Char cloth perfect for starting fires like explorers of yesteryear did
You want to impress your fellow campers and outdoorsmen and women?
Here’s one way to do it.
Start a fire, using nothing more than a spark and some homemade fire starting material. Pretty cool, huh?
Yes indeed. And the fact that this can potentially save your life – and theirs – is a bonus.
We’re talking about making and using char cloth.
Char cloth is an organic material -- most typically cotton -- that's gone through what’s known as pyrolysis. In short, it’s been heated enough to let its inherent gases escape, all catching fire.
It’s basically turning cotton into charcoal.
And it has great value in starting a campfire.
Lighting a blaze, of course, requires tinder, or very small, easily flammable material; kindling, which is smaller-sized wood; and fuel, or your larger pieces.
Char cloth makes great tinder, as it burns easily, requiring only low heat to light.
To make it, cut an old T-shirt or rag -- anything 100 percent cotton -- into 1- or 2-inch squares and place them in a metal tin. An Altoids tin works, though anything with a lid that seals will work.
Using a nail or a drill bit, make a small hole — say 1⁄8-inch — in the center of the tin’s lid.
Lightly layer the squares of cotton inside the tin. Place it on the edge of your next fire.
As it gets hot, you’ll notice smoke coming out of the tin’s hole. There may even be a small flame.
That’s OK. Leave the tin in palce as long as that’s happening.
When the smoke and/or flame disappears, your char cloth is done. Use a stick or tongs to pull the tin out of fire.
When it’s cool enough to handle, open it up and you’ll find that your cotton squares are thin, black and almost brittle. That's when they're good to go.
When you next want to start a fire, place one of those squares inside some kindling. A bit of wild grapevine, rubbed between your hands to break down the fibers, or even an old bird's nest, works great.
Hit the char cloth with a spark and it will develop an ember right away. Blow on that until it and the surrounding material catch fire.
Flip the whole thing upside down so the flame rises through the bulk of your material and place it under your kindling.
Feed your fire from there and you’ll impress all those around – and maybe even yourself just a bit – by having made fire the way explorers of old did.
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