starting a fire in the woods

5 Simple Methods for Making a Fire in the Wild with Nothing

The ability to make a fire in the wild with nothing is a crucial survival skill, allowing you to keep warm and cook your food. Maybe you forgot to pack a lighter or matches. Perhaps you remembered to pack these fire starting items, but then someone in your camp lost the lighter or dropped the matches in the water. In either case, you might be forced to start the fire with nothing.

You may rely on natural or household items to harness the intense heat from the sun or create friction. The process may not be easy at first, but with practice, you will soon be a pro. Be mindful of the three primary components necessary for a fire to start –fuel, heat and an oxidizing agent (oxygen).

Learn these five strategies of making a fire in the wild with nothing.

1.    The Hand-drill Method

Unlike what you see in movies, kindling a fire via the hand-drill method is difficult. The descending weight and shaft revolution are the requirements for this strategy to work. You will need wood (drills and fire-board), unswerving hands and unrelenting determination to succeed. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Make a Tinder Nest

A tinder nest or bundle is the primary fire starting material you need to light. It should be the driest, finest lightest and the most combustible collection of materials you can find. You can use dry leaves, tree barks, and grass. You’ll use the tinder to kindle the flame you get from the spark you have just created. 

Step 2: Find a Fireboard and a Drill

Find a fire-board on which to create a notch. A fire-board is a relatively flat wooden board. It should be about 0.5 inches thick and at least twice as wide as your thickest drill. Aim for the board to accommodate two rows of holes. The fire board should be dead and dry.

A drill (spindle) should be a straight piece of dead and dry branch or plant stalk. Have its rough surfaces sanded or scraped away. The best drill should be 1/2 inch in diameter and about one or two feet long. The favorite stalks to use are those of mullein, yucca, and fleabane horseweed.

Step 3: Make a notch or series of notches

Make a hole or set of holes measuring 1/8 inches deep and 0.5 inches from the outer edge of the fire board. It should be in the form of a V-shaped notch. Make a little depression adjacent to the notch. Place some bark to catch the ember from the friction between your fire board and the drill.

Step 4: Begin Spinning

Set up your hand drill for a kneeling or sitting position. Your feet or knees should be on the board holding it down. Put a bark or dead and dry material under the board to protect it from the damp ground. Use a chip of wood, thick dry leaves or a piece of bone under the board to collect coal.  Rub some dry pine pitch on the drill or spit on your hands for better grip before spinning.

Spin the drill rapidly while applying pressure down into the fire-board. The pushing down and spinning actions produce the necessary heat and dust for the formation of coal. The spinning action also applies gravity of your hands down the spindle.

Begin at the top of the drill and move downwards. When your hands reach the bottom of the drill, hold it in position for a short while with one hand and rapidly move back to the top. Start spinning again very fast as this will prevent heat loss. 

Keep drilling until you see smoke. The notch should be filled with dust and still producing dark brown dust. Increase the spinning speed and then make numerous runs down the drill to light this dust. Only stop if the notch is still spewing smoke after several seconds. It’s evidence that coal has formed beneath.

Step 5: Start a Fire

With the dust glowing and still spewing smoke for a minute or more, tap your fire-board. Lift it away keenly to reveal the coal. Put the coal in your tinder nest and then close up the bundle. Help the coal glow and burst into flame by gently blowing at it.

2.    Bow Drill Strategy

The concept of bow drill uses the same technique as the hand drill. However, two more pieces make the difference. The additional pieces make the blow drill strategy more efficient. A handheld socket provides a pivot bearing for the top of the drill and a bow to help spin the drill with more efficiency.

Improvise a bow from a strong spring such as shoelace or cordage tied to the ends of a sturdy branch. The socket can be a stone or a piece of wood. If possible, find hardwood with sap and oil. This will create a lubricant between your drill and the socket.

Cut a V-shaped notch on the fire-board in the same way as hand drill strategy. Create a depression close to the groove and lay some tinder underneath. Wrap the string of the bow on the spindle. Put the first end of the drill in the hole of the fire-board and apply pressure on the upper end of the drill.

Use your bow to saw back and forth. The mechanism is similar to that of a rudimentary mechanical drill. Ensure the drill is rotating fast and keep sawing until an ember emanates. Put the ember into your prepared nest of tinder to start your fire.

3.    The Plow Method

The plow strategy is not so different from the hand-drill. You will need a fire-board. It should be a soft wood measuring about 18 inches in length. With the help of a rock, a survival knife or other similar tool, carve an 8-inch long groove down the central aspect of the board’s base proximal to one end.

Make a plow from hardwood stick about a foot or two long. Chip off one end of the stick to be pointed. Place your board on the ground and rub the pointed end of the plow back and forth vigorously. Do this until some sawdust forms in the groove. Tilt the board to gather the sawdust at the end of the groove.

Repeat this process as hard and fast as possible to generate enough heat to kindle the sawdust and make embers. Move the flame to your earlier prepared tinder nest. Close it into a bundle and blow gently to encourage the coal to glow and burst into flame.

4.    Magnifying Glass Method

Magnifying glass strategy is effective and relatively easy to pull off. You do not have to use a magnifying glass if you do not have one. Sunglasses or binocular lenses can work. Adding some water to the lens increases the intensity of the light beam. A water bottle could be another alternative. The curved part close to the top of a partially full or full water bottle is a functionally bi-convex lens.

Get a piece of paper to use as kindling. Start by focusing a beam of light with the box close to the paper. Pull back the bottle slowly until you have a tightly and accurately focused a spot of light. Ensure the focus remains steady as the heat builds up and the paper ignites. Transfer the fire to the kindle nest to create your fire.

Surprisingly, you can transform balloons and condoms into magnifying lenses by filling them with water. You can also make a block of clear ice into a magnifying lens. Once you make the lens, the process is the same.

5.    A Battery and a Gum Wrapper

You can start a fire in the wild with nothing if you can scrounge some gum wrapper and you have a flashlight battery. Look for a gum wrapper featuring a layer of aluminum foil and paper. Tear or cut a strip of the wrapper to cover the terminals of the battery. Trim the central part of the strip to create a 3/16 inch wide section.

Place the battery close to your nest of tinder. Hold the aluminum foil side of terminal ends of the battery. It is the same thing that happens when you blow a fuse. The narrow aspect of the paper wrap will heat fast thereby lighting adjacent layer of paper. This will give you the fire you need to ignite your tinder.

Preparation is Key

Every survival plan outdoors can go haywire in the absence of fire. Therefore, honing fire making skills can prove a lifesaver even in the worst of situation. You have learned how to make a fire in the wild with nothing. They say practice makes perfect. It is very true with this skill. Practice the strategies regularly in various conditions so that you become proficient in all of them. This will prove helpful when you need to make fire yet you have no matches or a lighter.

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