Mythbusters -- Making fire

I’m watching Mythbusters, and they’re trying different ways of making fire without a source of flame. One of the ways was by firing a gun (sans bullet) into tinder. Interestingly, I sorta-kinda did that a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve fired blanks before, but they were all commercially made. I’d never fired a blank with a black powder revolver. So I loaded 15 grains of black powder into an Uberti Colt 1851 Navy revolver. I wadded up some toilet paper to provide back pressure for the explosion. The reason for this was that uncontained powder wouldn’t ‘explode’. Besides, you have to keep the powder in the cylinder. Upon firing, the make-shift wad shot out. While it wasn’t on fire, it was smoldering. This was an experiment to see if I could make a blank. Obviously I’d use something other than flammable paper if I was using it in a film or something. The toilet paper was just an expedient. But I discovered that I could use this means to produce smoldering embers that I could use to start a fire.

Another thing I’ve done is to use steel wool and a nine volt battery. Works like a charm.

If I were in an airplane and had to make a crash landing, I’d get some fuel from the sump. Airplanes have unsable fuel in the tanks that can be drained through the sump. Ignition could be by arcing the battery.

Of course, I have a Bic lighter and a magnesium fire starter in my survival kit. No need to improvise ignition.

I’d like to try the stick methods (rotating a stick with my hands, rubbing a stick in a trough, fire bow) just to see if I can do it. Only wood is usually pretty wet up this way.

I went to a primitive skills workshop a couple years ago and spent a whole weekend living like a primitive. Best ways of making fire are:
2. Burning glass, if the sun cooperates.
3. Flint and steel. If you have charcloth, this is super-easy.
4. Bow drill. Wood has to be dry, of course. Physically this is VERY hard work. I thought one of the other students was going to have a heart attack before he ever got a fire going.
5. All other friction methods. They all are even more demanding than the bow drill and yet are simultaneously less effective at getting a fire.

Can you make char cloth from dryer lint? (All of my clothes are cotton.) Or do you have to use an actual piece of cloth. I keep meaning to try charring the lint on the barbecue (I actually have some sealed in foil), but I keep forgetting.

Yeah that part was annoying. With a simple 9 volt and steel wool It is damn near impossible to not start a raging fire.

And I just wish for once on TV they would show a qualified instructor teaching how to make a bow drill fire. Yeah, it takes at least half an hour under perfect conditions to get everything prepared properly, but once you do a fire isn’t that much work to start.

I second that. I have done the outward bound thing, and messed around with teaching myself firemaking. The fire bow is probably the best primative method you can teach too yourself.

I love the woman who at least researched friction firestarting on a survivor so many seasons ago … it is a serious shame she didnt actually practice until she became proficient=( and then they made fun of her for trying :frowning:

I will admit, I think my survivor luxury would actually be the giant food service container of montreal spice blend … I hate bland food and it may not be th4e optimal spicing for everything running/slithering/swiming/oozing around in teh woods, but it isnt bland=) I can always use my sneaker laces to make a fire bow=)

My survivor-thing is definitely a knife with a carbon steel blade. Finding a rock with which to knock sparks off the back of the blade is a relatively easy task. Charcloth is the ideal tinder, but dry grasses or similar will also work. IAC, it is way easier than the friction methods. When I bought my Randall #14 years ago, I chose carbon steel over stainless for emergency firemaking utility.

I found this, just bumbling around: Fire from a coke can and chocolte bar.
I tried it and it does work, much easier/faster than a fire bow. When I was a child, my father impressed upon me the need to be able to make fire. “Don’t get into a boat without a bottle of matches”, he always told me. (This advice has saved my life.) I like to carry one of those “eternal match” things that have a wick with lighter fluid and a striker on the side.

My dad gave me one of those when I was a kid back in the '70s. I still have it somewhere. Last time I tried it (ten years ago?) it seemed the fluid didn’t last long. Must have an air leak in it somewhere.

Do they still make them? If so, where are they available?

That is so cool! A lawyer friend I go camping with always tries to make a bow drill or some such thing to start fire. Just mucking about, really. When it comes to starting the campfire, we use stove fuel and a match. But he likes to try survival skills. I’m going to lay this on him next trip. Ought to keep him entertained for hours! :smiley:

As for “eternal matches,” I always have one of these with me.

Those magnesium firestarting tools are really nice. They only need to be a little dry and your hands don’t have to work well to accomplish the task. This is handy when you’ve just crawled out of a really cold river or lake. The reflector out of any flashlight will concentrate enough sun to make fire, you can light a cigarette with one and a stiff breeze actually helps out. Johnny L.A. I tried the steel wool across the poles of a car battery once when I was a kid. It went badly, fortunately the acid didn’t scar. It works, but for fun and games use flashlight batteries not lead acid batteries, unless the situation is extreme. In an extreme situation, a lock of hair off of your head will make good tinder, even a little wet.

I really should get out of the swamp more often.

I’ve never tried charring it, but dryer lint is excellent tinder just as it is. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been able to catch directly from flint-and-steel sparks.

As for fire by friction, my Boy Scout patrol once tried it with a firebow (actually, a competition with the other patrol in the troop). After breaking two thongs and four shoelaces on the bow, we finally resorted to the method of rubbing our hands on the side of the stick to twist it. Even at that, we still eventually beat the other patrol. Note that for fire-by-friction to work at all, you need excellent tinder, something along the lines of lint or charcloth (paper, say, won’t cut it), as well as the firemaking skills to build up a real fire from the embers you get in the tinder.

Another excellent (and forever-reusable!) firestarting device is a decent-sized Fresnel lens, like those plastic ones used to magnify a full page of text. On a decently sunny day, you can start even sizable pieces of wood with one, though it takes a steady hand and some patience.

Was that part of the uniform?

Would belly button lint work? Seems like it would have a certain combination of oil and combustibles to ignite.
I’m not saying to put the stick in your belly button and spin, of course.
Though that would make your navel warm. :wink:

I think they actually did this on the aforementioned Mythbusters episode.

Wish I’d seen that episode. Did they mention the Fire Piston, another offbeat way of obtaining an ember?

For a neat look at ways to not only make fire but survive just about anything, watch Survivorman. This guy is good!

It was mentioned within the last few months in Maxim magazine, also.

Did they mention making a lens out of clear ice?

Yup, they did this one too. IIRC the Coke can method was the most surprisingly effective of them all.