighter so got to work. I failed miserably!
I used to be quite good at it. I would use a ferro rod and whatever knife I had, using all natural tinder that I could find, and could make a fire in almost any conditions in that wood in not very much time at all. I need to practice a lot more now I've realised how rusty I've gotten failing with a lighter :(
 
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firedfromthecircus

Tenderfoot
Oct 9, 2014
70
30
there
I have found that even with cooking/heating devices specifically designed to burn well in windy conditions, that getting them lit in windy conditions is sometimes another matter. To that end I usually carry a foldable aluminium plate wind-break and have used it many times to help get the fire lit in the storm kettle.
 

Suffolkrafter

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Dec 25, 2019
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some time to waste in my little wood
How wonderful to have your own patch of woodland!

Well I had another go, this time highly successful. I lit from the bottom and it worked much better, aside from the fact that the bottom is a long way from the top and so I ignited some tinder on a leaf and transferred it. Bit of a faff. But it worked much better. I chucked in a handful of birch bark and I had a little inferno going in no time at all.

I'm very impressed by the stove. Because it burns so efficiently and transfers all the heat straight onto the bottom of the pot it boiled water very quickly, as quickly as a gas stove I would say (unless you include the previous day's attempt in the timings in which case time-to-tea = 24h), and all on just a handful of small twigs. Super bit of kit.
 
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Edtwozeronine

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Jan 18, 2020
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I've used the less environmentally friendly strips of bicycle tyre inner tube myself, it has a good burn time factor. Plenty of time to get stuff going if you prepared your other fire ingredients properly.
 
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firedfromthecircus

Tenderfoot
Oct 9, 2014
70
30
there
I've used the less environmentally friendly strips of bicycle tyre inner tube myself, it has a good burn time factor. Plenty of time to get stuff going if you prepared your other fire ingredients properly.
So you know what you are doing is environmentally unfriendly, yet you still do it!:mad::banghead:
 

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