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Alternative Fire Starting Methods

Updated on June 7, 2014

Fire is part of many age old traditions, bon-fires, camping and roasting marshmallows. Fire can also be a life saver in an emergency situation, but we don't always carry a lighter. Below are several techniques to create that spark to start the fire that can keep you warm, raise moral and even keep away wild animals. Fire and spark can be created by friction, chemicals, sun, rocks and other random items.


One of the neatest ways I have seen not only a spark made, but a quite strong flare up is from mixing two cheap ordinary chemicals together; potasium permanganate and glycerin. Quite a mouth ful however you can get both from stores like Sears or Walmart for under 5 dollars.

Basic Technique:

Grind Potasium into dust

Make small well in a small pile of it, a very small amount is needed

Then pour the glycerin into the shallow hole and wait. It is not instantaneous, although only a few moments are needed. Have your tinder bundle ready because you will quickly have enough flame to start your fire.


One of the most basic methods of fire is friction. There are several different styles of the same thing, rubbing two sticks together to create friction.


A fire plow is one of the oldest and easiest forms of making a friction fire. You start with a flat sided piece of wood for your bottom and you then need a smaller stick to rub back and forth across the stick, eventally making a small concave trough. Continue doing this until smoke is seen and hopefully you will have a small ember that can be transferred to a waiting nest of tinder to blow into a fire.


Still really basic. You need one flat piece of wood as a bottom and you carve out a notch big enough for the end of another stick that will be used as the drill. Taking the "drill" in both palms, spin the stick in circles, while pressing down. Your hands will slowly go down the stick and the process will need to be repeated until, once again you see smoke and an ember is big enough to transfer to awaiting tinder bundle.


Same idea as a drill, but a bow is fashioned and then the drill is wrapped around the string till it twirls with bow movement. Then one hand on top of stick, holding it in place and creating downward force. Then the other hand saws the bow back and forth to make the stick spin, until, you guessed it, smoke, ember, tinder bundle.


In most areas, you will have access to the sun's powerful rays, as long as you make your fire before sundown. To harness this power, you simply need to reflect and concentrate the rays to a tinder bundle, or anything that will burn and flame up easily. A magnifying glass can be used, as I am sure most have tried as a child, I actually have a wood piece that I wrote my name in by burning this technique. If you are like most though, a magnifying glass may just be something you don't carry. Other alternatives to this would be a pair of reading glasses or even your car headlight. Pulling the plastic cover off, the reflector inside can be used in the same way, however the tinder needs to be placed where the light was. Like most fire methods, you just need enough of an ember, spark or flame to start that fire.

Random Items and Fire Starting Tools


If you have access to a steel wool pad and a battery, you can also create a great spark and even a flame for a quick no stress fire. Simply touch the battery to the wool and watch it burn. This method you will need to quickly put down and cover in flammable material, because it burns fast and extremely hot.


This is a great tool that is two sided, one with magnesium that can be scraped off to ignite the spark and the other side creates the spark with flint. Using your knife, you scrape the magnesium side to create a small pile and then scrape your knife against the flint to make a spark. Combustion is usually quite easy and all that is needed next is some tinder to start the fire.

A piece of flint and a knife can be used in the same way however you would need to find very flammable material to catch the spark and start your fire. I hope I have listed a technique you had not heard of and if needed, you too will be able to make the fire that could save your life, or just show your kids something cool on your next camping trip. If you have any alternative fire methods I would love to hear them.


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