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I hope NOLS didn't emphasize the importance of ignorance over acquiring various skills to do a particular job.


Around here there are no birch trees, and cedar trees may not be available either.


At the summer camp I was at, the Scouts had gone hungry the night before because they were unable to get a fire started. There were pieces of split hemlock, not as dry as one would like, and an axe.


No birchwood. No cedar unless you wanted to hike a distance and forage for some.


Your task, should you choose to accept it. Was to give these Scouts an idea of how they can build a fire with the materials they have at hand, without them being in the camp.


I found fuzz sticks a useful method to help illustrate how that could be done. When I came back the next day, it was clear they had started a fire the previous night.


Personally I think it's silly to boast about having a limited set of skills.

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The discussion is not about the skills. I daresay that 90 percent of the people on these boards know how to make a fuzz stick, and can do so readily. And again, making a fuzz stick is not a skill. Whittling and knife use are skills.


The question I thought I was posing was whether anyone actually finds them of use or not.

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No one has said they were "ignorant" of, or did not know how to make, a fuzz stick. Just that they did not see the point of making one, and/or had never needed to make one.


Also, using an axe on a chunk of split firewood is not how to make a fuzz stick. An axe is for splitting large pieces of wood, not for whittling.


Splitting their firewood and foraging for usable tinder is what those Scouts needed to do. If that was to much trouble it was no wonder they went hungry.

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Hello Scoutnut,



They did need to split the chunks of wood they had available into kindling. They did some of that but not enough. And they needed tinder to get the kindling started, which is where the fuzz sticks came in. Shaving the kindling made fuzz sticks which served for tinder.


le Voyageur might have had trouble getting a fire started. This camp was in a large cut over area. There were no trees of significant size.


My purpose was to give a demonstration to Scouts who weren't present as to how they could use the existing materials they had at hand to get a fire started. I didn't care to forage around for pitch, and there might not have been any very conveniently available.


By splitting more kindling and making fuzz sticks and leaving those materials arranged so they could likely be lit I was able to offer some help and instruction to Scouts on how they could get a fire started.


That appeared to have worked well.


I might use other methods in other circumstances. The subject raised was fuzz sticks, and I gave an example of how I had used that method recently.


Frankly, when someone asked about when fuzz sticks might have been used, replying that you used pitch, pine or cedar would not have been answering the question posed.


I think the objections raised to my post are silly. When you need to light a fire, please feel free to use whatever methods suit you.



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We use grape vines, cattails, birch or pine for fire starters in our neck of the wood. I always have some tinder or fire paste in my pack....


Far as the scout reach troop not being able to start the fire.


Seattle I am guessing that you believe your technique got their fire started......Are you sure? did you see them light it????? They could have went and poured lighter fluid all over the logs after not getting it started the night before??????????


I have seen that happen.....Demonstrated using grapevines to get a fire started and left the boys to get it started, after returning from the kybo the fire was burning very nicely..... I walked up and said see a little confidence guys.....they burst out laughing, one of the dads had a propane torch in his truck.


I was feeling good about the boys learning a skill and ended up feeling stupid when dad intervened in the lesson.

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Kinda interesting, especially going back to the original with the RT eagles demo of the fuzz stick.


Brought back memories of my youth. Was taught the fuzz stick back in the late 60s. One overnight all the scouts spent time carving/shaving a fuzz stick. If memory serves me right spent a half hour or more doing it.


I remember being pretty proud of the hard work with a knife to create a fuzz stick. We tried to use our sticks to start a fire and the silly things would not take hold.


One of the dads came over and took a look at the fuzz sticks and told us that we had done a good job of making them. He then took a rock and beat the daylights out of them, gave them back and told us to try it again. You know what? The fuzz stick worked!! Been making them with a rock ever since. (when I make them, last one 1981 or so) ;)



red feather

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Hello Basement,



No, I didn't see them get the fire going. I just saw evidence that they had got a fire going when I stopped by as Camp Commissioner the next day.


The evening before had been the day troops cooked dinner for themselves, and I found out the next day they had more or less gone hungry for lack of being able to get a fire started.


They had an Eagle Scout with them as Scoutmaster (Scoutreach Troop). I would have supposed he would have coached them on getting a fire started. I really don't know exactly what happened except no dinner.



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>>"My purpose was to give a demonstration to Scouts who weren't present">"By splitting more kindling and making fuzz sticks and leaving those materials arranged so they could likely be lit I was able to offer some help and instruction to Scouts on how they could get a fire started."

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A recent experience with fuzz sticks. A few years back, one of the camporee events was to tie a square knot with spaghetti. Now that entailed building and lighting a fire, boiling water, and, of course, tying a knot. We provided wood, matches, axe, pot, and spaghetti. All they needed was a pocketknife. I do not know how many patrols used fuzz sticks, but only 2 were able to get the fire started. One patrol that made fuzz sticks and had no help whatsoever, and a NSP who were completely clueless as building and starting fires. The Judges got so frustrated with the NSP, that they showed them twice on how to make fuzz sticks, and how to build a fire.

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I use fuzz sticks all the time, but not in the method described, nor for the purpose expressed.


First of all I do not use a knife to make fuzz sticks. I use an over sharpened belt axe. No, I do not use a full axe, nor do I use a 3/4 axe, nor do I use a hand axe. A belt axe is only about 1' long.


Whenever I am presented with a wet wood issue, i.e. rainy day, I use fuzz sticks not as tinder or kindling, but to open up wet wood exposing the dry wood underneath. It also creates more dry surface area in which to ignite my first layer of fuzzed logs. A half dozen of these fuzzed small logs allows the tinder and kindling to ignite a soft wood like birch or pine. The axe allows me to even fuzz oak or hickory that would be impossible with a knife.



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I've used fuzz sticks. Sometimes I just can't seem to find dry tinder, but there is plenty of kindling that could quickly be whittled down to size.


I've also fuzzled logs like jblake describes.


I try to make neither a routine. There's more adventure in walking around your site to see what kindling God has left for you to try. When I'm willing to cover about 400 yards I usually can find everything I need.


Never tried beating a stick with a rock. I'll have to add that to my repertoire.

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