Natural char materials for flint and steel fire lighting

The skills of lighting a fire with a piece of flint,high carbon steel and char cloth is well documented and widely practiced in bushcraft circles. Generally  the char cloth is made by baking a piece of pure cotton fabric in a low oxygen environment. (in a tin)

Historically materials gathered from the forest were used instead of char cloth. To me, competency at flint steel fire lighting would require the material needed to be gathered from the bush,eg the hard stone and tinder. Most carbon steel knives some axes and machetes will also work as the high carbon steel source. A method of charring without using a tin would also be required.

World wide there are very few material that will take these delicate sparks without charring.

Fish tail palm,changa,Amadou made from bracket fungi, pith from mullein stalks and milk weed ovum are the ones i know about.

Ideally materials to be charred need to be very fine and retain some structural integrity when charred.

Many natural material become quite crumbly when charred and therefore another method of using the flint and steel is required, Basically the steel is held on the tinder and flint strikes the steel propelling the spark onto the tinder,less elegant but none the less efffective.

New Zealnd materials

1. Punk wood, this goes by various names, spongy wood is a good description of what your are looking for. I have had good success with a number of woods including beech.. It did take some experiement until  i could recognise the best wood.

2. Flax Muka. Initially this did not work but i found if the muka was prepared by scraping this produced many very fine fibres which caught the sparks. I generally plaited the fibre together to help create a dense mat

3. Raupo down. This was a most successful suprise, the charrred down clumped together producing a cake of tinder which easily caught sparks.

4 The pith from a flax stalk. . An exception product used by the Maori in post European arrival times . Easy to procure,char and has reasonable structural integrity.

5. The dead leaves of  the cabbage tree,Cordyline australis and C. banksii .Collect the dead leaves stiil attached to the tree. Pound these extensively to obtain fine fibres and treat like flax. The fibres of the bush cabbage tree are coarser and are marginal performers.

6. Bracket fungi- i will write more about this later.

How do you char materials with out a metal tin?

Simply, you set the tinder buring and the smother it in an oxygenless environment. I made a contain by hollowing out a branch,the burning tinder was place into the container and the lid secured. This container can be used to carry the charred tinder until needed.

Hope somebody finds this useful.

If you are interested in learning bushcraft skills check out my Website



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