Thought I’d do a blog about different materials used for fire lighting. It breaks down pretty simply – for fire, you need three things: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen. Heat is created by striking a spark (called ‘percussion’) or the ‘rubbing sticks together’ method (called ‘friction’) if you’re adventurous – more on that in a future post!, oxygen comes from the wind or from you (blowing the fire or fanning it, cowboy-style!). The tricky bit is preparing your fuel – collecting and sorting your material, using the right fuel for the right stages of the fire, not rushing it, and understanding what the fire needs more of. Here’s a quick video of me lighting a fire with a fire steel, using thistle tops and pine needles, followed by tiny twigs:
The thistle tops and pine needles are what’s called ‘tinder‘. Basically they catch the spark and feed it quickly. Tinder is usually dry and often fluffy. Good examples are dry grass, the tops of reed mace (aka Bullrushes or cat-tails), sawdust (you can buy special tinder!). ]
I use the fluffy stuff to catch the spark and the pine needles to keep it going before I add the twigs, called ‘kindling’.
After you have the kindling going – the key is to not add too much too soon or you’ll kill your fire! – you need to add fuel wood – slightly larger sticks.
There are a few materials which are particularly cool and useful – one of my favourites is King Alfred’s Cakes, a fungus often found on ash trees that will catch and hold an ember and act as tinder. You can see this in the video below where I hold a glowing ember and blow the fire until it passes into the cake!
Another of my favourite materials is Punk Wood (wood from the heart of a rotting log that has lost its rigidity and taken on a spongy texture. Once dry, it makes excellent kindling! – Take a look below!
The key thing is, of course, safety – for you and for the environment around you. Make sure that you have landowner’s permission for practicing your fire lighting skills, and ensure the area is clear and safe, and that you have water nearby in case chaos happens! Knowing how to light and manage fire can really add to your enjoyment of the wilderness, and I promise you’ll never get tired of trying out new materials!