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We Didn't Start the Fire

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My favorite is the wax wrapper of a Baby Bel cheese and a piece of cotton string.  Makes a nice candle.  Teaching how to make the candle it is a great way to demonstrate the EDGE method, especially because eating the cheese is one step in the process.

 

For practical use, I always carry cotton balls with Vaseline and keep a Zippo emergency sparker with tinder in my pack.

 

What the Scouts have termed my "pyro bag" includes Cotton Balls with Vaseline, Chapstick, fatwood, pine cones, cat-o-nine tails, natural fiber rope, paper birch bark and magnesium.  I've never had luck with dryer lint - I guess i don't wear enough cotton.

 

Despite all that, I think all they need is a pocket knife to make a pile of wood shavings.  Not too glamorous, but gets the job done.

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If you're stuck in the woods on a snowmobile: Pull the spark plug, still connected to cable, and crank the engine. You'll get a spark. Even if the tank ran dry there's enough gas left that you can pull some out and start a fire. I've known a few people to use this.

 

I make my scouts start all their fires with a hot spark, just to appreciate a match. It also forces them to set the wood up right. The best I've had luck with is drier lint and vaseline, but the vaseline needs to soak into the lint.

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2 issues here with the materials....

 

1) natural fiber rope/twine is commercially made.  The fibers are grown and harvested, but during the growing process they are treated with insecticides and herbicides to insure a good crop, and then it is treated with chemicals to retard rot.  All those chemicals are in the smoke given off when it burns.  I know it's not a lot of material to burn, but I don't use this material for fire starters for this reason.

 

2) the man made fibers of dryer lint is also toxic.  One must be assured there is none present in the lint.  In order to insure one has 100% cotton, get an old t-shirt and scrape lint off it with the edge of a knife.  It's a little more work, but as we all know, the boys are WEARING all the "dryer lint" needed to start a fire.

 

Then there's the issue of char cloth.  One doesn't need a large can to pull this off.  A small shoe polish can works just as well as does any small seal-tight tin/steel container.

 

I always just use the candle stubs from tapers.  Usually they get thrown away with at least 2 starters available.  The nice thing about them is they are 100% waterproof.  While they won't take a spark to ignite, I always duct tape a couple of them to my waterproof matches container.  Birthday candles work well, but do not have the burn length necessary to get wet wood going.

 

Sequoia trees grow to such huge heights because the sap they produce is not flammable.  When fire is around their base, the sap leaks out from the fire and extinguishes the fire.  The sap of other pines is more flammable being a turpentine base.

 

The most valuable tree in the forest is white pine.  I teach my boys that stick matches are made out of white pine.  They all know this and carry a 6' walking stick with a hook on the end as part of their gear.  The dead lower branches are the best fire starters out there.  Whereas all the other troops have cleaned out all the easy branches on the bottom, the hooked stick can reach up an additional 6' and so they never have a problem with an over camped area.    If it's raining, I have the boys cut off the wet bark and use the dry wood within.  Like stick matches, it does catch and hold a flame with no problem.  If a spark can light a match, a small pile of leaves or pine needles will burn long enough to ignite white pine.  Otherwise a sparked char cloth will produce a small flame necessary to get the white pine going.  A magnesium burn only lasts a few seconds, but it's long enough for white pine.  Did I reference white pine enough?  For heavens sake, a Bic lighter will ignite a small white pine stick (about the size of a match long enough too.  That way one does not need to hold the Bic down into the fire lay.  Remember the average sized Bic lighter is the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite.

 

I have my boys make their own fire starters out of paper egg cartons.  Fill them up with lint or sawdust and drip paraffin on top to hold everything together.  When need, tear one off (the ragged edges make the wick and will burn for quite some time.  In case one has done the math from above, white pine sticks dipped in paraffin make a great fire starter too   :)

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Saltines, Pringles, Fritos, hand sanitizers, Vaseline

 

Lint, steel wool, cotton balls, rope fiber

 

 

I'd ask the Scouts to notice the patterns - what do the items in each of the lists have in common.   They're either oily or fibrous (yes, steel wool is a fiber - a metal fiber, but it's a fiber).

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When I was in scouts we would always do the "Wizard's Entrance" at the campfire.  Toss a pinch of iron filings into the fire and a huge flame and white smoke would be impressive.  Don't tell your boys about this, we weren't the smartest bunch of scouts, but we had fun.  To give you an idea of how effective this is, I never saw the "Wizard's Entrance" as an adult until I got into reenacting and some fool tossed a paper cartridge of gunpowder into the fire.  Looked pretty much the same.  This is why steel wool works so well as a fire starter.  It's "explosive" nature, however, doesn't give one very long to get it into the tinder.  Put the wool in with the tinder then apply the battery.

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I concur with pringles! It basically behaves like a candle. What little potatoe there is in it works like a candle wick, soaking up the melting fat and burning it.

 

With tumble drier fluff working so well I have always wondered whether, if you could collect enough, belly button fluff would do the same job ....

Bring back memories of this cute girl at youth group, pyromaniacly dropping chips, one at a time, slowly, onto the coals, wistfully watching each flame.

I thought, "Better not bring that one back to the house ..." :confused:

 

Thanks to you Skip, I'll now go wondering what would might been had I offed a "belly-button fluff" suggestion. :wub:

Edited by qwazse

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Then there's the issue of char cloth.  One doesn't need a large can to pull this off.  A small shoe polish can works just as well as does any small seal-tight tin/steel container.

 

 

I like to use a tin of Altoids with a nail hole punched in the lid. 

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2 issues here with the materials....

 

1) natural fiber rope/twine is commercially made.  The fibers are grown and harvested, but during the growing process they are treated with insecticides and herbicides to insure a good crop, and then it is treated with chemicals to retard rot.  All those chemicals are in the smoke given off when it burns.  I know it's not a lot of material to burn, but I don't use this material for fire starters for this reason.

 

2) the man made fibers of dryer lint is also toxic.  One must be assured there is none present in the lint.  In order to insure one has 100% cotton, get an old t-shirt and scrape lint off it with the edge of a knife.  It's a little more work, but as we all know, the boys are WEARING all the "dryer lint" needed to start a fire.

 

 

Assuming a reasonable size of material (a golf ball size is plenty), and assuming you're not standing over the material and huffing the smoke, and assuming you're not starting hundreds of such fires a day every day for several months straight... there's pretty much no chance of any ill effects from the minuscule amount of toxins present in lint.

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Finished the IOLS weekend.  Nice BIG group of nascent Scouters.

 

My Fire safety/building instructor was fascinated by the idea of "alternative" fire starters.  Not your usual pine cones, Mountain Laurel, fuzz sticks.   So we talked about and demonstrated::   :

*Original Fritos.

* Peanut butter on saltines.

*  Pringles.

*   Crisco  candles.

 

Any others out there , any favorites?  

For Florida usage, palm fronds. The leafy part of the frond goes up quick, but the "limb" part of the frond burns more slowly.  Our old SM used to hate it when the boys used palm fronds.  I had taught my sons to use them.  It was a difference of opinion. He viewed them as just like using leaves, he didn't quite get their two different parts.  

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The amount of toxicity varies from one person to another.  I find that the only time one really needs to be worried is when the boys stick their face down near the fire to blow, it's during the fire starting process.  They can get quite a bit of smoke when they draw in their next big breath to blow.  This is the #1 reason I use a 2' copper forge tube to start my fires.  After the fire starts, the kid that throws in a chunk of twine isn't that big of an issue because of the fire's updraft if it's not a windy day.  Stay out of the smoke until the rope is completely burned.  This is also the precaution when someone tosses in plastics into the fire.

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I almost forgot (easy to do given the cloud cover in these parts :excl:): magnifying glass lens!

 

Along those lines, has anybody ever try a parabolic mirror or frensel lens?

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I almost forgot (easy to do given the cloud cover in these parts :excl:): magnifying glass lens!

 

Along those lines, has anybody ever try a parabolic mirror or frensel lens?

 

Even in Blighty we've managed it with a magnifying glass. During about 3 days in high summer, at midday.

 

I've taken the gas pipe off a camp double burner and with the other end still attached to the gas cylinder, turned the gas on and lit it, sticking it in the fire. That does the job, but if you're not careful the melted end of the pipe is a dead giveaway and Skip gets very very angry indeed. See also most any aerosol. All fun and games until someone loses a hand. I.e. DON'T try this kids! Ian was a silly boy and got away with it.

Edited by ianwilkins

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For making char cloth, I have replaced my ancient, blackened tobacco tin (Prince Albert in a can!) with a stainless steel salt shaker from the biggest of all big-box stores.  Holds about a liquid cup.  The top bayonet locks on.  A disk of sheet metal with a single hole (lined up with a hole in the regular lid) fits under the pierced lid to restrict air supply to the oxidation process.  A toothpick nicely blocks the lined-up holes when the deed is done.

 

(But I didn't throw the old tin away.)

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During about 3 days in high summer, at midday.

 

 

 Ah the great British summer!

 

Remind me, fell on a Wednesday last year didn't it? 

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