Friday, December 9, 2016

Fire Straws

Having a way to start a fire is good, but multiple ways are better. The problem with some ways is that they’re messy to keep around until needed. A specific example being cotton balls and petroleum jelly.

Never heard of that technique?
  1. Get some cotton balls (the pure cotton ones, not synthetic);
  2. Put them in a baggie with a dollop of petroleum jelly (for a half dozen balls, start with a blob about the size of a marble);
  3. Close the bag and work the contents around so the jelly saturates the cotton balls (you don’t want them to be petroleum jelly with some cotton inside, you want the cotton balls to be saturated). 
They’re very handy and easy to use. 
  1. Get some tinder and kindling ready. 
  2. Take one ball, pull it apart a bit, and put it in the tinder. 
  3. Touch it with a flame* and it’ll ignite and burn for at least a couple of minutes. It will be smoky, but still able to dry out and ignite damp tinder to get the kindling going. 
    • *If you pull the ball far enough apart, so as to have a fairly ragged surface, you can light them with a flint & steel or spark striker, too.
The problem with the CB&PJ method is that they're messy. You can keep them in the baggie, but baggies can tear. What’s a good storage method that doesn’t involve buying a bottle or something?

I present to you the Fire Straw:
  1. Get a drinking straw, the bigger the diameter the better.  
  2. Cut a section about 2” long.
  3. Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to squeeze one end shut with a little sticking out.
  4. Hold that to a flame (match, candle, anything) and work it back & forth a bit, and you’ll melt the end closed.
  5. Hold it for about ten seconds while it cools. You now have a tube with one end sealed.
  6. Take a cotton ball (you may want gloves for this) and a match stick or something else suitable, and mash the cotton ball into the tube. 
  7.  When done, wipe the end of the straw clean (it’ll need it), then repeat the sealing process.
You now have a fire straw. You can put a handful of these in a bag and never have to worry about them leaking and getting jelly all over everything. Just cut a straw open, pull out the cotton and go to work. Alternately, just pull some out the end and light it, and it’ll melt and burn the straw as it goes.

Note: the one drawback is that you really need a knife or scissors to open these, as that straw is surprisingly tough.

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