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Starting Fires Without Matches and Lighters.

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posted on Dec, 14 2009 @ 11:22 PM
In a serious catastrophic event, starting fires is essential. They're useful for warmth, cooking, sterilizing utensils, etc. Most of us are aware of the Bow Drill Method but that can be very challenging, time consuming, the right state of wood can be difficult to find, and success is not guaranteed. Here are some tips that might help others. I've tried them all successfully except one over the last few days before posting this.

In your Bug out Bag (BOB) you should always have lighters and matches but the following household items can come in handy if you want to conserve your regular fire starting materials.

Magnifying Glass

We should all know how to use this one. Conserve your lighters and matches in the daylight hours by using the magnifying glass to concentrate the sunlight on your kindling. If one of your group wears corrective glasses and you didn't keep a magnifying glass in your BOB, attempt the same method with the glasses.

I'm sure we're all familiar with this technique but just in case, here are video instructions:

Soda Cans

This method is similar to the magnifying glass method. Check your vicinity and see if there are spare cans lying around. Find a substance to polish the bottom of the can to the point you have a smooth reflection. I used a chocolate bar in my experiment but other substances work as well. If you have some protein bars in your back (or what not) use it to polish the bottom of the can before eating it for energy and starting your fire. You can pretty much use anything.

The example below uses toothpaste. He also went ahead to cut the end of the soda can off and simply kept the polished disc. You can do this but when I tried it, I just held onto the whole soda can and it worked just fine. He went above and beyond.

Staple and Battery

This was a little more difficult and it took some practice but it finally worked for me. Basically you want to snip the trim off a AA battery with your pocket knife, pop some space, and insert a staple (make sure you remove/rub off the adhesive from the staple because it acts as an insulator). The energy produced will help start a fire onto a prepared surface.

I'm having a hard time finding an accurate portrayal of this technique in an online video but this is along the lines of how I was taught:


Battery and Steel Wool

I haven't tried this one yet but found it while trying to locate a video for the above battery and staple example. The good thing about this one is that steel wool will ignite even if wet. You'll need a patch of steel wool and an 8 volt battery:

Vaseline and Cotton Ball Fire Starter

This is also an old trick most of us will know about but if you're a newbie to the field, it's a helpful tip. The following items alone will not start a fire- they're just to help you get your fire going once you determine your method.


Also, I'm not terribly familiar with the following item but hopefully one of you are. They're known as flint magnesium fire starters (you'll see one used in the last video above). Here is an example of what I'm talking about. Has anyone tried one of these and if so, how well does it work?

Flint Magnesium Fire Starter

That's all I can think of. I hope at least one of the above can help someone in some way in the possible future. Of course lighters and matches are quickest and easiest and you should always have some. But try to use some of the above ideas when possible to conserve your supplies. If you can think of any other fire-starting survival methods, please post them below. If possible, try to include a video on the steps.

posted on Dec, 14 2009 @ 11:31 PM
Strike Force Striker for $20 you can have wet or dry 2,000 to 2,500 fires i think this is the best striker there is, its worth the investment

[edit on 14-12-2009 by OpTiMuS_PrImE]

posted on Dec, 14 2009 @ 11:33 PM
The flint magnesium fire starters are fantastic..

I have used them for years and years

Started fires in the rain with wet wood with them. Remember Magnesium will burn under water.

I actually carry one on a key chain anytime I go into the woods.

You can also use reading glasses instead of a magnifying glass..

Great Thread


posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 12:15 AM
A really ancient and very reliable method of fire lighting is the fire piston. Look it up on Google. There are numerous sites that deal with its construction and operation. Additionally, it is simple to build and maintain.

[edit on 15/12/2009 by TheLoneArcher]

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 08:04 AM
Good job AshleyD! All your methods work fine, I can vouch for the 9volt battery and steel wool trick. Anything less than 9volts doesnt seem to have enough juice to start a fire.
In the far north you can cut a lens shape out of clear ice and start a fire with that just like a magnifying glass.
In a real emergency it might be worthwhile to take apart your binoculars or camera and use the lenses from that.

There are a few natural substances that can help get a fire going including:
pine sap and the papery bark from both white (paper birch) and yellow birch. True tinder fungus and old man's beard (moss) are great if you're in northern boreal forests.

Here's the thread I started about bow drill fire-making, something that anyone can do with a little practice. If you have no matches or lighter this may be your only option.

Merry christmas Ashley, I appreciate you "decorating" for the holidays. Keep the home fires burning!

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 08:18 AM
All of these methods are good, but, what happens if the emergency is of long duration? Other than the fire bow none of these methods are sustainible (I hate that word but it works here). Magnifying glasses can break or be lost, you can run out of cotton and the magnesium flint systems will eventualy run out. Learn to start a fire with just flint and steel. Learn what flint looks like so that you can identify it when you come across it. If the fit hits the shan, there should be enough steel lying around and if you know how to find flint, you should be in pretty good shape.

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 08:32 AM
Good thread, but I hope people can remember these things, because if won't have Internet access!

Originally posted by JIMC5499
Learn to start a fire with just flint and steel. Learn what flint looks like so that you can identify it when you come across it. If the fit hits the shan, there should be enough steel lying around and if you know how to find flint, you should be in pretty good shape.

Excellent point. "Flint" is extremely accessible in the North American continent and can be acquired around nearly every watershed.

Some good sites about learning how to use it:
Flint striking
Flint and Steel

Basically the idea is to have carbon steel for the flint to strike against.
Sites on how to find "Flint":
Where can I find Flint?
Forum discussion about finding Flint

Or you could buy some flint from a local flea market, or anywhere and store it for later....if you can't find it.

[edit on 15-12-2009 by havok]

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 08:35 AM
Heres a link for starting fire with ice as previously mentioned.
Also listed on teh site

Fire from water (a similar thing to the ice method)

The famous fire plow (which i dont think has been mentioned yet)

The use of spontaneous combustion of linseed oil

Also you can use anything that makes sparks, steel on rocks for example.

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 08:59 AM
Nice stuff Ashley. Along the lines of a 9 volt battery and steel you can also use a AA maglite, two small wires and steel wool.

I always have a maglite handy and have have packed up some 000 steel wool. Simply remove the maglite bulb and insert a small piece of wire into each of the small holes of the bulb socket. Turn it on an rub across the steel wool.

You can also make a fire piston with a maglite.

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 09:05 AM
I've had pretty good success with both the hand drill and the fire plow from found wood. Takes forever until you get the pieces worn in.

Wishing to save myself from hours of grinding and blisters I pack magnesium bars, blast matches and fire steel in all of my bags and jackets regardless where I'm going or what I'm doing.

It's funny the clothing I put on and dig in the pockets and am like "whoa! blast match!"

I've tried those tubes a few times and didnt have much success. Seemed strange to pack a device and have it not just be a something like fire steel but a little wooden tube.

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 09:18 AM
I keep a medicine bottle full of carbide in my BOB. When I need to start a fire withiut a lighter it is one of the ways I turn to.

A couple of nuggets of carbide add some water, spit, or pee, and the resulting fumes are highly flammable. No all you need is a spark and.....POOF! Ohhhh, it's raining you say? Even better. the more water the better with carbide. Just becareful not to blow yourself

posted on Dec, 15 2009 @ 05:22 PM

Originally posted by AshleyD
If you have some protein bars in your back (or what not) use it to polish the bottom of the can before eating it for energy and starting your fire. You can pretty much use anything.

Do not eat the protein bar if you have done this! The aluminium in cans is poisonous, (dosent affect drinks though), and eating poisoned protein bars seems to go against the whole point of survival

You did gain my first S&F though.

posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 09:06 AM
Thanks to everyone for your input.

reply to post by TheLoneArcher

Are you referring to something like this?

reply to post by Asktheanimals

Thanks for the tips! Absolutely- just about anything that will help concentrate the light would help. Or almost anything highly reflective. The 'weakness' to these methods are that they are generally limited to daylight hours in sunny weather but it at least would help you conserve your expendable fire starting materials. Whereas magnifying glasses, metals, corrective lenses, etc. could be reused indefinitely.

reply to post by JIMC5499

Very true. I briefly mention the bow drill method in the OP but figured we would all know about that one. Just in case, here is the bow drill method for those of you who may not be familiar with it. Again, it can be time consuming and not always successful but here you go:

I'm not a big fan of them but the above may help those who would at least like to know about it.

reply to post by Incendia vox

Er... yeah I would highly suggest NOT eating the part of the bar you rubbed all over the can.
lol However, when I did it, I did not use the whole part. It only takes breaking off the tip and using it to polish the bottom of the can.

In case there is any confusion, please don't rub your bar all over the can and then eat it. Sorry, I figured that was a given to those reading this thread. lol

Thanks again for all the input!

posted on Dec, 16 2009 @ 09:27 AM
i keep the magnifying glass around, but the striker for a propane torch is always in my vehicle storage compartment...

but i always keep a few pieces of 'fat light' as the fuel to start a reluctant fire.
WEB source:

you can sometimes find in old stumps that is full of concentrated pine resin. Called “lighter knots” or “fat lighter” by country folk, this resin rich wood will burn with a hot and bright flame even in the rain, if you first cut it into little pieces of kindling to light it.
You can identify such fat lighter by the smell and color of the wood when you cut into it. It will smell like pine pitch or tar and is bright yellow or orange inside, often oozing sap. This wood is also much heavier than regular dry wood. It can be found in any forest where there are conifers such as pine, spruce, fir or cedar.

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 12:15 AM
I've used the magnesium flints first-hand, and they do work very well! Only takes a small pile of shavings to get a fire going. I would imagine that block is enough for hundreds of fires. Even without the magnesium shavings the flint itself works pretty well, though it does not emit quite the shower of sparks as a Swedish firesteel.

The great thing about it is that it does produce an actual flame, not just an ember, makes it alot easier to get a fire started if your choices for tinder are limited. You could start a fire with a pile of small twigs, something almost impossible with a flint & steel, or anything else that produces only an ember/sparks.

They do have a few downsides though.

The magnesium burns HOT but very quickly, so you have to act fast to get your tinder on the fire & lit before it goes out. Bigger piles of shavings of course burn longer.

The other BIG disadvantage IMO is that you have to dull up your knife scraping off the magnesium shavings. Mine had a small hole for a keychain, so I attached a cheapo crappy knife to the starter via the chain, so I can use that one instead of my EDC knife to scrape the magnesium & flint.

The fire piston is a really cool device, very neat how it works, easy to use, produces an ember fast, but not super practical IMO. It does require specific tinder such as char-cloth or fungus to work, which you may run out of or cannot find nearby. Plus it seems to me like they would just be prone to break over time. I may buy or build one someday, but it definitely wont' be the ONLY firestarter I pack.

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 08:18 AM
There was a couple of threads a while back about using a water filled condom like a lens to start a fire.

There was also a nice thread about building a top-down burning fire that seemed to have some merit for longer term fires (like overnight) that do not require the tending that a normally build fire would.

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 08:26 AM
Awesome! Thanks for sharing that information. In the soda can video, what is char cloth?

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 08:32 AM
reply to post by gazerstar

In the soda can video, what is char cloth

'Char cloth' is basically something to help you get the fire started. SIMILAR to the trick above with the cotton ball and Vaseline. A 'fire starter' so to speak.

Mostly it's a piece of chemically treated fabric. It simply helps get your fire started quicker. I don't use it, though. I prefer the cotton/Vaseline trick or other household items.

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 08:41 AM
reply to post by AshleyD

Is char cloth something that most people have around the house or can make, or is it something that has to be purchased?

posted on Dec, 17 2009 @ 08:49 AM
You can also use a crystal or glass ball to start a fire. The technique is similar to a magnifying glass. Be careful, because they get very HOT. There have been instances where the sun coming in the window and focusing light on crystal balls has started fires in houses.

SHAWNEE, Okla. -- Firefighters in this central Oklahoma town peered into a crystal ball and found the cause for a fire.

It didn't take long for Shawnee Fire Prevention Officer Jimmy Gibson to figure out what caught a homeowner's sofa on fire and brought fire crews to the rescue.

Once the couch was extinguished, Gibson reached into a hole burnt into the sofa and found a glass gazing ball. Soon, sunlight shining through the ball burned two holes in the leg of his pants.

Firefighters then placed the ball in the grass, and within 30 seconds the ground was smoking.

"It has dynamic heat. We were caught off guard," Gibson said. "I couldn't believe how quickly it burned."

Firefighters believe the ball was taken off a table, where it was usually displayed, and placed on the couch by the homeowner's grandchildren. The fire started two days later, when sunshine came through a large set of windows and through the glass ball, igniting the couch.

Crystal Ball Ignites Couch

[edit on 17-12-2009 by gazerstar]

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