Learning how to make a fire is one of the most important and basic survival skills you should know. Fire provides heat to keep you warm, light to see in the dark, it cooks your food and boils water to make it safe to drink. This is why many survivalist preach redundancy when it comes to carrying fire making tools. You can never have too many ways to make a fire. Lighters and matches are great but what happens if you lose them or they get wet? Being well versed in fire making may one day save your life.
One of the most important aspects to making a fire is proper tinder. Many of these fire starting techniques will be useless if you don’t start with good tinder because your fire needs to start from a small spark or ember. Good tinder must be extremely dry and fine enough to start a fire from a single spark such as dried grasses, leaves, Milkweed pods and Tinder Fungus. Tinder can also be prepared in advance, such as charred cotton, also know as “char cloth” and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. Additionally you could also purchase synthetic fire starting tinder available at any camping or sporting goods store.
Here are some of the most popular ways to make fire without a lighter or matches.
Fire Steel and Magnesium
Fire steel consists of a metal rod composed of ferrocerium, an alloy of iron and mischmetal that generates sparks when struck with metal. Fire steel comes with a metal scraper that is scraped along a metal rod, shaving tiny particles off the rod that ignite at high temperatures. These sparks are propelled into your tinder to create an ember. Carefully blow oxygen onto the ember until a flame ignites. Some fire steel can also come embedded in a slab of magnesium. Before striking the fire steel you would carefully shave off tiny slivers of magnesium into your tinder which will ignite easily when coming into contact with a spark from the fire steel.
Friction fire is one of the oldest ways fire was made by our ancestors. The basis for this technique is creating heat and eventually a hot ember through friction by rubbing two pieces of wood together. Their are many variations of this technique but the easiest and most efficient way is the bow drill.
The bow drill consists of a fire board, a drill, a socket, and a bow. These items should be made of dried softwoods with the fire board being the softest if possible. Create a round impression into the fire board the same diameter as your wood drill. Then cut a notch at the edge of the impression all the way through the fire board.
Next create a bow by using a curved branch and tying a piece of string, rope or even a shoelace to each end. Twist the drill around the string so that it is fully wrapped around the bow. Place the fire board on the ground so that the notch is right on top of a small pile of tinder. Place your foot on the other side of the fire board and place the drill in the round impression while still wrapped in the bow string. Put the socket on the top of the drill to stabilize it.
Now pull the bow back and forth spinning the drill against the impression in the fire board. Once the friction starts creating smoke, keep going until a small ember appears in the notch of the firewood and smokes on its own. Pick up the tinder with the ember in it and gently blow on it until a flame appears.
Magnifying the suns rays to create fire can be done in few different ways. Using a magnifying glass being the most obvious but not the only way. Sunlight can also be magnified through a clear liquid such as water in any container with a curved sphere like surface to act as a lens. A clear plastic bag acting as a balloon works perfect for this. The trick is to magnify the sunlight going through the glass or water to concentrate it onto a tiny single point on your tinder. For this to work the water needs to be clear and you will need a nice clear sunny day in the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest.
Flint and Steel
Striking any soft steel, like the back of a pocket knife blade against any harder flint or quartz rock will produce a spark. The idea is to hold the flint in one hand with some highly flammable tinder on top such as char cloth. The striking edge of the flint must have an edge so you may need to break your flint or quartz to get that edge. Then with the other hand you would strike the flint edge with the spine of your knife creating a spark that hopefully ignites the tinder right next to it.
Battery and Steel Wool
Any battery and some steel wool can be used to make a fire. The trick is to use a very fine steel wool that will overheat easily when an electrical current is passed through it. All you have to do is bridge the battery terminals with the steel wool and a spark will instantly form allowing you to ignite some dry tinder for your fire. A 9-volt battery is the easiest, but any battery will work. The more powerful the battery the better.