Fire Skills

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Of all the Basic Survival Skills that one needs to acquire, practice and master, fire making is quite possible one of the most important skills. There are many reasons why.

A well made fire will provide warmth, and even in somewhat 'cool' environments, this can determine life or death.
Fire will provide light during darkness, which doesn't need to be explained.
Fire allows for proper preparation of meals and the means to boil & purify water. Allowing for safe consumption.
Fire will provide a way to signal for help, both during the day(with smoke signals) and especially at night, increasing your chances of rescue.
A fire will keep most types of animals and insects away.

Psychological Aspects of Fire

A fire tend to make an individual feel safer at night, and has been proven to make the effects of loneliness less overwhelming. Fire is associated with warmth and gives an overall feeling of recognition. Having successfully built a fire in a survival situation, gives one a sense of comfort because they have successfully completed one of the most essentially important survival tasks. Knowing that a fire is ready, eases senses of fear because one now knows that water can be purified and food can be cooked properly.

A fire can determine success or failure in a survival situation. To even contemplate long term survival, having the basics of making fire. This skill shouldn't be underestimated, as overlooking this skill can be detrimental and deadly.

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Fire Making

Below is a list of several methods that can produce fire.

They require the minimal skills and tools. Some work very efficiently and others are alternative methods. It never hurts to have too much knowledge.

Method #1: Use a Hand Drill

A hand drill uses friction and is definitely one of the simplest  methods, although high speeds of spinning the drill can be difficult to achieve and maintain.  Due to the fact that using only the hands to spin the drill or rotate the spindle, which means there is no mechanical advantage here. as with most methods, this works best in dry climates.First:  Cut a V-shaped notch into a flat piece of wood, called the fire board. Create a small depression next to the notch. This can be done with a rock or tip of your knife. Set a piece of bark or similar underneath the notch to catch the ember.

Next: Place the spindle or drill in the depression that was made earlier, and while applying pressure, roll it or spin it between the palm of your hands. Move your palms up and down the drill rapidly to achieve the greatest result.  Repeat until the drill or spindle tip glows red and an ember is present.

Last: Tap the drill against the fire board to cause the ember to drop onto the bark below. Place the ember onto the tinder, or lace the tinder on top of the ember...and blow, slowly and not too hard. This if done properly will start to burn and create a flame.

Method #2:  Fire Plough

Use a flat piece of wood as a fire board. Cut a groove that runs parallel to the length into the fire board. This will be your track for the spindle.

Use the tip of your spindle by placing it in the groove of your fireboard. Applying a lot of pressure, rub the tip of the spindle back and forth inside the groove.


Have your tinder nest at the end of the fire board, so that you will push the embers into the tinder as you’re rubbing. Once you catch one ember, blow onto the nest gently and it will get the fire going.

Method #3: Using a Bow Drill

Starting a fire with a bow drill

The bow drill is probably the most effective friction based method to use because it’s easier to maintain the speed and pressure you need to create enough friction to start a fire. In addition to the spindle and fireboard, you’ll also need a socket and a bow.

First: The socket is used to put pressure on the other end of the spindle as you’re rotating it with the bow. The socket can be a stone or another piece of wood. If you use another piece of wood, try to find a harder piece than what you’re using for the spindle. Wood with sap and oil are good as it creates a lubricant between the spindle and the socket.

Next:  Prepare your bow. The bow should be about as long as your arm. Use a flexible piece of wood that has a slight curve. The string of the bow can be anything. A shoelace, rope, or strip of rawhide works great. Just find something that won’t break. String up your bow and you’re ready to go.

Next:  Prepare the fire board. Cut a V-shaped notch into a flat piece of wood, called the fire board. Create a small depression next to the notch. This can be done with a rock or tip of your knife. Set a piece of bark, tinder or similar underneath the notch to catch the ember.

Next:  Loop the spindle. Catch the spindle in a loop of the bow string. Place one end of the spindle (or drill) in the fire board and apply a good amount of pressure on the other end using your socket.

Finally:  Start sawing, or working the bow back and forth. With your bow, start 'sawing' back and forth. You’ve basically created a very simple mechanical drill, adding tremendous mechanical advantage to this process over the hand drill. . The spindle should be rotating very quickly. Keep sawing until you create a good ember. Then place the ember into the tinder and blow on it gently. Let there be Fire!

4. Flint and Steel

Flint and Steel

This is an old standby. It’s always a good idea to carry around a good flint and steel set with you on a camping trip. Matches can get wet and be become pretty much useless, but you can still get a spark from putting steel to a good piece of flint. Swedish FireSteel Army model is a good set to use.

If you’re caught without a flint and steel set, you can always improvise by using quartzite and the steel blade of your pocket knife (you are carrying your pocket knife, aren’t you?). You’ll also need char. Char is cloth that has been turned into charcoal. Char catches a spark and keeps it smoldering without bursting into flames. If you don’t have char, a piece of fungus or birch will do.

Grip the rock and char cloth. Take hold of the piece of rock between your thumb and forefinger. Make sure an edge is hanging out about 2 or 3 inches. Grasp the char between your thumb and the flint.

Strike! Grasp the back of the steel striker or use the back of your knife blade. Strike the steel against the flint several times. Sparks from the steel will fly off and land on the char cloth, causing a glow.

Start a fire. Fold up your char cloth into the tinder nest and gently blow on it to start a flame.

Lens-Based Methods

Fire from a mangnifying glass

Using a lens to start a fire is an easy matchless method. Any boy who has melted green plastic army men with a magnifying glass will know how to do this. If you have by chance never melted green plastic army men, here’s how to do it.

5. Traditional Lenses

To create a fire, all you need is some sort of lens in order to focus sunlight on a specific spot. A magnifying glass, eyeglasses, or binocular lenses all work. If you add some water to the lens, you can intensify the beam. Angle the lens towards the sun in order to focus the beam into as small an area as possible. Put your tinder nest under this spot and you’ll soon have yourself a fire.

The only drawback to the lens based method is that it only works when you have sun. So if it’s nighttime or overcast, you won’t have any luck.

In addition to the typical lens method, there are three odd, but effective, lens-based methods to start a fire as well.

6. Balloons and Condoms

By filling a balloon or condom with water, you can transform these ordinary objects into fire creating lenses.

Fill the condom or balloon with water and tie off the end. You’ll want to make it as spherical as possible. Don’t make the inflated balloon or condom too big or it will distort the sunlight’s focal point. Squeeze the balloon to find a shape that gives you a sharp circle of light. Try squeezing the condom in the middle to form two smaller lenses.

Condoms and balloons both have a shorter focal length than an ordinary lens. Hold them 1 to 2 inches from your tinder.

7. Fire From Ice

Fire from ice isn’t just some dumb cliché used for high school prom themes. You can actually make fire from a piece of ice. All you need to do is form the ice into a lens shape and then use it as you would when starting a fire with any other lens. This method can be particularly handy for wintertime camping.

Get clear water. For this to work, the ice must be clear. If it’s cloudy or has other impurities, it’s not going to work. The best way to get a clear ice block is to fill up a bowl, cup, or a container made out of foil with clear lake or pond water or melted snow. Let it freeze until it forms ice. Your block should be about 2 inches thick for this to work.

Form your lens. Using a knife to shape the ice into the shape of a lens. The lens should thicker in the middle and narrower near the edges, for a convex effect.  After you get the rough shape of a lens, finish the shaping of it by rubbing and polishing it with your hands. The heat from the friction your hands will melt the ice and mold it to a nice smooth surface.  Angle your ice lens towards the sun just as you would any other lens. Focus the light on your tinder and eventually you will create a fire.

8. Coke Can and Chocolate Bar

I saw this method in a YouTube video a while back ago and thought it was pretty damn cool. All you need is a soda can, a bar of chocolate, and a sunny day.

Polish the bottom of the soda can with the chocolate. Open up your bar of chocolate and start rubbing it on the bottom of the soda can. The chocolate acts as a polish and will make the bottom of the can shine like a mirror. If you don’t have chocolate with you, toothpaste also works.

Make your fire. After polishing the bottom of your can, what you have is essentially a parabolic mirror. Sunlight will reflect off the bottom of the can, forming a single focal point. It’s kind of like how a mirror telescope works.

Point the bottom of the can towards the sun. You’ll have created a highly focused ray of light aimed directly at your tinder. Place the tinder about an inch from the reflecting light’s focal point. In a few seconds you should have a flame.

While I can’t think of any time that I would be in the middle of nowhere with a can of Coke and chocolate bar, this method is still pretty cool.

9. Batteries and Steel Wool

Fire from steel wool and a battery

Like the chocolate and soda can method, it’s hard to imagine a situation where you won’t have matches, but you will have some batteries and some steel wool. But hey, you never know. And it’s quite easy and fun to try at home.

Stretch out the Steel Wool. You want it to be about 6 inches long and a ½-inch wide.

Rub the battery on the steel wool. Hold the steel wool in one hand and the battery in the other. Any battery will do, but 9-volt batteries work best. Rub the side of the battery with the “contacts” on the wool. The wool will begin to glow and burn. Gently blow on it.

Transfer the burning wool to your tinder nest. The wool’s flame will extinguish quickly, so don’t waste any time.


How does it work?
Air gets very hot when it is compressed under high pressure. A classic example would be the heat that is created when one uses a bicycle pump. But when the air is compressed in a firepiston it is done so quickly and efficiently that it can reach a temperature in excess of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to ignite the tinder that is placed in the end of the piston which has been hollowed out to accept it.

Ancient examples of the tube itself are of hardwood, bamboo, or even horn. It is closed on one end, very smooth inside and accurately bored. Equal care is taken in the creation of the associated piston. A "gasket" of wound thread, fiber, or sometimes leather insures a proper seal for successfully creating the compression. This gasket is "greased" to help with the seal and to allow free travel of the piston. The walls of the bore must be perfectly straight and polished smooth.

6 Methods to start fires

This is an article from wikihow, which contains some helpful information and demonstrations of how to make fire under various conditions.

How to Make Fire

6 Methods to build fire without lighter or matches

This is an excellent article with illustrations demonstrating 6 different methods which one can build a fire using primitive methods that do not involve the use of tools such as a lighter and matches. Sometimes we may not have any tools with us, especially in an unexpected situation, then we have to resort to alternative methods.

7 Methods to start a Fire

7 Methods to start a Fire

How to make a Fire to Survive

Fire is the source of life. Humans and animals cannot live without it because it provides light, heat, and energy. If you are in a situation where it is essential for you to have a fireplace in order to survive, then these skills are going to be worth a lot.

7 Methods to start a Fire

How to make a Fire to Survive

Fire is the source of life. Humans and animals cannot live without it because it provides light, heat, and energy. If you are in a situation where it is essential for you to have a fireplace in order to survive, then these skills are going to be worth a lot.

7 Methods to start a Fire

7 Methods to start a Fire

How to make a Fire to Survive

Fire is the source of life. Humans and animals cannot live without it because it provides light, heat, and energy. If you are in a situation where it is essential for you to have a fireplace in order to survive, then these skills are going to be worth a lot.

7 Methods to start a Fire

Knowledge to Survive…Skills to Thrive