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  1. #1
    BARN OWLS (UK) Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Default Understanding char cloth.

    In a repeat episode of one of the survival shows, I fell off my chair when Bear or one of the others tried to use a magnifying glass to start a fire ( without a char cloth) 45 minutes later - well they got a smoke... It can't be that hard! Today I came across old relatives plastic magnify glass and a poor one at that... maybe 3x and four inches across and for the Gram weenies - 2oz. Outside its sunny at 39 degrees and light wind and the sun is less than 40 degrees from the horizon (low). I grabbed and held the char cloth and in seconds it was smoking and that's important - This means (DO NOT STOP) 20 seconds later I had fire and burning fingers.


    You can put the tin on an alcohol burner, you do not need a grill.




    This guy stopped and it took longer ... but you get the idea



    Even a better video started fire from a compass



    I hope you enjoyed that, it simply a good skill to know, if you get a chance practice. In camp you can amaze your friends with your new skill.
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr Seuss
    Woo

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    I love this kind of stuff. I haven't made char cloth yet but I am pretty reliable with a bowdrill and have been successfull with a hand drill a few times.(Mullien on White Cedar)

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    BARN OWLS (UK) Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    My understanding about this is the friction match did not catch fire here in the US till about the 1850's, even though the inventions were go back hundreds of years for chemical matches. In New England you would store your Flint, steel, and Char patches in the bottom of the cup, to light the candle.
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr Seuss
    Woo

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    Tuckahoe64's Avatar
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    At work I get my forge fired up starting the fire with flint and steel and a little char cloth. I actually find it relaxing.
    igne et ferrum est potentas
    "In the beginning, all America was Virginia." -​William Byrd

  5. #5
    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    For those who don't know, char cloth is made through a process called "pyrolysis" - heating a burnable material above its ignition-point in the absence of oxygen. (Charcoal is made the same way.) By driving off the flamable gasses, you are left with "char", which is very good at capturing sparks. Char ignites very easily, but does not flame - it simply smolders.Cloth is not the only thing that can be charred - any burnable material will work. In fact, there are folks who use COTTON rope (no synthetics), cotton balls, even jute cordage. Over the holiday, I made myself a fire piston (think "diesel engine" without the diesel fuel - add a small piece of char at the bottom of the piston, quickly compress the gas within the piston to raise the internal temperature above the char's ignition-point, withdraw the char - and you have an ember that you can use to start a fire). So now, I need to make some char. Then I can see if the piston is good...or if I screwed it up!
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

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    BARN OWLS (UK) Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Hey great! now for a little thread drift do you have a picture of your fire piston?




    My over-all recommendation is to add some char cloth to all your vasaline covered cotton ball starters!
    Last edited by Wise Old Owl; 01-06-2013 at 21:20.
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr Seuss
    Woo

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    Registered User SassyWindsor's Avatar
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    Speaking in terms of fire starter.
    Char-cloth can be made easily, fairly easy to carry. But if cotton balls and petrol jelly is available I'd go with it. Packed into a small container (film can/medicine bottle) it's pretty hard to beat and moisture will not harm it like the char-cloth. Discarded wax cardboard is another, however bulkier alternative.

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    BARN OWLS (UK) Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    And what is wrong with having both in a small container?
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr Seuss
    Woo

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    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    For use with a fire-steel, a little vaseline won't hurt the char, but I don't know about using "dirty" char with a fire piston. (Although my piston's o-rings are lubed with vaseline....)My piston is all "stock" items from Lowe's (sorry, no pictures): a 4 1/2" length of specialty copper tubing (one end is closed down at the factory), with a 4 1/2" long 1/2" plunger that's hollowed out a bit on the business-end and has a drawer pull screwed into the other end for a handle. The business end is sealed with o-rings; getting the seals right is the tricky part (bad seal = no compression).
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Old Owl View Post
    And what is wrong with having both in a small container?
    Why bother carrying the less effective (but admittedly cool) char cloth if you've got cotton balls and vaseline?

  11. #11
    Registered User Hikes in Rain's Avatar
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    Because it's fun, and as you pointed out, cool. Don't really need another reason!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Jones View Post
    Why bother carrying the less effective (but admittedly cool) char cloth if you've got cotton balls and vaseline?
    When i hike, I just carry matches or a ligher as a just in case because I otherwise dont plan on having fires. Because I actually use flint and steel along with char cloth several times a day, everyday, I feel right at home with it and think of it as being pretty damn effective.
    igne et ferrum est potentas
    "In the beginning, all America was Virginia." -​William Byrd

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    Registered User SassyWindsor's Avatar
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    If you want to be "COOL" bring a bow-drill and impress all how fast you can start a fire. You might even get cold by the time the fire gets built.

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    Registered User Drybones's Avatar
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    I've been looking for a small magnifying glass like we used as kids and finally found them at a flee market...$2.00...had a nice little plastic case it folded into for protection, it took about 10 seconds to have a piece of newspaper smoking.

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    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    Well, I tried making some char out of cotton balls yesterday...during my annual inspection of the new Rausch Gap Shelter! By the time that I got to the shelter, someone already had a small fire going, so I threw my char-making can on a corner of the fire and waited. Eventually, the can stopped smoking, and I pulled it out and let it cool off. The resulting "char-balls" took fire from a lighter, but I couldn't get my fire piston to work (I think that the seals in the piston were bad). And then (to add insult to injury)...I LEFT THE DARN PISTON ON THE TABLE IN FRONT OF THE SHELTER, SO I'LL HAVE TO BUILD ANOTHER ONE! I'll have to be more careful with the tolerances this time.

    I also tried some vaseline-impregnated-cotton balls (first time for these, too) - man, did they ever work....
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

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    The Local Johnny Reb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket Jones View Post
    Why bother carrying the less effective (but admittedly cool) char cloth if you've got cotton balls and vaseline?
    why not? just for the sheer fact of pulling it out and saying i saw this on Dual Survival! hahahahaha
    -Jason

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    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MyName1sMud View Post
    why not? just for the sheer fact of pulling it out and saying i saw this on Dual Survival! hahahahaha
    Actually, the cotton balls will work better for making fire in wet conditions, since this fire-starter will actually burn (with a flame). Char is more of an "ember-keeper" - it doesn't really burn with a flame, but smolders, and has to be added to tinder (dried grass, very small twigs, etc) and fanned in order to ignite a flame.
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

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    Quote Originally Posted by shelterbuilder View Post
    Actually, the cotton balls will work better for making fire in wet conditions, since this fire-starter will actually burn (with a flame). Char is more of an "ember-keeper" - it doesn't really burn with a flame, but smolders, and has to be added to tinder (dried grass, very small twigs, etc) and fanned in order to ignite a flame.
    Which was my original point. I've made and used char cloth, but other than the 'cool' factor (I watch very little tv, so I've never seen any of the survival shows), it just doesn't work as well as cotton and vaseline. Heck, fritos work better, as does a bit of toilet paper with a dab of hand sanitizer.

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    Char is easier to light with an emergency firestarter like a 9v battery and steelwool, or a magnifying lens, or a spark from flint and steel or one of those strikers. Once going, something with oil or fat in it like vaseline and cotton or a beeswax candle or birch bark or corn chips can take over. There are different stages of firestarting and depending on the ways and means some materials and methods do more than just one stage. It goes something like 1. ignition, 2. some sort of light and self insulating tinder like char, or something with a lower ignition temperature like alcohol or butane; 3. some sort of kindling that is more plentiful but burns well enough to increase the rate of combustion; 4. the ultimate fuel you are trying to light which is most cheap or plentiful or easiest to control but doesn't necessarily have to burn all that well as long as it holds its own.

    In summary...
    Ignition
    Tinder
    Kindling
    Fuel

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    With something like a lighter or a match, you can go straight to vaseline and cotton, or birch bark, or a beeswax candle and wood shavings if trying to start wood. If your ignition device is a striker or a magnifying lens or something like that, char would be very handy to have to help get the vaseline and cotton or whatever lit.

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