Friday, February 18, 2022

Erin Makes Fire?

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

Last week I told you that I wasn't happy with my fire-making skills and that I would make it my mission to learn how to start a fire without cheating and then report back. As a result of this exercise, I learned some very important things, including things about myself:
  1. I seem to be incapable of using a ferro rod correctly. Most of the time the sparks went everywhere except where I wanted them to go, and those that went where I wanted refused to catch, even on dry, powdery tinder. 
  2. That same powdery tinder just would not catch fire. Not with a spark, and not with an ember from a slow match, not even when I applied a flame directly to it!
  3. The carpenter's pencil sharpener produces quality shavings. 
  4. I applied flame to those shavings, and those caught, but burned out quickly and didn't want to catch other shavings on fire. 
  5. Failure makes me cranky and impatient and willing to cheat to win. 
  6. All it took was just a little bit of alcohol gel to catch the other shavings on fire, and they caught the smaller sticks on fire and then it was a proper fire burning larger sticks. 
  7. So I do know how to build a good fire, I just have abysmal luck and/or no skill in getting it started without accelerant.
  8. That tinder powder, while not good at catching a flame or spark, burned really well once the flames were hot enough. Not only did the powder on the bottom (from where I'd started with it) help with the success of the fire, when I put more of it onto the flames it really served to boost their intensity. This is really good information to have.
I'm very disappointed in myself, not just because I thought I was better at this, but mainly because this is something I should have known years ago. As a result, I've been carrying gear that is useless to me. 

Armed with this information, these are the changes I'm going to make:
  • Until I figure out what I'm doing wrong, I'm going to remove the ferro rod and slow match from my BOB and GHB. Without the skill to use them, they're just wasted space and additional weight. The carpenter's pencil sharpener is going in, though. 
  • I'm going to increase the number of things in my packs which produce flame, like matches and lighters. Then, in a survival situation, the first thing I'm going to do is light a candle and work with that steady flame. 
  • I'm going to carry extra accelerant, like hand sanitizer and my Sterno squeeze bottle, to overcome my skill gap in this department for the time being. 
  • I'm also going to investigate several types of fire starters so I can find a sweet spot between price, size & weight, stability, and effectiveness. My goal is to find something which can replace the aforementioned accelerant. 
  • I'm going to add the Smith's Tinder Box to my preps because that powder is almost as good an accelerant as alcohol -- once the fire is going, at least -- and it's easier to acquire and more shelf-stable and pack-friendly than a liquid or gel. 
I will report back on this as I learn more and my skills develop. 

1 comment:

  1. My favorite emergency tinder is to carry two different products for different reasons: dry cotton balls and packets or triple antibiotic ointment. They can still be used for their primary purpose in that state, but when you need to start a fire, squeeze some of the petroleum jelly based ointment into a cotton ball and massage it to saturate all the fibers. Pull a bunch of fibers into a loose hairball, to expose a lot of surface area.

    You can use any method you want to light it, but I found a truck to Ferro rods: instead of holding the roof steady and pushing the striker towards the tinder, try holding the striker steady next to the tinder and pulling the rod away. The striker is what aims the sparks, so make it the fixed element.

    Also, the little metal strikers that come with Ferro rods are terrible. I use the spine of my Pocket Boy folding saw. The spine edge is a very square angle of steel, and makes heaps of sparks. Anything steel with a square edge should work better than the little black piece of metal with a semicircle bitten out of it that comes with most Ferro rods.

    The powdered tinder doesn't light because while it has a lot of exposed surface area, that space is all closed off by other particles of powder. There's no air between them and no flow for air to get in. That means you need a lot more heat to ignite it.

    I carry several forms of tinder, small amounts of each so it doesn't bulk a lot. Pyro Putty is great. It sticks where you put it so wind won't make it blow around. It's waterproof. It works in a wide range of temperatures. Fan out some of the fibers from a nickel sized piece and ignite using your method of choice. That nickel sized piece will burn for many minutes. Live Fire is another similar material. FireFlame instant fire starter works pretty well, burns a long time, and it's also waterproof and floats. None of these take up much space.

    If you can't get a Ferro rod to behave, a lighter is perfectly reasonable. Even if the fuel is exhausted, the spark wheel is a tiny ferro rod and sparker, or assembled in optimum configuration to make sparks.

    Heck, I carried steel wool for cleaning things and a 9v battery for a radio. Shred off some steel wool, place the piece into your tinder bundle, then touch the battery contacts to the steel. It'll glow and catch fire almost instantly. Blow that into your tinder bundle gently to make the ember ignite the bundle. I leaned that one from an old Boy Scout Fieldbook a neighbor gave me.

    I'll help how ever I can, just ask. Hugs


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