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Thread: Tinder tips

  1. #1
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    Default Tinder tips

    While the fire piston can ignite a variety of natural tinders, not all of these are convenient to handle. For example, it is quite possible to ignite rotten wood punk. ( This can somtimes be a challenging tinder to use as it is more stubborn and usually requires 2 - 3 attempts before lighting.

    Wood punk:


    However I feel it is worthwhile to mention it because it is so easily obtained and its good to have options in the bush. )

    Punk prior to ignition



    Once lit it is difficult to extract the coal from the cavity in the piston shaft as it has a great tendency to fragment.



    Therefore, I suggest that you dont pick it out at all. Rather use the coal to ignite a larger piece of punk. Three walnut sized pieces of punk placed in contact with one another can be blown into flame without need of a fiber nest.

    Last edited by Jeff Wagner; 04-10-2005 at 20:10. Reason: add photos

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the hints Jeff,
    The weather has recently taken a turn for the worst here, with dampness pervading everything - so our latest challenge will be getting and more importantly, keeping tinder dry enough to use throughout the colder months.
    I will however, be trying our your nuggets of wisdom.

    ATB

    Ogri the trog
    Improvise, Adapt & Overcome
    www.Reddragonbushcraft.com

  3. #3

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    If the question is keeping your tinder dry then hard to beat keeping it in the airing cupboard or the tank room or boiler room.

    Certainly dampness is a key feature of the challenge of fire lighting this time of year. The first year I got into friction fires I just could not do it till the summer again. The following year I adapted my techniques and kept at it all through.

    I wonder how long I wll need to wait till my artists conk dries out? I don't think the family will let me bring that in the house.

    Anyone got tips on using artist's conk as a tinder or char?
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

  4. #4
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    Default Tinder

    I can always find dry punk in a forest. It may require the dissection of a dead tree that is protected from the elements. The punk three or four inches inside is often quite dry. The fire piston seems able to tolerate moderate moisture, in fact the heat of compression can dry out damp tinders.

    One of my favorite demonstration stunts is to remove a fire piston from a sealed bottle of water, shake off the excess and proceed to light a fire with it. Because the water is unable to reach the tinder cavity it lights perfectly.

  5. #5
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    I seem to have a photo impairment. Please bear with me while I attempt this again.

    Common wood punk


    Charing after two strikes


    Ignited


    Transfer the fragile coal

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    I am glad you showed these. I have been picking out the coal from the piston and then trying to transfer it rather than doing that in situ. That will certainly work better especially with the more fragile materials.

  7. #7
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    Another somewhat related trick that I use with fire by friction - After creating your hard won coal by hand drill, dont take any chances with it. You have expended a lot of energy to get it - you should take steps to preserve it. Occaisionally the fiber nest will refuse to blow into flame and a second attempt is much easier if you have the forethought to ignite a back up coal from the first. Simply touch a piece of fungus or punk to the hand drill coal and let it lie there smoldering on its own while you transfer the original and attempt to make flame. If it fails, propagating the back up coal is much more efficient than starting again from scratch.

  8. #8

    Default Damp tinder

    I am completely self taught when it comes to tinder. I have developed a way of coping with damp tinder. As long as it is dry enough for the material to fall into crumbs when rubbed between the hands then it will pretty well always work.

    Take your dodgy tinder - mixture of leaves mostly from the garden - and rub some of it to crumbs/ dust. Make a pile of the finest bits on a flat surface - stacked up against the base of a much larger pile of the tinder - shredded by tearing. Press your fine tinder into the bigger heap. Cap it with a bundle of twigs. Then get your coal by whatever means and drop/ press it into the fine tinder. Then keep up a slow blowing - just enough to keep it alight for a couple of minutes - and dry the fine material next to it. Then gradually blow harder until the glow moves into the rest of the tinder. Any hesitation and you can lose the ember - you are fighting the damp. You can spread the glow, and add more tinder if needed on top, under the twig bundle until everything has dried enough to catch.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wagner
    Another somewhat related trick that I use with fire by friction - After creating your hard won coal by hand drill, dont take any chances with it. You have expended a lot of energy to get it - you should take steps to preserve it. Occaisionally the fiber nest will refuse to blow into flame and a second attempt is much easier if you have the forethought to ignite a back up coal from the first. Simply touch a piece of fungus or punk to the hand drill coal and let it lie there smoldering on its own while you transfer the original and attempt to make flame. If it fails, propagating the back up coal is much more efficient than starting again from scratch.
    Great tip. Especially useful, I guess, when the chips are down and it matters that you get that fire with no more effort if possible. I wonder if that is why Otzi the iceman carried piptoporus pieces as part of his kit

    http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/dec2001.html
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wagner
    Charing after two strikes [picture] Ignited [picture] Transfer the fragile coal
    Great pics.

    What did you use for the char in the fire piston?

    I have an anxiety that if you leave the smouldering char in the piston tip for any length of time it will speed up the burning away of the head of the piston. Is that a concern?
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

  11. #11
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    The tinder in the photo was rotten wood.

    No worries about charing the piston cavity. The temperature of the tinder is not high enough nor the duration of exposure long enough to cause any problem.

  12. #12

    Default Single leaf tinder

    Here is an idea. An extension of my previous description of "tube tinder".

    You can do the same thing as I described with paper, or paper bark or birch bark, with a single leaf!

    Take a leaf - dry and large enough to roll into a tube about half to three quarters of an inch diameter. A 3-4 inch leaf is probably big enough. Shred an edge and then roll it into a tube with the shredded edge on the inside. Put a weight on it so it doesn't unroll. Then light a piece of char and place in end of tube. Blow into flame. Use like a match.

    The tube traps the heat so the leaf gets very quickly to ignition temperature. The roll then keeps enough leaf material together to support continued burning.

    Thicker leaves, such as clematis, are less easy to light this way

    Works best with char cloth, but powder char also works if you scoop a good collection up with the end of the leaf tube, and blow more slowly so as not to scatter the char.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rich59
    Here is an idea. An extension of my previous description of "tube tinder".

    You can do the same thing as I described with paper, or paper bark or birch bark, with a single leaf!

    Take a leaf - dry and large enough to roll into a tube about half to three quarters of an inch diameter. a 3-4 inch leaf is proably big enough. Shred an edge and then roll it into a tube with the shredded edge on the inside. Put a weight on it so it doesn't unroll. Then light a piece of char and place in end of tube. Blow into flame. Use like a match.

    The tube traps the heat so the leaf gets very quickly to ignition temperature. The roll then keeps enough leaf material together to support continued burning.

    Thicker leaves, such as clematis, are less easy to light this way

    Works best with char cloth, but powder char also works it you scoop a good collection up with the end of the leaf tube, and blow more slowly so as not to scatter the char.
    Yep real nice of you to tell us about that. But it started to rain last night going to rain for the next 3 days.As you know its fall up here in vermont lots of dry leaves.Not now dam.

  14. #14
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    When using alternative tinders such as milkweed pod, tinder fungus or mullein pith I find it especially helpful to position the tinder as close as posible to the edge of the flint. In this way the spark travels only a short distance to the tinder as arrives as hot as possible.

    Milkweed






    Tinder fungus

  15. #15

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    Thanks Jeff. It's always great to see photos. You are inspiring me to get out my flint and steel and try some more materials to see if they will take a spark. I had been previously thinking that almost all materials except true tinder fungus needed heat/ fire in the preparation before being able to take a spark.

    The list of possibles seems to be growing. Storm has got the underside of artists conk to take a spark. And you are showing milkweed pod and mullein pith.

    When I try to get char cloth that close to the flint edge it often disentegrates with the gust of wind caused by my rapidly moving hand with the steel striker. These other materials seem more stable.

    I tested out quite a number of charred materials a couple of years back to see what would take a spark. I did make the discovery that the charred fibre from inner lime bark was excellent at taking a spark. The only downside is that the material is quite fragile and if shaken in transportation would turn to dust. I did try charred punky wood as well. No success for me I am afraid.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Hmmm...charred punk should work easily - even lightly toasted. I have been able to get uncharred punk to catch also but its not so easily done. In addition to the edge positioning you need a good sharp flint and a spark that hangs and lingers for a heart beat on the flint. Its is also fragile and tends to break up during the effort. Still, its worth experimenting with. I dont know of any other natural tinder that is usable untreated and that is so readily available. Milkweed pods are seasonal and Tinder Fungus is limited to the northern latitudes.

  17. #17

    Default Pithy comments

    I had an hour of so today with my flint and steel. Could not get my mullein pith to catch. I tried it close to or even right on the flint edge. I took the edge off any number of flints in the process. I got a variety of spark types including the occ. one that sat on the edge of the flint for half a second. It would catch from a match and from ferrocerium spark. Either way it would then go out in about 30 seconds. It the weather was drier it might have been more successful. It seemed to only catch from ferrocerium on a thin piece and as the coal got to thicker material it could not cope and went out. Either that or the charred material smothered it so it did not burn any more.

    I had a good go with razor strop fungus (piptoporus betulinus). Sliced it up, roughened the surface. Again no joy from the flint and steel but match or ferrocerium get a very pleasing persistent coal.

    So, is mullein able to catch from flint and steel all year round or only in hot dry conditions?


    I started an investigation of piths. I hunted down about a dozen different plants in my garden that had at least some pith. I figured that even a small amount would be good if it had excellent qualities. I thought I would run a few tests to see how they were similar and different. There is buddliea, raspberry, blackberry, foxglove, philadelphus, mullein, elder, forsythia, lilac, climbing rose and a couple of others. They all need to dry out before I play about with them. Apart from trying to set fire to them I have got a microscope so I could see what they look like in fine detail.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Richard - While the tinder does need to be dry, my locale is far from a desert. The consitions are not unlike those I saw in Kensington Gardens. I see that I neglected to mention an important bit of information however. Whole chunks of mullein wont light very well. I use a sharp knife and slice off the thinnest possible sliver. The ragged edge of this sliver is what I place on the sharp flint.

  19. #19

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    Still working on the mullein pith with flint and steel. I cut some moderately thin slivers with my penknife. I could probably have gone thinner with a scalpel or something. I could now get a sustained burn from ferrocerium, but still no joy with the flint and steel. I have now run out of flint edges and will need to break some more.

    Approximately how far from the edge of the flint would you place the edge of the pith sliver? I tried right at the edge and about 1 or 2 mm away. How many strikes do you find it takes before you get a light?
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rich59

    Approximately how far from the edge of the flint would you place the edge of the pith sliver? I tried right at the edge and about 1 or 2 mm away. How many strikes do you find it takes before you get a light?
    I place the tinder right at the edge, such that its essentially in contact with the hanging spark. This is more a case of "coal transfer" ( steel to pith ) than one of the pith catching a flying spark. It may require multiple strikes before one catches. Also, a heavier striker seems to work better than a lighter one. Perhaps the sliver of steel removed is larger because of its greater mass. Good luck and keep trying. Mullein pith works easier than punk.

  21. #21

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    Thanks Jeff. I will have another go later in the week.

    I have a thought that the key feature of mullien pith is the ability to cut it so thinly? A hypothesis to be tested. Material that can be sliced very thinly. Hmm that might include root vegetables. Perhaps cut something thinly while wet - would then dry even thinner. Probably talking rubbish.

    I have another thought on sparks. So, so many fly off in random directions and are wasted yet were strong sparks that lived for a while. They are not easily caught, but may just bounce off surfaces. If I could create sparks over a funnel held over the tinder, they could lose there velocity and drop neatly onto the target. Again, purely speculative.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rich59


    I have another thought on sparks. So, so many fly off in random directions and are wasted yet were strong sparks that lived for a while. They are not easily caught, but may just bounce off surfaces. If I could create sparks over a funnel held over the tinder, they could lose there velocity and drop neatly onto the target. Again, purely speculative.
    Ahh... providing a bounce shield is what your your thumb is for....

  23. #23

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    Have been playing with my flint and steel today. I have come to some conclusions.

    1) October in damp conditions outside is not an ideal time to get the best out of borderline tinders.

    2) At this time I cannot get mullein pith to take a spark. I specially sharpenned the knife, cut the thinnest slivers I could, put them right up to the edge of the flint and managed to get about one or two out of a couple of hundred sparks to sit on the edge for a moment. No joy. Of course, being closely applied to the flint's surface it is less likely to catch as there is a lack of air coming up from underneath and the flint will cool it.

    3) I cannot get dried artist's conk to take a spark. I tried Storm's way of spraying sparks over the upturned bottom surface. I also tried it onto the fibrous layer. Ferrocerium sparks catch this part but not flint and steel. I tried thin slivers of both as well. I will try again in a few months - next summer.

    3) Using a funnel to collect sparks is viable. You stuff your target tinder down the nozzle, balance the funnel on the top of a glass and strike sparks over it. Most short lived sparks don't make it to the nozzle, but some quality sparks roll down and then sit on your target. My mullein slivers would not catch ths way either.

    I also did a bit of microscopy of various piths. They all looked the same - a network of hollow tubes with space in between. This is not my picture - it is a lot better quality, but approximates to what I saw



    I then tried putting heat to 3 different types of pith - thin slivers - elder, mullein and raspberry. Mullein was the only one to have a self sustaining glow that consumed the entire sliver.

    The next time I have a go at mullein and other piths I might try the advice given with charcloth - present lots of layers of my target material with the edges stacked up and exposed to the sparks. That will maximise the target area of material that might catch.

    I did light some genuine char cloth with some sparks as a sort of control.

    Finally I got a coal by handdrilling elder onto pine to consol myself.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Richard - Can you please show me your flint and steel?

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    My tests of tinders for flint and steel seem to concur with you rich59, I've never got a pith to take for more than a split second. I thought it was only me and everyone who said it was possible was taking the pith.
    I've also failed with Cat-tail.
    The only naturals that I have had success from are dried and teased Tinder fungus, dried and teased Artist conk (the darker layer) and dried Alfreds cakes.
    I was thinking about extracting Potassium Nitrate from animal excrement as a natural way of pepping up recalcitrant tinders.
    Your life is NOW.

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    I'll try to take some photographs of the process this weekend.

  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wagner
    Richard - Can you please show me your flint and steel?
    Here's the fellows. Note not a lot of sharp edges left on my flints!

    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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    Thats a good set and it really ought to work. The striker looks hefty enough to make a hot spark. The greatest difference I can see between yours and mine is the thickness and therefore edge angle on your flint. Mine tend to be much thinner and have a more knife-like edge.

  29. #29
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    I took a mullein stalk from the garage which has been exposed to high humidity for several days as its been raining here. I split the stalk, sliced out a sliver of pith from the center. I chose a piece of flint close in size to yours althought the edge is thinner as you can see. The spark caught on the fifth strike and burned back from the edge a bit by the time I could get the camera focused.

    Another thing I just though of....make sure the edge exposed to the spark is end grain.






  30. #30

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    Thanks tremendously for all this. Can't thank you enough.

    Can you orientate me on your first picture? I can make out a thumb but not much else. There is some white stuff over something brown over some whispy white stuff. If the white stuff is pith then it must be fresher than mine as mine is a dirty grey colour throughout. But then your pith in the 3rd picture looks more beige.

    When you say "end grain" do you mean that the edge of mullein pith exposed to the sparks is along the line of the mullein stem? Certainly I have been trying to catch the side at right angles to this, so that can be altered.

    The piece of mullein pith in the last picture looks to be a millimetre or so thick which is thicker than I was cutting it yesterday. Was the end exposed to sparks also this thick or did it taper down to a sharper edge?

    I will need to find and break up some more flint anyway. I think I know how to get sharper edges like yours

    Thanks again.
    Richard, London, UK

    If at first you don't succeed - pause, reflect, change something and try again.

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