By Travis Birch
I have often spoken about the importance of having a fire, or the ability to make fire on demand. When we are at our cabin, practicing for ‘Off the Grid’ life, we maintain multiple methods to build a fire, whether it’s with a simple match, lighter, or flare if necessary. But, when we head out for the day, often times we are taken away from the comforts of the cabin we live in, and there isn’t a real good idea if we’ll make it back before dark. Being able to build a fire quickly, in sometimes adverse conditions is a must.
How to Make Fire
A pocket tinderbox is an insurance that is worth keeping on hand when you get pulled away from the homestead. To build this modern comfort is a simple enough task. To carry it with us without being burdened down I built my tinderbox from an old small cigar tin. You can just as easily build one with a metal mint tins, or even a plastic tic tac box. Aside from recycling old tins from our vices, you need to buy just a few other items, and you probably have some of the necessities lying around.
A ¼” ferrocerium rod, about two inches should do. Ferrocerium is a synthetic pyrophoric alloy that produces sparks with temperatures topping 3,000°C when it is struck. This is sometimes presented as a ‘flint rod’. A small piece of a hacksaw blade acts as a perfect tool to strike with, just file down the teeth a bit. Cotton balls saturated with Vaseline jelly is the perfect tinder to apply the spark too.
The first step is to make this safe to use. Empty your box. It doesn’t matter if it smells like mints or tobacco. The benefit of using a metal box is that it is less likely to become crushed as you move about your territory, it will click closed and is more apt to take the epoxy and keep it together. You will need to attach the ferrocerium rod to the box. Liquid nail or a two-part epoxy such as J.B. Weld works great. Rough up the box where you want to attach the rod to with sandpaper. Do the same to your ferrocerium rod. Now apply your glue/epoxy to the desired area, and let it set. Resting the box on its side, or securing with a rubber band is great. Take your broken piece of a hacksaw blade, grind the teeth off so it is safe. This will be a makeshift handle. By rubbing the narrow side of the blade along the ferrocerium, with just a small amount of pressure, you should see a plethora of sparks come forth.
To fuel your fire, take enough cotton balls that will fit in your tin. Saturate Vaseline petroleum jelly into the cotton by massaging it in. When you feel good with, and the cotton ball looks like a mess, add it to your tin box. When you’re ready, take out a cotton ball and place it where you want your fire to take root. Scratch the blade across the rod, and aim the sparks onto the cotton ball fuel source. You will have a quickfire that should last a few minutes. The great thing about the Vaseline is that it should stay lit in some adverse weather conditions. Add some kindling, and bring your fire to life. Pull out your pocket fishing kit, and catch dinner. Use your homemade knife to prep your meal, and cook it over your fire. Your family will look at you proudly as the impromptu provider, a new lesson is taught, and the meal never tasted better.