View Full Version : Birch Bark & Tissue With Sparks
I was practising with my new fire stick in the garden yesterday, and was trying to ignite finely chopped birch bark. I couldn't get it to take the spark so I got a bit of tissue out of my pocket and buffed it up and laid it under the bark peelings.
Got another shower of sparks going, and the tissue helped ignite the bark. It was weird though because I thought the tissue would light first, allowing the bark to catch from that, but it seemed like the bark caught fire first, followed quickly by the tissue.
Was it just my eyes playing tricks or has anyone else tried this too? I've tried tissue on it's own and I found that quite hard to get going anyway.
Oops, sorry, meant to put on the above, could it be that the tissue held the spark long enough for the bark to ignite.
I finally managed to get some birch bark the other day. I have to say that I was amazed at my first attempt to ignite it, in that I did't have to shave it anywhere near as fine as I expected: It took a spark really easily. I get the feeling that if it's dry and has curly edges where it's naturally come away from the tree, then that's all you need to "aim" the sparks at.
Are you guys just taking the fine papery bark that the tree is naturally shedding for your firelighting?
No I had some left overs from a piece I'd used to make a container so I shaved the whole thing up into small bits, paperystuff and the brown inner stuff.
It's the papery stuff that takes a spark, then you can add the thicker stuff if you want (no taking from live trees though!) I find that the bark goes up better than the tissue. Try scraping the bark so create some dust and spark onto that.
Do you fellows have access to yellow birch over there as well as white? The bark of the yellow variety has paper thin wisps of bark that curl up on its surface. Its easy to collect a handful in a few seconds. This lights instantly and burns as well as white birch.
We dont really have access to yellow (in europe its called curly birch) our most common species is the silver birch and it is this we take the fine peelings from. In cities we have a lot of paper birch but this doesnt shed the fine peelings - hence its name as the shedding bark comes off in sheets like paper.
As Tony pointed out scraping a bark slab to build up a pile of dust works well - if your tinder bundle is a buffed grapefruit sized pile of fine peeling ensure these are dry and try to slowly scrape the fire steel as you drag it bacl this will create bigger hotter sparks and ignite the bark easier.
As for the tissue did it smoulder Nod? This might have been enough to pump up the temperature of the bark to cause ignition - remember part of fires job (or a sparks) is to drive out moist. Dampness drains heat and if your tinder was slightly damp the heat of the spark might not have been enough alone.
Sorry about the delay in answering the question of taking the bark off live trees: I was actually doing some work!
Suffice is to say, don't worry, I'm only remove the bark that is being naturally shed.
Talking of birch bark; does anyone know of a good source of
commercially harvested bark for use in making containers, kettles etc?
While I don't know of any commercial bark suppliers, it might be worth your while contacting your local conservation body / Wildlife Trust / countryside service to see if they are carrying out any scrub / tree clearance. Birch can be a real 'problem' on some sites - particularly heathland - and a lot of effort is put into removing it.
If you offered your help for a day on one of these tasks I'm sure you would be rewarded with as much birch as you want!! Plus you'd be 'giving something back' to your local environment. Usually the birch would just be burnt on / near site so no guilt about taking the bark either.
I'd recommend asking about the size of material being cleared though as most organisations will only let volunteers loose on small stuff (for obvious safety reasons). While they won't let you near a chainsaw yourself, if you offer to help their staff out you might get in when they drop the bigger stuff.
The only problem you've got then is getting the bark off now the sap is down.....!!
The tinder was bone dry, been in the house for a good three weeks. The tissue did smoulder a little. When the sparks landed it sort of formed a small burn hole, but then when the spark landed where the bark was too it went up a treat. I've noticed that birch bark really burns quite fiercely once it gets going
I suppose there's no hard and fast rules sometimes, and I'll probably not be able to do it when I really want to!!!!
In the meantime Tony, I' think I'll get my tinder tin stocked up on the dust shavings as suggested.
Thanks everyone for responding.
Bob had a good point. Birch is viewed as a weed and people are more than happy for it to be dealt with, especaily your local authorities. You really want the young Birch as the bark is a lot thinner.
A good source for all sorts of weird and wonderful wood and such is your local Tree Surgeon, have a look for one in your Yellow Pages. They deal with all species of tree, native and exotic. They are very skilled men and they drink beer like everyone else.........if you know what I mean!!
Good idea Jack. I think there's a tree surgeon operates out of our village.
I've also volunteered to help the Forestry Commission. They had a sign up at our local woods asking for help. I thought it would allow me learn more about the forest and the animals in it, get access to the different parts of the woods and get involved in the work that they do.
Maybe after a while I may be able to ask for the odd branch or two?
I experimented a bit last night with my Swedish fire steel. I can report that both cattail fluff and milkweed down ignited instantly, however the flames are not long lasting. Was able to catch a spark in tinder fungus but that was not surprizing as it works well with flint and steel. Fine wood shavings from a bow project were also ignited but with difficulty. Steel wool caught instantly and burns very hot.
I found that if i rubbed the gathered birch bark between my palms until a fine dust started to fall then used me firesteel, then i was almost guaranteed a fire :yikes: