Making a fire is a lot easier when you use a homemade fire starter. Here are several ways to make a spark and keep it burning. From using the sun and electricity to make a fire to quick lighting tinder and long burning fire extenders, we’ve got you covered. With a little bit of time in the kitchen and common materials you already have on hand, you can make these quick and easy DIY homemade fire starters today.
Creating a Spark with a Homemade Fire Starter
Matches are an easy way to start a fire, that is unless they get wet. Luckily, it’s easy to waterproof matches. Here are two different methods to try.
First, vacuum seal them in aluminum foil or in a vacuum seal bag. Run them through the vacuum seal machine. You should end up with a waterproof and airtight seal.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, then try the candle method. Simply dip the matchstick heads in melted wax or drip melted wax from a candle over the heads of matchsticks. To use, break off a match and scratch the wax coating from the match head.
You can use a glass lens or magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun into a very hot point of light. Check your gear; some compasses come with a magnifying glass built in. To use one to start a fire: simply take the magnifying glass and focus a point of light into the tinder bundle until it heats up enough to create a flame.
Be very careful when using any type of magnifying or reflective light. Do NOT stare at the point of bright light. It can damage your eyes.
A DIY alternative to a magnifying glass may be closer than you think. If you wear eyeglasses, you can use a lens instead. If you don’t have eyeglasses, you can also use the crystal from a watch or a camera lens.
Another alternative is a clear bag or bottle of water, or, failing that, urine. The clearer the water or urine, the better it will work.
Simply place the liquid in a clear jar or plastic bag. Allow the sunlight to shine through it and use it as a magnifying glass to focus a pinpoint of light onto the tinder.
A reflective surface, such as a mirror, can be used to focus sunlight and create heat. If you don’t have access to a mirror, try other reflective surfaces.
Use whatever you find at hand. A polished knife blade or piece of metal may work.
You can also create a simple mirror from a beverage can and chocolate bar. Simply take the beverage can and clean off the concave bottom as well as possible. Rub it with the chocolate bar to create a shiny surface and use this as a reflective mirror.
If you have access to batteries, the electrical charge from the battery can be used to create a spark.
Place a wire across the terminals, switch on the flashlight and it should create a spark.
Take a piece of steel wool, pull it apart loosely and touch the top of a 9-volt battery to it. It should ignite quickly.
Getting the Spark to Burn: Creating Your Own Tinder and Fire Extenders
An easy homemade firestarter is a fire extender. Fire extenders are easily flammable materials that stay lit and keep burning when added to tinder or can be used in place of tinder.
Char cloth is partially burned cotton cloth. This cloth, if kept dry, will ignite quickly. It’s portable and easy to use. It’s also easy to make.
Basic Materials for Char Cloth:
- A small tin can with lid
- 100% cotton cloth cut into 1″ squares
- Hammer and nail to punch a small hole in the lid of the can
To make char cloth, punch a small hole in the lid of the tin can. Put the cotton cloth in the can and close the lid.
Put the can over the coals of a fire and watch it closely. It will begin to smoke with the smoke coming from the hole in the lid.
Once the smoke stops, carefully remove the can from the fire. Wrap it with tin foil, covering the hole and set it aside to cool.
Once it has cooled down, open the lid and inspect the cloth. The cloth inside should be completely black but not crumbly. If it still has color or a visible pattern, replace the lid and put it back in the fire for a little longer. The cloth should be charred but not burnt through.
Once it has fully charred, let it cool and place in a watertight container.
Fire extenders involve taking a piece of tinder and adding a flammable substance to them to make them burn for a longer period of time.
Flaming Cotton Balls
For a quick and easy fire extender, mix cotton balls or dryer lint with petroleum jelly. Form them into balls. To use, simply pull them apart slightly and loosen the fibers to create a larger surface area. They ignite easily from either a spark or an ember.
Fire wicks make excellent fire starters, small and light-weight, they are easy to carry and once lit, will burn a long time.
Basic Materials for Fire Wicks:
- Cotton string, old candle or lamp wicks
- Wax – paraffin or melted candles
- Tin can placed inside a pot of hot water
- Waxed paper
To make fire wicks, place the wax in a tin can. Put the can inside a pot of water (creating a double boiler) and heat the water just until the wax melts.
This should only be done in a well-ventilated area. Never heat wax directly over a flame. It is highly flammable. Do not let the wax smoke. (When it smokes, it is getting ready to burst into flame.)
If it does smoke, cover it immediately and remove from the pan from the heat. Let it cool down before removing the lid.
Once the wax is melted, drop the string or wicks into the can. Let them soak until fully saturated. Remove from the can and place on the waxed paper to cool.
Once they have cooled, cut them into small pieces approximately an inch long. Wrap them in wax paper and place in a bag or container.
Fire wads are a larger version of the fire wicks and will burn longer. These are useful for building a fire in damp conditions.
Take a section of newspaper. Roll it up into a tube approximately 1″ in diameter. Tie it with a separate piece of cord every 3- 4″. Then cut the tube into 3-4″ segments.
Take these smaller pieces and soak them in melted wax. Once they are saturated, remove them and place them on waxed paper to dry. To light, light the cord with a match.
These DIY fire starters work great with any type of fire, from friction fires to campfires. From creating a spark to char cloth and fire extenders, homemade fire starters can be made quickly and easily with just a few simple ingredients.