Creating fire on demand is always a great achievement. When the time comes for you to start a fire hopefully you have prepared and have the key components. First you have to have an ignition source such as matches, lighters, or a Ferrocerium rod. Next you should have tinder which will burn long enough for your kindling to ignite and burn. Finally, you need fuel; small kindling to start with then progressively larger pieces to sustain the fire.
One of the best items you can use to ignite your tinder bundle is called Char Cloth. The concept of using char cloth to get a fire going has been around for ages. Char cloth is created thru a process called Pyrolysis which in simple terms means the gas and liquids of a substance are burned away leaving a solid residue that is high in carbon content. Once you have a piece of char cloth you add it to your tinder bundle and usually one or two sparks will ignite the char cloth into glowing embers.
Making char cloth is quick, easy and yields a valuable item for your fire starting kit. Let’s look at the process. Find a metal container you can seal up. The ever useful Altoids tin fits this need very well. Punch a small diameter hole in the lid, this is where the gases will escape from. The hole doesn’t have to be very big. The size shown in the picture works well.
Next take a pieces of cloth that are 100% cotton such as an old shirt and cut it into pieces that will fit in the tin. I usually put six to eight pieces in so as not to pack it to tightly. The entire process is quick so you can easily make a large supply. Close up the tin and place over a flame source. I found my grill’s warmer burner works well.
Once over the flame it won’t take long to heat up. Smoke (gases) can be seen escaping from the hole. Don’t be alarm if flame occasionally spurts up thru the hole. Continue “cooking” the tin over the fire until the smoke no longer can be seen coming from the hole. Usually this will only take four to five minutes for this size tin. Once the smoke is no longer visible you can carefully remove the tin from the heat and allow it to cool completely. After cooling sufficiently enough to handle (the tin will be covered in soot), open the lid and carefully remove the pieces of char cloth. I store mine in a zip lock and place them with the other pieces of my fire starting kit. (Good idea to have one of these in your bug out bag) My tinder kit (an Altoids tin of course) has several pieces of char cloth folded in a zip lock, cotton balls rubbed in petroleum jelly, and plain cotton balls.
Test your new char cloth to make sure it will easily take a spark. The pictures show a piece of char cloth after only one shower of sparks from my Ferrocerium rod. Placing a piece of char cloth inside a dry tinder bundle and sparking it should quickly get embers glowing enough to ignite the tender (with a slight blowing assist). From there you can get your smaller pieces of fuel burning and then eventually the larger pieces. The pictures were taken in a rare SoCal summer drizzle showing that even when slightly damp the char cloth will take a spark and ignite.
Making char cloth is a simple process and having some in your kit puts you at an advantage. A fire that keeps you warm and enables you to cook food is a big moral boost in stressful situations. Remember to practice your skills. Practice fire starting with char cloth and try different ignition sources until you can do it every time.
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Contributed by Contributing Author of Prepper Project.