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Making primitive fire

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Everybody knows about the "little stick rub" method of making a fire, but how many people are successful with it?

First of all your fuel must be suitable – that holds good for all methods of making a fire.

As initial tinder, a lot of fine fleecy grass, "old man’s beard" that grows on tree trunks, bird- or mouse nests, can be used., The material must be fine, easily combustible and above all, dry.

  • Then take a dry hardwood turnstick, as thick as a little finger and 45cm long and cut one point round. Then get a dry, softer wood for the basis stick, as thick as your thumb.

  • Cut one side slightly flat and make a small cavity near the point at the flat side, big enough to accommodate the round point of the turnstick, Cut a v-shaped notch on the side of the basis stick that leads to the cavity.

  • Put dry, fine sand in the cavity and place the round point of the turnstick in it. With your foot, keep the basis stick steady on the tinder, and start to rub the vertical turnstick to and fro in your hands whilst you also press it downwards. Now it needs serious rubbing to keep the stick moving to get enough friction. If you hear the squeaking sound, push downwards more firmly.

  • It requires exercise and is easier if two people work together. You can also tie a string or a shoelace with two loops for your thumbs on the upper side of the turnstick and use it to push it down while you turn.

  • Eventually smoke will start coming out of the hole and a black powder will be formed in and along die V-notch, Keep on turning until this powder starts to glow.

  • Remove the turnstick slowly away and blow very carefully oxygen over the smoking powder until a red cinder begins to form in the powder.

  • 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.

    Now tip this cinder out on the tinder, help it by blowing softly on it and hopefully the tinder will then start to flame.

  • As soon as the tinder is burning the fire can be further packed with small dry sticks that must be at hand.

Remember the principle: first tinder, then small dry sticks then gradually coarser material for the fire. Do not deprive the fire of its oxygen by putting on too fast and too much branches on it.

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