Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fire Starters

Not getting much done on our Bug Out Bags and survival goals so we decided to experiment with fire starters for Cub Scouts, a 'kill two birds with one stone' kind of thing. Spring is packed with far too much to do and extra time we don't have so when you can check off two things at once, it is a biggy.
 
If  there had not of been a need to do something beyond work on a achievement for Cub Scouts I would have been extremely tempted to push aside doing anything survival wise. BUT there is this nagging going on in my head. Once in a while things pop up and remind me that all isn't well in America. Did you see the survey just last week. They asked a little under 900 people if they thought a revolution would be necessary in the future to protect our rights? 29 percent said yes, that is nearly a third. And 47 percent declined to answer that questions. To me that means they are thinking about it but aren't sure or don't want to voice the answer yes or why else would they not say no? That means 76 percent are questioning our government's grab for power. Wow, that makes you think. 
 
So whatever the future does bring, I'd say with the increase in natural disasters, of which I've seen the chart, terrorism, and large scale violence, I'd say "Be Prepared" the Boy Scout motto sounds pretty good to me.
 
The problem is this requires not just acquiring but gaining skills. Supplies are awesome, books are great but they are only a starting point. Too much is missing between the pages to depend on in a survival situation and supplies run out. The experts say if you are not practicing basic skills  --  your dead. A survial book in your back pack is not enough to keep you alive. It is probably something to do with what Cody Lundin talks about in one of his books, the mental state of survival and how it shuts down the body, the fine motor skills going first making even lighting a match difficult. I'm no survival expert but I've been in some harry medical situations. Some even with nurses by my side and though their skills are superior to mine, they completely shut down and I'm on my own. Add cold, hungry, weak, and frightened in a survial situattion and you'd better be working on autopilot. 
 
Hence, the saying that camping and survival are not the same thing. A few practice survival techniques while camping but most just go out to have fun and build a fire, all the supplies readily available. I know I'd be in a world of hurt in a very basic survival situation though I'm comfortable camping.
 
In survival you have to make do with what is around you and hopefully you have a little pack with a few eccentials along with you. The basic five C's at least. It is why I'm going to put together a fanny pack that goes when I go beyond the corrals or house. But it's contents need to be not just looked at but and old friend.
 Fire is huge on the survival scale. One fire starter hailed by site after site is the protoleum jelly and cotton ball for an fire aid to carry with you. It is cheap and effective. If you have used matches lately, you know how poorly made they are now. Hardly any sulfur on the ends and it takes several to get one to stay lit. Matches are not a renewable resource in the wild and so you don't want to have to relight and relight a stubborn fire. Survivalist take fire with them in the form of embers or something that aids in starting a fire.

Ray Mears and Cody Lundin think highly of these soaked cotton balls and that is good enough for me. One site tested the burn  time of the cotton / petroleum ball at seven minutes. Plenty of time to catch your wood on fire and get it burning brightly.
 Most sites said to put a dab of petroleum jelly on to a plastic plate or bowl and slather the jelly around thoroughly into the cotton ball with a plastic spoon. The plastic spoon for us wanted to break so we used a metal one. This method is rather time consuming we found out having done it twice to see if practice makes it any easier. It does but not much. Using plastic is not eccential just nice to be able to throw the mess away when done.
One site did the balls a little differently. They melted the petroleum jelly in a pot. I chose to do it a little differently by putting a pot on the stove with water and setting a discarded can I was going to recyle inside. Into this I placed the jelly.  Then the can can be thrown out to and no cleaning a slimy pot. The plate has cotton balls that have been dipped and is covered in aluminum foil so the foil can be thrown out, making clean up from this project a snap. Your balls need to dry.
 
You dip one end of the cotton ball in the melted petroleum jelly and then dip the other side. The cotton ball will quickly absorb the liquid jell. We found out that three cotton balls can be stuffed into an empty film container. That is three fires worth in a tiny compacts size. The problem is that film containers are hard to come by with digital cameras having replaced those cameras. Our supply was skimpy so I'm looking for something else handy to put the cotton balls in. One match container I found is just too skinny and hard to get the balls in and out of. I'm still looking. 

 The experimentation as to which balls started best and burned longer led to the opportunity to use our ferro rods.
 These are really cool and can be used until there is no rod left. With the back or spine of a knife you cock it at a sharp angle and scrap outward along the rod throwing sparks at the cotton ball.
If the ball doesn't want to light, you scrape some magnesium off the rod on to the cotton ball by tilting your knife at not so sharp an angle. This takes a little practice, then as you shower sparks onto the cotton ball, the magnesium on the ball ignites.  

Interestingly when we did the cotton balls at home, the dipped cotton ball burned much longer and was easier to light. The longer makes sense since it had more petroleum in it.

At Cub Scouts it was the other way around. I'm guessing that if you dip the cotton balls too long they are too saturated and the same can be done with the rubbed balls. Getting them just right is something we are going to have to work on. The one site said he does fifty at a time. There again practice makes perfect. The time for experimenting is not when you are trying to stay alive.
 All the experts say you need to be able to start a fire in numerous ways. Using what is available is the key. Our son has the bow drill method down pat but has found when the weather is cold it doesn't work because you can't generate enough heat. This is an excellent case in point. Choices, that is what life is all about. Think about tht in a literal sense.

Not that this is something we would be doing a lot of but we know that you can start a fire with an nine volt battery and steel wool.
What many sites don't tell you is that fine steel wool works best. We didn't have fine but none the less rubbing the batteries positive and negative charge across the steel wool repeatedly will indeed start the steel on fire. We tried a D battery but with the positive and negative charges on opposite sides of the battery it must just be too far apart for the charge to travel.

The other experiment we did was taking an egg carton and putting in the dips where the eggs go, dryer lint. We also did cotton balls. The ticket with dryer lint is it has to be from cotton clothes and the bonus it is completely free. I used the can I'd used for the petroleum jelly and put chunks of parrafin wax in it to melt. Did you know that petroleum jelly has parrafin in it? Our basement stove is hard to light when it is cold. I end up using a lot of paper. Something that is not a problem now but that will not always be the case I'm sure so I'm going to make some of these egg carton starter next fall. If you are camping they would be great too.
 
Remember, practice like your life depended on it -- it does.

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