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  #1  
Old 12-27-2011, 11:46 PM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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How easily could people start a fire before matches and lighters?

What sort of tools would be used? Was some sort of "fire starting kit" a common item? Maybe a gift on your 15th birthday or something? My question is regarding Roman and Medieval times.

Or maybe in villages, there was always a fire burning somewhere and if people needed to start their own they'd go "borrow" some fire via torch or something?

Or did most people know how to do the boy scout thing of rubbing sticks and some type of easily flammable cloth?
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2011, 11:47 PM
Candyman74 Candyman74 is offline
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Flint and tinderbox?
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  #3  
Old 12-27-2011, 11:56 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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For the time period and societies names flint and steel would have been very common. The easiest thing to use with this is something called tender cloth, basically pure carbon in cloth form. (This is made more or less the same way one makes charcoal)
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  #4  
Old 12-27-2011, 11:59 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Flint and steel. But fires were often kept burning. There was no other light source aside from the sun. I don't know when slow burning wicks came into use. These could be carried, smouldering, and then by blowing on them they would fire up enough to ignite something.
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  #5  
Old 12-28-2011, 01:07 AM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Colonial Colonists often carried hot coals with them in a coal carrier. Colonists didn't normally run around like Surviorman eating worms and making fire with a spindle stick and piece of leather. They enjoyed their comforts just like we do.
http://www.goosebay-workshops.com/ph...al-scoop-2.jpg

They also had a basic match called a Spall.
Quote:
Spalls are essentially 18th century matches. They were used during the time of Christ, and continued to be used into the early 20th century. A spark is captured on a piece of char, the spall is touched to the glowing char and ignites when gently blown on. The spall can then be carried to light a fire, or candle. Spalls are slivers of wood with sulfur on one end. They must be used with EXTREME caution. When lit, a spall must be gently blown out (NEVER SHAKE a spall, as molten sulfur will fly off the splint). If extinguished promptly, a spall may be reused several times.
http://www.goosebay-workshops.com/MA...RMERS-BRAZIERS

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-28-2011 at 01:11 AM..
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  #6  
Old 12-28-2011, 02:39 PM
janeslogin janeslogin is offline
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What is the best fire starter today. I've not started a fire in many years, not even a candle. But, I've an emergency kit in the garage and in the car. Neither have a fire starter. What current fire starter will store best for years?
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  #7  
Old 12-28-2011, 02:45 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by janeslogin View Post
What is the best fire starter today. I've not started a fire in many years, not even a candle. But, I've an emergency kit in the garage and in the car. Neither have a fire starter. What current fire starter will store best for years?
Waterproof matches. Or you can just put regular matches in a tightly sealed plastic container.
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  #8  
Old 12-28-2011, 02:46 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by janeslogin View Post
What current fire starter will store best for years?
Magnesium fire starter kits never go bad if they are stored properly and are fairly easy to use.

http://www.rei.com/product/407152/ma...FQ9Y7AodB1z8lA
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  #9  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:14 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by janeslogin View Post
What is the best fire starter today. I've not started a fire in many years, not even a candle. But, I've an emergency kit in the garage and in the car. Neither have a fire starter. What current fire starter will store best for years?
For most people a simple disposable lighter will suffice. Next choice might be a ferrocerium starter with or without the magnesium tender bars. You can start a fire with 0000 steel wool and a car battery (other batteries such as a 9 volt will work as well.) Probably more important than what fire starting method you use is learning to build a fire and doing so enough times that you are comfortable having to do so under stress.
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  #10  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:19 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Concur - as long as the storage conditions are fairly stable*, a disposable lighter is about as simple as it gets, and probably more reliable than matches.

*That is free from excessive damp (the metal parts will rust), not experiencing excessive shock or vibration, and not experiencing extremes of temperature (such as inside a car - wild temperature fluctuations may end up causing mechanical failure that vents the butane gas)
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  #11  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:25 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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The gas can easily leak out of a lighter. Waterproof matches are coated with wax. I have some that are at least 15 years old, have just been sitting around, and I just lit one without a problem. Much easier than using magnesium fire starter, much more reliable than lighters.
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  #12  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:29 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
fires were often kept burning.
Very true. And in northern climates, letting your fire go out in the middle of winter could be a major cause of concern.

Often times, if your fire went out, you would go over to your neighbor's house to "get a light." I'm not exactly sure what device you would use to carry the flame back to your house... perhaps a piece of wood soaked in oil, a lantern, or a torch.

Last edited by Crafter_Man; 12-28-2011 at 03:30 PM..
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  #13  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:40 PM
Dendarii Dame Dendarii Dame is offline
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Decades ago, I was substitute teaching a class of fourth graders. They were reading a story set in the 1700's, and someone starts a fire. One boy asked me if they had lighters back then. I said no, and he said, "Well, I know they didn't have matches, so he couldn't have started a fire!"

I explained about flint, and I also had the kids rub their hands together to learn about friction and heat.
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  #14  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:47 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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In a community it's pretty much a guarantee that somewhere in the town/city/village someone had a fire pretty much perpetually. It'd be very unlikely the whole village would lack flame at a given time. (And if so, they'd be able to get it restarted pretty quickly in any case.)

But anyone who had need to travel or such prior to matches and lighters would have had flint and steel or something very similar, and some charcloth to help build a fire.

With flint and steel it is very easy to get sparks, the hard part is getting them to ignite, a piece of charcloth makes it very easy because it is easy to cause it to catch fire from sparks, and then if your charcloth is right by a small tinder pile it's an easy way to get the tinder lit and then from there a proper fire will grow.

When I was a kid my grandfather had a flint and steel survival tool that looked very similar to this (that example is actually a magnesium tool which would work better but the concept is the same); and I remember playing with it at a very young age and with no real instruction I could make sparks pretty easily. I hadn't learned how to build a fire yet, but generating sparks was easy enough, and once you understood how to actually build a proper fire and how to use tender and some equivalent of charcloth to get a fire reliably started it's very easy to use the sparks to get the whole thing going. Not as easy as a match but it's world's easier than friction methods or things of that nature.
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  #15  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:53 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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There are ways to carry a live ember too - for example, a dried hoof fungus will smoulder for hours or days without either going out or burning too fast - Otzi the ice man had pieces of this in his kit (although I don't think it's clear whether they were just for use as tinder, or were for carryng a live ember from place to place)
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  #16  
Old 12-28-2011, 03:54 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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I think torches/candles were common for lower class people but my understanding is back to Roman era and earlier the wealthy typically had lots of oil lamps and things of that nature going, which with servants and such are easier to keep burning and to refuel than a bunch of candles. As long as you have servants making regular rounds your lamps should never go totally out, you'd probably turn some off to conserve oil (but I guess a truly wealthy patrician family might not) but you'd keep a few turned on very low to provide some level of illumination in the home if someone had to get up and move around at night.

I've never played with a Roman era oil lamp, but I know a simple oil lamp of modern design with modern lamp oil will burn for over 100 hours on half a gallon of oil, so there'd have to be some serious dereliction of duty for all the lamps in a wealthy Roman's house to go out.
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  #17  
Old 12-28-2011, 04:52 PM
VernWinterbottom VernWinterbottom is offline
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Colonial reenactor here.

I can get a flame in about 10 to 15 seconds with flint, steel, some dry tinder and a bit of char-cloth. Char-cloth is made ahead of time in batches by putting small squares of cotton fabric in a covered tin and setting it in the hot coals. This turns the cloth into carbon. I make a small "bird's nest" of jute fiber, and place a 3/4 inch square of char-cloth in the middle. With the flint and steel, sparks are struck onto the char-cloth. As soon as the char-cloth catches a spark, I blow into the nest of tinder until it bursts into flame.

It took longer to type that than it does to start a fire.
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  #18  
Old 12-28-2011, 04:55 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by VernWinterbottom View Post
It took longer to type that than it does to start a fire.
Indeed, much of today's society is devoted to preventing a fire.
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  #19  
Old 12-28-2011, 05:06 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Flint and steel. Forget matches and lighters. Both can leak, get wet, etc. and then where will you be? Learn to use flint and steel and you're set for any need. They come in fancy and simple.

If you ever tour colonial or frontier houses/cabins, look up the walls next to the fireplace. You'll often see musket balls imbedded in the walls, because somebody tried to get a fire started using the lock mechanism of a flintlock. And forgot it was loaded.

Last edited by silenus; 12-28-2011 at 05:08 PM..
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  #20  
Old 12-28-2011, 05:36 PM
Lizzyerd Lizzyerd is offline
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Reading all these I keep thinking of the book(s) Clan of the Cave Bears and Valley of Horses especially the second book -they are a series for those that don't know- when the main character accidentally finds flint when she's making arrowheads. She finds some nice stones/rocks and while chipping away at these she notices that they make sparks. These books are set in ancient human times by the way. And the Author had gone into intense research for her books, so I'm guessing something like that happening was probably common.

Before that, isn't it true that ancient humans would take the fire if it happened by nature? Say a tree got struck by lightening didn't/wouldn't they go out and gather the fire as if they were gathering nuts or fruits? And then they probably kept it safe afterwards?

Beyond that, and into the more 'modern' days of human I agree with everyone else that people used flint and steel and probably just the old 'boy scout' rubbing two sticks together.
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  #21  
Old 12-28-2011, 06:10 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Flint and steel. Forget matches and lighters. Both can leak, get wet, etc. and then where will you be?
Waterproof matches will light even if they are wet. Because they are coated with wax and don't get wet under the wax. And they are easier to use than a flint and steel, and don't require any tinder. So let's go out on a cold rainy night, and we'll both drop our keys in a pile of leaves. You look for yours using a flint and steel. I'll look for mine using waterproof matches. Guess who wins?
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  #22  
Old 12-28-2011, 07:47 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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What are you going to strike them on? A rock?

As for looking for my keys, I always have one of these in my pocket as well.

Mind you, I carry about a dozen different fire-starters in my truck, and at least three on my person if I'm going to be someplace uncivilized. Flint, lighter, matches. Redundency is survival. But janeslogin asked for something that will store for years. Flint and steel meet that in spades.

Last edited by silenus; 12-28-2011 at 07:48 PM..
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  #23  
Old 12-28-2011, 07:59 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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What are you going to strike them on? A rock?
I was going to use the waterproof striker
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As for looking for my keys, I always have one of these in my pocket as well.
I have one on my key chain. But I dropped that

Quote:
Mind you, I carry about a dozen different fire-starters in my truck, and at least three on my person if I'm going to be someplace uncivilized. Flint, lighter, matches. Redundency is survival. But janeslogin asked for something that will store for years. Flint and steel meet that in spades.
So do waterproof matches, and magnesium igniters. And I usually have at least 2 butane lighters in my pocket, and I'm never far from a torch either. Wanna go down to the quarry and throw flaming things in?
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  #24  
Old 12-28-2011, 08:07 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Kewl! I got some firecrackers....
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  #25  
Old 12-28-2011, 08:52 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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I've got a flint and steel in my toolkit. Had some fun when I got it starting small fire out back (in controlled circumstances). They aren't that hard to use.
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  #26  
Old 12-28-2011, 09:57 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
The gas can easily leak out of a lighter. Waterproof matches are coated with wax. I have some that are at least 15 years old, have just been sitting around, and I just lit one without a problem. Much easier than using magnesium fire starter, much more reliable than lighters.
When I was in Camp Fire Girls, I used to coat strike-anywhere matches with fingernail polish. I tried coating them in wax, but in the Texas summers, I'd usually find that the wax melted.

On a somewhat related subject, how does one bank a fire so that it will be ready to burn the next day? I have frequently read about people doing this, but no description is given.
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  #27  
Old 12-28-2011, 10:27 PM
robby robby is offline
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I'm a Boy Scout leader, and we require that all of the Scouts in our troop learn to start a fire without matches or a lighter. We encourage this by making them start all campfires in this manner. The easiest alternate method is flint and steel. All of our scouts carry flint and steel in their survival kits.

Why do we do this? For one thing, matches get wet or run out. Lighters break or leak or run out of fuel. Flint and steel last for years. All you need is some tinder and patience.

The Swedish company Light My Fire makes a great flint and steel fire starter called the Swedish FireSteel. It's the best I've ever seen. I never go into the woods without it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Waterproof matches will light even if they are wet. Because they are coated with wax and don't get wet under the wax. And they are easier to use than a flint and steel, and don't require any tinder. So let's go out on a cold rainy night, and we'll both drop our keys in a pile of leaves. You look for yours using a flint and steel. I'll look for mine using waterproof matches. Guess who wins?
Me, with my LED flashlight.

In all seriousness, though, a lit match typically stays lit for only a few seconds before the wood burns up or it blows out. I've seen new scouts go through a box of matches trying to start a fire. For one thing, you do actually need tinder, even with matches. You can't just light a log with a match.
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  #28  
Old 12-28-2011, 10:27 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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I carry a doan magnesium bar in my survival pouch anytime I go hunting or backpacking. Just be careful to test your magnesium bar in the backyard before you go into the woods. Some cheap, knock-off mag bars are useless.

This video shows how to shave a mag bar and then light the shavings with the striker. They also show what happens with the cheap, knock-off mag bars being sold out there. That's why you should always test whatever fire starter you pick in your backyard first. Don't go into the woods with any untested gear.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frDMAOlIGaY

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-28-2011 at 10:31 PM..
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  #29  
Old 12-29-2011, 02:29 AM
AaronX AaronX is offline
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When you guy say "flint", do you mean real flint, whose sparks are actually the steel being chipped off, or ferrocerium, the "flint" in lighters?
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  #30  
Old 12-29-2011, 02:44 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
They also had a basic match called a Spall.
http://www.goosebay-workshops.com/MA...RMERS-BRAZIERS
I suspect that site has invented that term (and maybe the implement as well, for all I know). No dictionary I've checked, including the OED, gives any definition for "spall" which has to do with fire-starting.
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  #31  
Old 12-29-2011, 05:35 AM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
When I was in Camp Fire Girls, I used to coat strike-anywhere matches with fingernail polish. I tried coating them in wax, but in the Texas summers, I'd usually find that the wax melted.

On a somewhat related subject, how does one bank a fire so that it will be ready to burn the next day? I have frequently read about people doing this, but no description is given.
You make a pile of the best coals on a base of good ash, cover with a light layer of ash to reduce the oxygen, and top with a couvre feu [or even earlier one made of pottery] to keep the coals protected from being uncovered or shedding sparks if a pine knot catches fire instead of smouldering.
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  #32  
Old 12-29-2011, 07:18 AM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Flint and steel. But fires were often kept burning. There was no other light source aside from the sun. I don't know when slow burning wicks came into use. These could be carried, smouldering, and then by blowing on them they would fire up enough to ignite something.
So you're saying that before the Iron Age there were no fires ?

no iron = no steel, no steel= no flint and steel.

I was always under the impression that humans had fire during the Stone Age, let alone Bronze etc.
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  #33  
Old 12-29-2011, 08:00 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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So you're saying that before the Iron Age there were no fires ?

no iron = no steel, no steel= no flint and steel.

I was always under the impression that humans had fire during the Stone Age, let alone Bronze etc.
No other light source except fire, and obviously the sun. Not no other way to start a fire.
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  #34  
Old 12-29-2011, 09:00 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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aceplace57, thanks for that link. My magnesium bar looks suspiciously like the non-starting cheap Chinese-made one in that video...
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  #35  
Old 12-29-2011, 09:13 AM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by janeslogin
What is the best fire starter today. I've not started a fire in many years, not even a candle. But, I've an emergency kit in the garage and in the car. Neither have a fire starter. What current fire starter will store best for years?
Just to be different (I have most of the stuff below in my go pack), you could store steel wool (get the non-soapy kind) and 9 volt batteries to start a fire as well (I actually have some of this in storage too...the only problem is the batteries have to be replaced periodically, as they don't last forever). The reason I like this method of fire starting is that the items are dual purpose...I can use the steel wool and batteries for other things besides starting fires, and in a pinch they make good fire starters as well.

-XT

Last edited by XT; 12-29-2011 at 09:13 AM..
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  #36  
Old 12-29-2011, 10:09 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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When I was in Camp Fire Girls, I used to coat strike-anywhere matches with fingernail polish. I tried coating them in wax, but in the Texas summers, I'd usually find that the wax melted.
Good idea. Soft wax like paraffin won't do the job. The matches I have now are probably coated with some kind of plastic, not actual wax. I recall from my youth that beeswax was recommended. These matches I now have are small. If I were building a survival kit I'd use the big strike anywhere type, and nail polish sounds like a good coating. You need to coat the sticks too, not just the head, because they are absorbent.

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Originally Posted by robby View Post

Me, with my LED flashlight.
Yes, because my LED light is attached to my key chain, which I dropped

Quote:
In all seriousness, though, a lit match typically stays lit for only a few seconds before the wood burns up or it blows out. I've seen new scouts go through a box of matches trying to start a fire. For one thing, you do actually need tinder, even with matches. You can't just light a log with a match.
No you can't light a log with a match, or a spark either. But you can use heavier, even slightly wetter tinder with a match.

My whole point is that waterproof matches are the best firestarter you can put away for a long time. They are quick and easy to use, requiring no special skills or knowledge, can provide a few seconds of light (say to find your flint after you dropped it), and will start a fire more readily with materials that may not catch from a spark.

OTOH, you should put a flint and steel in your kit anyway, because matches are use once devices (although I can show you how to make a match burn twice). Once your matches are used up, you'd be left with nothing. A flint and steel would last a long time.

XT - 9 volt batteries have a pretty short life, and steel wool rusts pretty easily, but it is a handy way to start a fire. You could also use a pencil lead instead of steel wool, and it will give you a good short term light source also.
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  #37  
Old 12-29-2011, 10:13 AM
XT XT is offline
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Yeah, the batteries have only so much shelf life, even if you store them well. Rusting steel wool isn't really an issue where I live (the humidity here is generally less than 20% except in the monsoon season), and I store both in a water proof kit...along with more traditional stuff for starting fires. I usually store the batteries for about 6 months (not just the 9 volts but the other sizes I use...I have some rechargeable batteries and a hand generator as well) then rotate in new ones and use the old ones for stuff around the house. That seems to work pretty well. You have to change food and such periodically too, so you just get used to it.

-XT
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  #38  
Old 12-29-2011, 10:35 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Yeah, the batteries have only so much shelf life, even if you store them well. Rusting steel wool isn't really an issue where I live (the humidity here is generally less than 20% except in the monsoon season), and I store both in a water proof kit...along with more traditional stuff for starting fires. I usually store the batteries for about 6 months (not just the 9 volts but the other sizes I use...I have some rechargeable batteries and a hand generator as well) then rotate in new ones and use the old ones for stuff around the house. That seems to work pretty well. You have to change food and such periodically too, so you just get used to it.

-XT
Preparing for that cell phone armageddon?
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  #39  
Old 12-29-2011, 10:41 AM
XT XT is offline
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Naw. My boss is heavily involved in disaster planning and some of it has rubbed off on me. Just have a go kit and the standard 72 hour emergency supplies thing. That's about as far as I go.

-XT
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  #40  
Old 12-29-2011, 12:36 PM
kopek kopek is offline
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Originally Posted by VernWinterbottom View Post
Colonial reenactor here.

I can get a flame in about 10 to 15 seconds with flint, steel, some dry tinder and a bit of char-cloth. Char-cloth is made ahead of time in batches by putting small squares of cotton fabric in a covered tin and setting it in the hot coals. This turns the cloth into carbon. I make a small "bird's nest" of jute fiber, and place a 3/4 inch square of char-cloth in the middle. With the flint and steel, sparks are struck onto the char-cloth. As soon as the char-cloth catches a spark, I blow into the nest of tinder until it bursts into flame.

It took longer to type that than it does to start a fire.
What he/she/it said.

Flint and steel, tinderbox or slow match, foraged tinder. Given good flint and a nicely hardened steel someone can be taught within an hour to make fire in a couple minutes or less - pretty much whatever the conditions short of monsoon. Give me an extra hour to teach you monsoon. I have used them to light smokes, start fires and light cigars since college so I'm probably about at least 50% as good as your average 17th century person. Those dudes could probably really rock it.

(PS -- on char -- I use an old round tobacco tin with a few holes in the lid to make mine. Sometimes prefer linen to say average cotton. When the smoke really starts coming out the holes, I use a splinter of burning wood to light the smoke and call it done at that point; pull the tin off the coals. But like a lot of things YMMV.
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  #41  
Old 12-29-2011, 01:22 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Sharing fire with neighbors turns up in several artistic works, including La Boheme and Layla and Majnun, I believe. I can't think of others right now, but I know there's an Indian love story that involves it.

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Originally Posted by wiki
There is a knock at the door, and Mimě, a seamstress who lives in another room in the building, enters. Her candle has blown out, and she has no matches; she asks Rodolfo to light it.
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  #42  
Old 12-29-2011, 02:35 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Iron pyrite will spark when struck with a natural flint. In an archeological site they found a 20,000 year old pyrite stone that had a deep groove worn in it from being repeatedly struck.

In a high wind it's actually easier to start a fire from a coal or spark than a flame. Matches blow out but a spark in a sufficient quantity of dry finely divided tinder will fan into a fire in moments.
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  #43  
Old 12-29-2011, 06:09 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Neophyte here. Flint-this, flint-that...

Doesn't your culture have to have access first to flint? Or is it everywhere, even in bogs and swamps?
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  #44  
Old 12-29-2011, 06:44 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
Neophyte here. Flint-this, flint-that...

Doesn't your culture have to have access first to flint? Or is it everywhere, even in bogs and swamps?
Fine, thanks to a brother in Boy Sprouts, and being stuck in the female program, I can friction start a fire using a shoe lace, 2 sticks, a sort of flat piece of wood, some leaf litter in combination with pine needles, or dried moss and a flat stone with a slight hollow to it. It is called a fire bow. A pocket knife makes it easier, but I took a lovely course in flint knapping, so I could rummage around for something rocklike to make the needed cuts.

I applaud the woman who at least researched friction firemaking in Survivor a number of years ago ... it would have been much better if she had taken a few hours and practiced, and practiced in inclement weather.

Last edited by aruvqan; 12-29-2011 at 06:45 PM.. Reason: cant spell today
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  #45  
Old 12-29-2011, 06:53 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
When I was in Camp Fire Girls, I used to coat strike-anywhere matches with fingernail polish. I tried coating them in wax, but in the Texas summers, I'd usually find that the wax melted.

On a somewhat related subject, how does one bank a fire so that it will be ready to burn the next day? I have frequently read about people doing this, but no description is given.
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Originally Posted by aruvqan View Post
You make a pile of the best coals on a base of good ash, cover with a light layer of ash to reduce the oxygen, and top with a couvre feu [or even earlier one made of pottery] to keep the coals protected from being uncovered or shedding sparks if a pine knot catches fire instead of smouldering.
Hmmmm, I'm gonna have to try that sometime.

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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Good idea. Soft wax like paraffin won't do the job. The matches I have now are probably coated with some kind of plastic, not actual wax. I recall from my youth that beeswax was recommended. These matches I now have are small. If I were building a survival kit I'd use the big strike anywhere type, and nail polish sounds like a good coating. You need to coat the sticks too, not just the head, because they are absorbent.
Yes, I always completely coated the sticks. This meant dipping the matches twice, and letting them dry between dips. I'm pretty sure that I used either paraffin or candle wax when I tried coating the matches in wax. I do remember that the matches were a big mess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar
No you can't light a log with a match, or a spark either. But you can use heavier, even slightly wetter tinder with a match.

My whole point is that waterproof matches are the best firestarter you can put away for a long time. They are quick and easy to use, requiring no special skills or knowledge, can provide a few seconds of light (say to find your flint after you dropped it), and will start a fire more readily with materials that may not catch from a spark.

OTOH, you should put a flint and steel in your kit anyway, because matches are use once devices (although I can show you how to make a match burn twice). Once your matches are used up, you'd be left with nothing. A flint and steel would last a long time.

XT - 9 volt batteries have a pretty short life, and steel wool rusts pretty easily, but it is a handy way to start a fire. You could also use a pencil lead instead of steel wool, and it will give you a good short term light source also.
I could usually get a fire started with just one match...but I was always VERY careful to use a lot of fluffy tinder, then some slightly thicker tinder, then some kindling, then the logs. The other girls would usually try to get the fire started QUICKLY, and not allow the kindling to get going good. So, even though my attempts took longer than their individual attempts, I'd only need one attempt, while they'd need half a dozen. If the wood was at all damp, the leader would tell me to start the fire and tend to it, because she was tired and hungry and she didn't want to eat at 9 PM.

Nowadays, I usually just use one of those candle lighters, the butane thingies with lighter fluid, for most of my firelighting needs. I no longer worry about survival that much. I'm diabetic, I have other health problems, if I'm lost long enough to need to build a fire, chances are I'm dead already.
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  #46  
Old 12-29-2011, 08:03 PM
Cugel Cugel is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
I suspect that site has invented that term (and maybe the implement as well, for all I know). No dictionary I've checked, including the OED, gives any definition for "spall" which has to do with fire-starting.
Supposed to be "spill" I think.
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  #47  
Old 12-29-2011, 08:54 PM
Mister Owl Mister Owl is offline
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Originally Posted by Cugel View Post
Supposed to be "spill" I think.
Spunk actually.

Do a search on Youtube for "Spunk or Sulfur Match." The guy has a rather nice primitive fire making kit as well as provides instructions on making your own sulfur match.

Since this topic as drifted somewhat let me bring up my absolute favorite fire by friction method, that being the simple fire piston. It's my favorite since when demonstrating it, the piston returns the biggest "wow" response. Search for the term to see one in operation.
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  #48  
Old 12-29-2011, 11:23 PM
bcr1 bcr1 is offline
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Very polished metals dude. Chopana bracelets from Peru for the Inti Raymi festival. Lenses or reflective mirrors that's what they were for. Portable lighters, sunlight.
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  #49  
Old 12-29-2011, 11:49 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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Now if we are talking about newer methods... I have a water-resistant (don't say water-proof, nothing is) container about the size of a pack of cigarettes that has a lanyard (rope) that I wear around my neck when I got into the woods hunting or fishing far off the beaten trail.

It is filled with strike-anywhere matches that were coated with molten wax, then the container was filled to the top with more wax. I live in a fairly wet environment and am an out-doors guy. Even if I fell into a stream, as long as that lanyard stays with me, I will be able to start a fire and stay alive, I hope.

I also have a supply of pitchy wood that I have found in old stumps and logs that I keep for camping. It is like supper kindling and will light even a wet campfire, but I don't pack that around unless I am going on a planned camp out.

But the lanyard full of wax-coated matches is around my neck most times that I am in the forest alone.

The very next step I take could be a broken leg and a cold death in the woods alone, without it.
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  #50  
Old 12-29-2011, 11:51 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by bcr1 View Post
Very polished metals dude. Chopana bracelets from Peru for the Inti Raymi festival. Lenses or reflective mirrors that's what they were for. Portable lighters, sunlight.
You're sure about this are you?
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