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razor sharp

finding natural tinder when it wet or raining

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it was cold and pouring down rain today so i figured it would be a great day to teach my boy how to find or produce dry tinder for firemaking in the wet woods. i always prefer to use natural tinder for firemaking because once you can make fire out of anything nature has to give you, using anything else is easy. such as chemical soaked cotton balls, trioxane fuel, and chemical pads like alcohol prep pads or acetone (fingernail polish remover) once you have flame any good dry tinder will ignite pretty easy.  just because Ive practiced primitive survival skills for years doesn't mean i don't use the modern stuff. i always carry a Bic lighter with me and i always will. :thumbup:

 

the first rule of finding natural tinder when its wet is to make sure you are wearing camouflage so you can sneak up on it  :hugegrin:  actually these are cheap rainsuits we got in the clearance isle of walmart for a couple bucks. more people die from hypothermia in weather like this than do when its sub zero. theres cold, then theres wet and cold. being wet will kill you when the temps are in the 30s-40s.

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one of the first things i spotted was a cedar tree. when it comes to tinder cedar tree bark is hands down my favorite. as you can tell part of the trunk is still dry even though it has been raining for hours. this is ideal and we could have just pealed off some and made a fire no problem but you don't learn from the easy stuff.

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Now I did not take the bark from this healthy tree. You cant see it in the picture but there was a split off dead part brhind it. Thats what I took the bark from.

 

so i peeled some bark from the dampside so i could show the boy how to dry tinder with your body.  i stripped some off and worked it in my hands to buff it a bit. it was damp but not real bad since i pealed off the wetest outer bark.

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then i placed it inside my sweatshirt and folded it over and stuck it below my pantsline so it would stay put. it works best if you have a t-shirt with a pocket on your chest.  you don't want the tinder touching your skin, it can absorb oils that will make it hard to light. keep it one layer out. your body heat and the wicking action of your cloths will dry it quite well if its not too wet.

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it doesn't have to be cedar bark, most the inner bark from almost any tree will be dry in the rain.  we moved on up hill looking for a place the wind was blowing threw well.  wind will dry up wet far better than you might think. once on the top of the hill we started looking for some dead branches off the ground. with a little carefull observation we found some that were just damp on the outside. so we took a few sticks with us tucked under our rain gear. i also found this dead stump of really punky wood. after pulling it apart it was just full of dry lite punky wood. i got a big enough piece that i could have used it then and there as a platform to put the tinder on and light a fire. 

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well i figured we had enough to work with so we found a nice spot to set up a tarp with a place to sit and work.

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once we had the shelter up we could start working the sticks we grabbed.  i had the boy start shaving the damp wood off the outside of the stick to get to the dry wood underneath.

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once he had a good dry stick we needed something to catch the dry shavings. since we had a shelter from the rain i took off my raincoat and layed it dry side up and had him start whittling some shavings onto it.

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while he was doing that i took my dry stick and using the saw blade of my multitool i started making a fine sawdust with my stick. i didn't just saw it like i was cutting it in half. i would draw my saw sideways down the stick as i pulled the blade backwards. this leaves longer thin shavings rather than just sawdust. they tend to ignite easier than plain sawdust.

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another technique i showed him was taking my knife and laying it perpendicular with the stick and leaving it at a 90 degree angle. and scraping the stick. this is by far my favorite way to get usuable tinder from a plain wooden stick.

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our toys for the day next to the bag of tinder we made.

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now i took out the some more of the damp bark that i had pulled from the cedar tree. i scraped the inner bark with the knife the same way i did the stick. i layed it onto the stick so it had a backing or bracing to it so i could scrape it. this produces a very fine fibrous tinder that is almost ideal to take a spark or coal.

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once we had all this tinder worked up we placed it in a ziplock bag. since its illegal to start a fire outside of a fire ring in a state park we decided to find a legal place to actually start the fire. otherwise we would have just done it under our little shelter.

 

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now i took some sticks and split them by batoning them in half with my srk.  i didn't make a huge platform for the tinder like i would if i was really making a fire. just enough to teach the boy the tricks of the trade.  i then layed the best tinder down first, the bark i shaved with the knife and the bark i had dried in my shirt. then i placed some of the fine sawed wood shavings and scrapings over it. then some of the long dry wood shavings.

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i let the boy work the cheap coghlan's striker for a while to get the technique down. he was having trouble getting the sparks where they needed to be without knocking the tinder around but it just takes some practice.

so i took over and hit it with some good sparks. i know my Gerber strikeforse would have had it lit up in no time but i wanted to really test the cheap coghlan's striker.  it took a little longer but it still lit no problem with some effort.

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once it started on fire we added more of the long shavings and then placed the sticks we shaved to get the shavings on. as long as you had some more semi dry sticks you could easily build a fire from here.

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there you have the natural side. no chemicals or igniters. just sparks from the cheapest of the cheap steels you can buy.  any of this tinder would easily burst into flame with a Bic lighter, or match, or any flame source.  now we moved onto some of the other non natural igniters that alot of people carry in there bush or survival kits.  i let the boy light these because they are so easy i knew it would boost his confidence. 

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i love the cheapo wal mart match cases. they are cheap and waterproof and they even have a chincy flint sparker on them. there is one thing you should know about them though.  when you put the lid on just snug it past contact. if you over tighten the lid it will deform the rubber o-ring and loose its waterproofness (yeah, i made that word up,  lol.  i have a few with different tinder's in them. some are alcohol soaked cotton balls or petroleum cottonballs. i always tear the balls in half before saturating them. i can easily stuff 10 full balls in there so if cut in half i have 20 fire starters ready to go.  i also use a crushed up trioxane fuel bar. the stuff lights easy with a sparker, burns even when wet and burns for a long time. its just hard to see a flame on it, it doesn't glow orange like other stuff.  i let the boy light a fingernail polish remover pad too. that burns great with a huge flame and ignites instantly with a minimal of spark.

 

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its really hard to see the flame but this is the crushed trioxane. it lights really easy with the sparker and burns for a long time.

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i almost forgot, we found a little fatwood too. this stuff is the bomb for natural tinder that lights even when wet. Ive already posted it before and mistwalker has a whole thread on it so i wont go on much about it.

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there ya have it. a great hike in the rain, a good learning experience.  doesn't get much better. 

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