Building a fire usually requires some basic tools, some of which I will describe here. I will leave out such things as fire by friction until a suitable bow drill set can be procured for photography. Here you will find fire building tools available on the open market and are most likly to be carryed by a primitive camper or trekker.
Here I will deal specifically with spark based fire making as it is most pertnant to the primitve style of camping and survival. Note: the steps in building a fire do not change between matches , lighters etc. and spark based methods.
This is a flint and Steel kit. Flint and Steel is what most people think of when they think about spark based fire making. Flint and steel requires that you hold the flint (The little blond stone) and strike smartly with the striker(The "D" shaped metal thing) which produces sparks wich, when caught in sufficiantly dry tinder, will be blown into flame.
(Please excuse the blurry picture)What you see here is the SAK Rucksack and the BSA Hot Spark(R). The Hot Spark is one of many types of sparking tools out on the market. Like flint and steel, the Hot Spark fires a spark that can be blown into flame, the difference being that the hot spark is merely scraped with a knife blade and it showers the tinder with sparks. This gives a much better chance of the tinder being blown into flame
This is the Gerber Fire Storm(R), Big Brother to the Hot Spark. This is a really good survival firestarter in that it requires nothing more than what it comes with. The firestorm includes a huge sparking rod and its own striker. (So you dont have to mess up your knife blade!)
It also has a compartment to keep a small amount of tinder in. The Fire Storm folds up into a compact package that is easy to carry. Incidentally both sides are held togeather with cord so there is no losing pieces.
This is a Magnesium Fire Starter(MFS). This tool is one of the easiest to find sparking tools on the market. It has been military issue for years and is sold on the surplus market all over. Civilian versions also abound. The MFS uses the same sparking rod that the others do but this sparking rod is contained in a block of solid magnesium.
To use this tool, simply scrape off magnesium from the bar until you have about a thumbnail (or larger) sized mound in your tinder. Then, scrape sparks from the sparking rod into the magnesium pile. The magnesium will flare up with a VERY HOT flame and you can add more tinder over the top and blow into flame.
The Five Steps to Fire Building
Building a proper fire takes much care and attention. To achieve a flame in primitive conditions requires that you use good tinder and maintain your fire in such a way that it will continue to burn.
Step 1: Preparing your area:
Selecting a good place to build your fire is very important. Such conditions as safety, location and setup are important. First thing is to choose a safe area, one which is free of overhanging dead limbs and other debres that can catch fire. The next is to clear out the area of flamable materials. I reccomend a 10 fit area around the fireplace. next, build yourself a fire pit. This portion is my take and not everyone will agree.
here is my system.
If possible, choose an area with a natural reflector and set your
fire so as to place yourself between the reflector and the fire. Such
as old walls, large bolders and sheets of tarp(*1) work well
Dig a square or triangular hole and surround it with rocks (*2), dirt or green logs.
*1(Remember to keep the tarp well away from the flying sparks,
tarp could catch fire!)
*2(If you choose rocks, don't take them from creeks and river bottoms, the water in them will boil when heated and will explode sending sharp fragments flying in all directions. Some of which can impact a person resulting in death or serious injury)
Step 2: tinder
Pic: Left to right: cotton ball, wood shavings, steel wool
Tinder is the light fluffy stuff that catches a spark.
below is a listing of both natural and not so natural tinder:
0000 steel wool
Charred Grass, cat tail fluff, leaves, combined with a birdsnest or "The Tinder Taco"
(Note: Instructions for making charcloth and other tinders to come!)
Cotton Ball soaked on Petrolium Jelly
birch bark (Peely birch bark, dont strip trees!)
Cattail fluff (Scrape your knife across the brown heads of
cattails and TONS of fluff comes out!)
tissue paper and bathroom tissue
Step 3: Kindling
Kindling is larger than tinder and can be anything from twigs to pinky finger sized sticks.
Step 4: Squaw Wood
Squaw Wood is smaller limbs easily picked up off the ground. This is the wood you will use the most of as it is easy to come by and burns well.
Step 5: Logs
Im not going to waste more space showing you a log, Im sure we all know what a log looks like.
But a special note should be taken on logs. In a survival situation, you must conserve energy and the act of chopping a huge log will tire you out really fast, even with a good axe or survival knife. In a situation like that, if you find a downed log, burn an end and then move it up instead of chopping it. Logs are good for giving lots of mass to a fire when getting ready for bed and when you need a long burning fire. other than that, you should stay with squaw wood and some smaller arm sized logs as they will serve you quite well and not burn up much needed energy, make you sweat to work on (gets you wet and you lose heat) and will be easier to put out should you choose to move on.
Then gently blow on the tinder untill the flame grows. Once you have flame, add small twigs and other light kindling
Only add kindling when you have a solid blaze from your tinder and remember to continue to blow!
From there, Just add larger and larger peices of wood untill you have the desired fire
a Fire with Flint and SteeL
and Steel is one
of the oldest methods of fire building and a standard of primitive
historical reenactors. It is in fact a very effective and reliable
creating fire when you are prepared with the right materials.
tools involved are
the following: a steel striker, flint flake, charcloth and light fluffy
In this article we will examine these items and describe their use in
process of building your fire.
steel striker is a
“D” shaped piece of hardened high carbon steel that is held in the hand
that the long face of the “D” passes over the knuckles. This striker
hardened to a Rockwell of 64 or harder and is designed to present a
for the flint flake to strike against.
Flint Flake is
quite simply a flake of flint sharp enough to cut with if necessary but
purposes it is designed to strike a spark.
A flint and steel kit usually contains a few of these flakes and
be re-sharpened by tapping the dulled edge with the flint striker until
are removed creating a new sharp surface.
that has been charred so as to be almost black in color and can be
fragile. Char-cloth is used to catch the initial spark of the striking
steel striker and flint flake.
easy. One only needs a sealable tin box such as the type “Altoids”
in. A hole is punched in the top of the tin and the tin is stuffed full
cotton fabric such as old denim jean material or even cotton cording
old mop. The whole affair is then placed in a fire. When placed in the
smoke will almost immediately start pouring out of the hole. Do not remove from the fire until it stops
smoking and do not open the lid until the box cools.
it’s cool, open
the lid and you will find perfectly charred but unburned cloth that
holds a spark quite nicely.
box can now also be
used to hold your steel striker and flint flakes making a very compact
to carry package.
a fire with flint and steel starts out like any other fire building
that you must begin by preparing the area for fire building.
First you must pick a safe area free of dry
overhanging limbs. Once this spot is found, clear the area of any
debris in a 10 foot radius and build your fire in the middle of this
area. The fire pit should be built in a rectangular shape with non
(stones from the creek explode!) . Behind your fire you should drive
two 4 foot
long stakes of green wood into the ground and stack green logs against
create your reflector. This stops the
wind and allows the heat from your fire to bounce off the reflector and
your fireplace is
created, build a base for your fire out of dry, thumb size sticks. Then
a “Birds Nest” of fluffy material such as pine needles, cat tail fluff
leaves. This is used to catch the spark created by the flint and steel.
next step is to
create a conical stand of dry thumb size sticks and stuff the inside of
with more fluffy dry stuff along with such fire starting materials as
bark, pine needles and leaves as well as twigs and such.
start your fire, you must first take a patch of char-cloth from your
place it on top of your flint flake being sure to expose the edge of
to the steel. Then, taking your steel striker firmly in your left hand
flint and char-cloth in your right; strike firmly using the steel
strike against the flint. If done correctly and sharply, sparks will
the impact and after a few strikes, you should notice some glowing
your char-cloth. At this point , blow gently on the spark to make it
through the charcloth and place the charcloth in your birds nest. From here, gently close your birds nest
around the charcloth making a “fire taco”. Continue to blow gently
begin to lick from the birds nest.
this point, you must place your burning “taco” under your fire set and
it until the flame take to the tinder. Add larger pieces of wood log
style around the outside of the fire and then across the top to
complete the fire
building process. Remove your pot from your pack, cut up some meat and
potatoes..add a bit of rice, some salt and you have a nice, cheery camp
complete with a fire you made without matches a lighter or any modern
For more information and instruction on fire
Check out Volume 1 of the Woodsmaster series by with Ron Hood of Hoods