Knowing how to start a fire without matches is one of the most important Boy Scout camping techniques. A good campfire provides warmth, light and heat for cooking as well as protection against wild animals. With a bit of practice and some dry tinder, fires can be started without matches or gas-filled lighters.
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Creating a spark to start a fire is one of the most ancient fire starting methods. According to the Ragweed Forge website, the traditional Boy Scout method involves the use of steel and flint. You can create a spark by striking the steel with the flint, a process that causes white hot shards of metal to fly into your prepared tinder. The shards cause the tinder to smoulder, at which point you should blow gently on the tinder to create fire. The Scout Notebook website states that cotton wool is good tinder to use with this method. When choosing a flint, select a piece that has a sharp edge and is large enough to hold comfortably. If you do not have access to flint, the Ragweed Forge website recommends using any hard stone which fractures to a sharp edge.
A Boy Scout fire can be started by directing the sun's rays through a lens. As described by the Campfire Dude website, the lens can be used "to concentrate the sun's rays into a single point to generate enough heat to ignite tinder." Heat from the ray will cause the tinder to smoulder. You can then encourage flames by blowing gently on the glowing tinder. A sunny day, some dry tinder and a lens will be needed to start a campfire in this manner. A magnifying glass makes a perfect lens. You will often find a small magnifying glass built into a map-reading compass. Binoculars and reading glasses can also be used to concentrate the sun's rays.
According to the Scout Notebook website, creating fire by friction is difficult and requires a great deal of practice. The Campfire Dude website highlights four common methods. The fire plough involves rubbing a hardwood stick rapidly along a softwood channel, a method that can be seen in the Tom Hanks movie, "Castaway." The fire saw method generates heat by using a hardwood stick to "saw" a softwood stick. The hand drill method requires a great deal of practice. According to the Campfire Dude website, "A smooth, straight shaft of wood is spun between the palms of the hands, forcing the tip of it into the hearth wood, generating an ember." The same principal is used in the bow drill method, but instead of using your palms to spin the wooden shaft you use a cord held by a wooden bow.
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