Fire and Firemaking
New page added 1 November 2007: The Bow
Drill Fire Kit .
New page added 2 November 2007: The Hand
Drill Fire Kit.
My aims for the year are threefold: to learn firemaking using natural materials,
to practise firemaking under various damp and difficult conditions,
and to make up and practise using small firestarting kits containing various
items (to enable a fire to be easily made under a wider range of conditions).
To learn firemaking using natural materials, the first step will be to
practise making fire using sparks from a "metal match". The metal
match is a rod of metal that creates a shower of sparks when scraped with
a sharp object (such as an old bread-and-butter knife). When I have mastered
this sufficiently the next step will be a "friction fire" using
the bow/drill method.
UPDATE: I tried to construct a bow/drill fire a couple of
years before I first wrote this web page (in 2006), but was unsuccessful at first. My problems were using the
wrong kind of wood, and not knowing the first thing about what kind of tinder
to use, among others. Since then I have learned a lot about friction firemaking, some of what I have learned you can see on this website.
When lighting a fire using a modern device, such as matches, or a cigarette
lighter, your selection of "tinder" is very easy. Crunched up
newspaper, for example, or just about any dry scrunchy natural material.
When lighting fire from a spark, it is much harder to get the tinder to
The survival books define "tinder" as any material that will
light from a spark.
The Metal Match
The metal match is shown in the picture below.
It is a metal (actually, "Ferrocerium") rod, which you scrape
with a sharp object (such as the back of a knife), and a shower of sparks
think that the main use of the metal match will be to learn how to make
just from a spark - which will be a very useful skill, that can be transferred
to other forms of firemaking. I bought this metal match from
Ron Hood's online store (www.survival.com).
It cost US$3.50. The link to the actual item in their online store is
So far, with my metal match, I have learned that cotton wool balls light
very easily. And lint brush lint will also light, fairly easily. Other
than that I have not been able to get anything else to light - including
and tissue paper.
I found it a lot easier on my hands if I put the metal match into a handle,
as shown in the photo. The handle was a metal file handle bought from
a hardware store, it cost about $2. A slightly smaller handle would be
better, as the hole was a bit large, and too much (for ideal) of the
metal match was covered by the handle.
If you want to know exactly how it works, this is
a good article at trackertrail.com.
the picture below, notice how
much of the match has been worn away by me using it. I thought these
things were meant to last a long
time! I saw one website advertising these for sale (they might have been
a bit bigger), that they claimed could light 15,000 times! The photo
shows my match after only about one week of playing with it. I don't think
I am going to get 15,000 lights out of this one.
the very next time I used it after taking the photo, it broke in half
If I was in the field, I would much rather have a cigarette lighter, and
I reckon I would get more fires out of the lighter before it ran
out. But the metal match does seem like a good way to learn
what will light from a spark and what will not.
Just before it broke, I was getting very close to making fire with it,
using thistledown. Although this is not a native plant, it is a natural
This is a thistle of the type I used, in flower. It grows as a
weed in NSW. It also has some edible parts. See here for more.
Here you can see the "down" located in the seed head.
A closeup of the thistledown.
You can keep your tinder materials in a small lunchbox.
metal box would be better, then you could put hot half-burnt materials
back into the box. They would make really good tinder. I haven't
found a metal box yet.
The Bow Drill Fire Kit
The Hand Drill Fire Kit
Bow Drill and Hand Drill Firemaking Woods
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