Keep in mind, the premise here is that you are making a survival fire. We are not talking about a simple camp fire. The idea is that you are stranded in the woods and need to make a fire to stay comfortable, or survive the night.
The permanent match, also known as a metal match, is kind of a cross between a lighter and a match. It is basically a wick on the end of a metal rod. You dip the wick into lighter fluid and strike it on a small firesteel.
Permanent matches have all the benefits and drawbacks of a lighter. They actually work fairly well. I'd rather have one of these instead of a magnesium fire starter, magnifying glass, or traditional flint and steel.
Fire Pistons are like a popular girl at school. They are fun, sexy, and everyone wants one, but when you get down to it they are just expensive, high maintenance, and require too many accessories.
A fire piston works by pressurizing air. Under pressure air heats up. It creates enough heat to make a very small coal. You hit the end of the piston really, really hard. If everything works correctly, and the fire gods smile upon you, the tender you attached to the piston's rod will be smoking.
I tried and tried to make one of these. I'm fairly good at building things from plans and I have a complete woodworking shop. I own just about every tool a person needs. I should have been able to make one that works. However, after many hours I gave up. They cost anywhere from $35 to $150. I wasn't about to spend that much on what is basically a useless toy, so I can't show you how one works.
What I can do is tell you my problem with them. To make a fire piston work you need a seal (usually an o-ring or some string), a lubricant (petroleum jelly is most ofter used), and a tinder (char cloth is best, but some natural fibers can work). It will not work without these. The seals wear out quickly if they are not lubricated. Frankly, if I had to carry around petroleum jelly I would rather just light a blob of that with a fire steel than worry about keeping a fire piston working.
Even when you do get it to work, all you get is a tiny coal. It takes some skill to light a fire from something that small.
OK, you get the picture. I don't like fire pistons.
Flash light bulb/wire
This is a survival show favorite. You don't have a way to make a fire, but you do have a flash light. Simply break the bulb and stuff some dry tinder against the filament. When you turn the light on the tinder will catch! I was sold on this method...... until I tried it.
Lowe's had incandescent light bulbs on clearance for 15 cents a two pack. I bought all they had, five packs, so I could try this. I gave up trying on the 8th bulb. If you can break the bulb without damaging the filament, you still only have a microsecond to get the tinder lit. I couldn't do it even with cotton balls.
Another popular idea is to take apart the flash light and short out the batteries with a very thin wire. The wire will heat up, lighting some tinder. Again, not as easy as it sounds. I was not able to make a fire this way. I was able to burn my fingers.
Would I try these if my life depended on it? Sure. Although, I'd probably end up dying. Save your flashlight for navigation or to signal help.
Rubbing two sticks together
This is another one popular on TV. Whether it be a bow drill, fire saw, or fire plow; rubbing two sticks together is a good way to start a fire....... if you are a master survivalist, have tons of time, and the conditions are perfect. Otherwise it isn't really worth mentioning. Go ahead, give it a try. You'll appreciate the simple match after an hour of frustration and blisters.
If you can consistently do this then you are a master outdoorsman.
Well, that's it! Fire month is over! I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps learned something. What's next for the Unlucky Hunter? I'm not sure. I'm getting my Jon boat toddler proofed for fishing season and I bought a new camera, so hopefully I'll have some cool new videos. Stay tuned!
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