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4 Ways To Build A Fire Without Matches

April 15, 2019 3 min read

If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, one of the first things you’ll be thinking of is fire. It provides a means of staying warm, a way of cooking your food, or boiling and purifying water. It also provides a bit of comfort in what could be a very scary situation. However, you may find that you don’t have matches or a lighter on you, or it may just be so wet that your matches won’t light at all. What do you do now?

Matches weren’t invented until the early 1800’s, so our ancestors had to rely on other methods for creating fire. With a little bit of practice you could master these methods and be able to provide fire wherever you are. Before beginning your fire-making-endeavors, first gather your supplies, and build your “nest” to catch any sparks. This is the finest, driest, and wispiest material you can find. Think dry grass or the carvings of inside of a log. It should be able to catch on fire easily so that you can add it to your kindling. Char cloth (a piece of cotton fabric that has been made to catch fire easily, you can learn how to make your own here or steel wool are also great for creating your nest.

Flint and Steel – This was once the most popular methods for starting a fire. It is still rather simple and can be mastered with a bit of practice. Flint and steel is the process of striking a high carbon piece of steel with a piece of flint. When they collide, a spark erupts. Catch the spark in your nest and gently blow on it to ignite the fire. Today’s versions use a manmade flint called ferrocerium (you’ll sound like you’re doing a spell from Harry Potter when you say it) but it will still work the same way.

Bow or Hand Drill You’ve probably seen people rubbing sticks together in the movies to create fire. It can be done, although, they make it look easy and are doing it completely wrong in the first place. This method uses friction between a plank of soft wood and a spindle of hard wood. When rubbed together, they will create an ember which can be transferred to your nest. I’ve watched people try this for hours/days on end and still not be able to make a fire, so practice this one beforehand!

Lens – Although this is not really a primitive way of creating a fire, it can be very useful. If you ever watched the kid down the street burn leaves or toys with a magnifying glass, you’ve seen the start of what could actually be a decent fire. By using the lens from a magnifying glass, pair of glasses, or even the lens from binoculars, you can concentrate the sunlight going through to create a small beam. That beam has the potential for starting your nest on fire. Similarly, this can also be done with a baggy filled with water.

Batteries and Steel Wool – These items are common, but you don’t necessarily think to use them together. This method works best with 9 volt batteries, but you can use other batteries as well. Take a piece of fine steel wool and wisp it out into a 6 inch string. You don’t want to break it apart, as that will make it lost the connection when you use it, just gently pull until you’ve got a good length. Hold one end of the steel wool on the negative connection of your battery and gently brush the other along the positive side. You’ll see sparks and will begin to glow almost immediately. Transfer to your nest and voila! Fire! Take some time now to practice different ways of building fire. Not only is it fun, but it could save you during an emergency. Make it a family activity by getting the kids involved, but remember to always practice safety first. Have a bucket of water nearby and be smart about where you are building your fire.