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Making fire with a tonteldoos

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As with all good things, a person must prepare, and this is how:

  • Clean an working area properly, with a slight cavity in the middle for your place to make a fire

  • Collect tinder like fine grass, woolen waste, "ouman se baard", dry tinder bush, cottonwool or leaves - anything that can easily catch fire with a small coal. Then form a bird’s nest with it, the rough tinder outside and the finer on the inside. A genuine bird- or mouse nest will also work best. This now is your natural fire starter

  • Collect a bunch of dry wood and separate it into 3 heaps:

  • Fine sticks: - thinner than little finger thickness and about hand length

  • Sticks - little finger thickness and half an arm length

  • Fire wood - wrist thickness and logs as thick as your thigh. Keep them ready to feed the fire

  • We are now ready to start the fire

  • Arrange the broken sticks in a pyramid shape with opening towards the wind and big enough to put the birds nest inside

  • Now we are going to use the tinder-box to get a coal to light the bird’s nest without matches or a lighter

  • Take a piece of the charred material out of the tinder-box, about as big as a small coin and keep it on the side of the flintstone with your thumb. Beat sparks with the steel on the flintstone right next to the charred material. Warm pieces of the metal or sparks that land on the charred material will make it smoulder

  • Blow softly to form a smouldering coal

  • Now we have our coal to start the fire with.

  • Very carefully put the smouldering coal inside the bird’s nest, close it around the coal while softly blowing on it. It will start to smoke,. Keep on blowing and the lot will catch fire and burn

  • Place the burning bird’s nest in the small sticks pyramid. Place some of the broken sticks on top and keep on feeding it until it burns properly

  • Dr Wallace Vosloo is an Engineer and Scientist by profession. His family has lived in Africa since 1696 and he has a deep love for the continent. He is a practical outdoorsman and loves traditional hunting, axe and knife throwing, longbow shooting, black powder rifle- and cannon shooting, salt and fresh water fly fishing and tracking. The art of survival is Wallace’s main field of interest and his passion is to transfer these old forgotten skills to young hunters.

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    The rest of the broken sticks now comes in handy to stoke the fire. Just remember that a fire needs three things: fuel, oxygen and heat. Therefore, don’t chocke the fire with too much wood. When things are going smoothly then place logs on it one at a time for a long, sociable chatting-type fire



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