Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

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Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:28 pm

There is plenty of information online as to the various methods of creating primitive and marginal fire. Often questions of what was used and level of difficulty are asked. This thread will concentrate more on the raw materials aspects of primitive and marginal fire methodologies. Some natural materials work better than others. Some require special processing. The ignition method should be primitive or marginal. This isn't to say a Bic and prepared tinder shouldn't be packed within our preps. IMHO primitive and marginal firecraft should be viewed as a backup to the backup. That said using natural materials and primitive and marginal methods will greatly enhance a person's modern methodologies as well.

1. Show proof the materials and method worked aka a coal or fire.

2. Name the materials used.

3. Give information on those materials. Photos of the tree, preferred habitats of the plant, common and or scientific names etc etc etc.

4. Rate the difficulty level of the materials. This is subjective so give your best guess.

5. If possible update a post to reflect seasonal changes within the resource.

6. Try to rely on your own work not information found within an internet search. Your photos and knowledge are preferable to those found on Google.

Anyone can post post additions or ask questions within this thread so long as they're related to the subject or thread. Commentary is also welcome.
Last edited by Woods Walker on Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:01 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jun 18, 2014 11:11 pm

For this practice I tied two mullein sticks together then used a Red cedar spindle to get a coal.

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There was a gap between sticks. I hoped this would allow the dust and ember to fall under the set then air would feed the coal however this didn't really workout as expected.

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Actually I always seemed to have more than one coal. The first was trapped in the gap between sticks. Then it moved over to both the dust and leaf however remained in the two stick fireboard. Once the leaf went out and coal was totally removed from the fireboard a mullein top somehow caught the embers falling from the two stick board.

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The dust was very flammable. The tinder bundle was jute combined with mullein pith for a coal extender. It took only 18 seconds to get a coal. That's 18 seconds total without the need for a burn in. Maybe a few minutes to cut the mullein, shaving a little of the outside with my knife. Couldn't have been more than another minute or so to tie the two sticks together. A very fast friction fire method requiring little effort. Very pleased with this combo. Will have to experiment with more two stick friction fires.

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Here is a video of the Red cedar spindle two mullein stick fireboad. This was done at the tail end of dusk. It was interesting to see all the various embers floating around in the dark. This set really really really wanted to work!



Thanks Stone over on Bushcraft USA for introducing me to the two stick Mullein fireboard idea.

What is Mullein?

This is a Biannual plant with a pith core. The plant grows in areas of poor soil/gravel. Railroad tracks, along some trails and roads and gravel pits are good mullein habitat. It seems to like direct sunlight. The stalk is straight almost tailor made for multiple friction fire methods. I believe it dies after flowering within it's second year. I want dead dry mullein stalks for this method.

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Even when it is raining outside a nasty wet looking mullein sometimes will be dry just below the outer layers.

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Mullein leaves. Notice the abandoned tracks. Poor soil conditions for many plants but not mullein.

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Eastern Red Cedar.

This tree is a staple of many firestarting methods. This time I used a spindle made from it. This evergreen is often a natural agent of reforestation. They're the first trees to cover a field then are out competed by other trees as the cycle of reforestation moves on. It isn't unusual to find a bunch of dead ones overshadowed by other trees. Maybe the area was an old farm field or perhaps the seen of a long ago fire. The environment always has a story to tell which could be of value to those willing to hear it. Red cedar will grow in areas not suitable for many other trees. It's also called Juniper. I will go into cedar more with the next use.

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Last edited by Woods Walker on Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Mabo » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:25 pm

Very informative post! Thank you for this write up. :clap:

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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jul 02, 2014 11:47 pm

With the bugs in full force I decided to crack out the two stick mullein fireboard from the previous practice and try a White pine spindle made from wood found on the ground. Clearly for friction fire wood that isn't in direct contact with the ground is preferable. Just tossing a little monkey wrench in the works.

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After about maybe 20 seconds got two coals, one on each side of the spindle. That never happened to me before. Believe it or not this same fireboard produced a 6-second coal beating it's old record. That's 6-seconds total including burn-in as there is no need for a burn in. If not for a horse fly that took a bite out of my neck when timing it I wouldn't have stopped then discovered how fast that ember appeared. The two embers below took longer but hardly complaining. Seems mullein = fire. Go Figure?

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Tinder bundle of jute and mullein shavings.

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Done!

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What is Eastern White Pine?

First look on the forest floor for a blanket of long pine needles and sometimes cones. Little grows under them which is their intention. Within a forest the environment is very often determined in part by the trees. You are just another critter scurrying under them.

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Towering over the forest.

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The bark of a large Eastern White Pine along with dead fall which was used for another friction fire.

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The needles are slender and flexible.

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Often growing in bunches of 5 needles.

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Bark of the younger growth.

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Smaller tree.

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Smaller still. Sapling.

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There are a bunch of uses for this tree within firecraft but we will go into that later.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by dunamis » Fri Jul 18, 2014 11:37 pm

I've never used Chaga and not sure if I could ID it (probably could now after having read this thread and watched some of the vids) but I do have some nice pitch wood that lights up really fast and burns a good while that my "cousin" found while out and about once.... (sorry, no pics. Maybe I'll get some.)

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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:13 am

Sycamore on Sycamore. Two stick plus regular fireboard.

I took the little guy fishing the other day and noticed all the sycamore trees near the large river. So we gathered some dead fall on the hike out. I prefer to take dead wood off trees but they were so high. Settled on wood that fell to the ground but wasn't in direct contact. That said the environment was kinda damp in that location. I was worried about the wood however it is what it is. The wood was full of knots and gnarly. Sycamore seems to like water.

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The funky bark.

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This looks like it will do just fine.

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So here is the wood back at home ready to GO!

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As usual I am starting at near dust so ended up going into dark. For the Sycamore I wanted to do a two stick then standard fire board.

Up first the two stick sycamore on sycamore coal.

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The first attempt was a flop but I wasn't going to give up.

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The Spindle needed smoothing for another try. Before attempting the two stick again split a section of Sycamore to make a fireboard. Wanted to do the hawk work in the light to reduce my chances of getting hurt. For a wood that's on the softer side it didn't split all that easy however the H&B mouse/lady hawk splits well.

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Worked up a sycamore fireboard.

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The white area was very soft so the spindle drilled through rather fast. Still it produced a coal without much fuss.

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Fire!

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Now it was time to get back to the two stick. Really put the hammer down and at first got nothing again. Then I noticed the faintest bit of smoke. flipped the two stick fire board over then gave it a good tap. The smallest of embers appeared. As in hand fan and hope for the best small.

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Soon the coal was looking good. I didn't bother to blow the coal into flame as already got fire with this combo minutes before.

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Sycamore on Sycamore is GOTO.

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Thanks for looking.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:49 pm

For this addition I am just practicing on road previously traveled, something new unless I have forgotten and a failure. Waited till dusk because of the heat and humidity. Must have been over 90 F today. A near miss by a storm dropped the temps but still the air was heavy.

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First the failure: Sycamore on Hoof fungus. I wanted to try this again. It really was looking good. Tons of smoke with nice dust but failed to get a coal.

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With that out of the way lets move on to success. I believe unless mistaken that Mullein on a Sycamore fireboard is a first for me.

Making the Sycamore board:

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Burn in: Given the blunt end of the mullein I used a shot glass wrapped in duct tape for a bearing block. Overall one of the more effective bearing blocks IMHO.

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Going to rate this as the easiest coal using a wood fireboard ever. It was sooooo easy.

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TP used for a tinder bundle. TP sucks moisture from the air. It really fought me but in the end ignited. Not a recommended tinder bundle material given it's downsides IMHO.

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Sycamore is becoming one of my favorite friction fire woods. It produces big coals like Tulip poplar only easier. It has bumped willow down on my personal list. Don't get me wrong, willow rocks but sometimes it's more effort. Sycamore on Sycamore with antler bearing block. I will just use the hole made by the mullein. Not a perfect fit but burned in well.

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A monster coal. Down right intimidating if yea ask me.

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My helper blew this coal into flames.

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Those Sycamore shavings from the fireboard ignited easily with my Strikeforce. Yea, I know that firesteels aren't primitive but the shavings were a product of the friction fire process so here goes.

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Gosh that was easy.

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Thanks for looking.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:13 pm

We have gone over mullein and Sycamore but what's the deal with Hoof fungus? Granted I scored a failure however Hoof fungus is a valuable firecraft resource.

In my neck of the woods it grows on Yellow birch and Beach trees.

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Once dry Hoof fungus works great as a coal extender.

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Hoof fungus shavings both takes a coal easily and hold it. Perfect for tinder bundle coal extenders.

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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Mon Dec 01, 2014 11:14 pm

Here is a short video on Milkweed ovum.

Milkweed ovum EXPOSED!

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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Sun Jan 18, 2015 3:23 pm

Woods Walker wrote: Eastern Red Cedar.

This tree is a staple of many firestarting methods. This time I used a spindle made from it. This evergreen is often a natural agent of reforestation. They're the first trees to cover a field then are out competed by other trees as the cycle of reforestation moves on. It isn't unusual to find a bunch of dead ones overshadowed by other trees. Maybe the area was an old farm field or perhaps the seen of a long ago fire. The environment always has a story to tell which could be of value to those willing to hear it. Red cedar will grow in areas not suitable for many other trees. It's also called Juniper. I will go into cedar more with the next use.

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Ok here is the promised info. Cedar in this case Juniper is a good friction fire wood. Cedar spindle on a willow fireboard.

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Prepping a cedar fireboard and bark for friction fire.

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In the next post I will show how cedar bark is used as a tinder bundle.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:00 pm

Cedar bark is as good or even better than most man tinder options. It's great to blow a coal into flames or even when using a firesteel, lighter or matches. For this example I will use flint and steel methodology.

This quartz looks good.

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Had to kick the frozen ground to free the quartz.

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Used a highly skilled napping method which involves years of practice. Smash a smaller rock between two bigger ones. This stuff is easy.

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I remove the outer hanging layers of cedar bark. This will not harm the tree not more than clipping finger nails hurts a person. Also the hanging bark tends to be dry.

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Cedar prefer open areas. There are more up this hill.

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Good open area for that Flint and Steel practice. I have the rocks, natural tinder bundle, carbon steel striker and charcoth.

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My PSK with firesteel which uses a F&S striker to toss sparks from both rocks and the firesteel. Multi use tool. In this case I will use it to strike against the crushed quartz.

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Took out the rocks processed in the parking area with charchoth.

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Two strikes later and we have fire. it's necessary to fluff up cedar bark first to increase the surface area. Always think about the fire triangle. If any part of that formula is missing you will fail to start and hold a fie.

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It wasn't much harder than using a lighter or firesteel. Consider cedar a valuable firecraft resource.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:15 pm

It's still Tuesday so here goes. A new combo for me. Sage on Sage. This was sent to me this as it's not local.

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Chaga for a coal extender.

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This was on the harder side for me. The waves and grain were unfamiliar. Failed 2 times with success on the third. Oddly each failure really looked good and was surprised it didn't work at first.

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Thanks for looking.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by Woods Walker » Sun Oct 11, 2015 10:54 pm

We see lots of posts showing easy friction fires but sometimes failure is not only an option but a fact. Well at least for me anyways. I like to jog then do friction fire as it offers some upper body exercise. So did 5.5 miles jogging then cracked out some old fireboards, sticks and spindles.

1. 3 stick mullein. Failure

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2. Mullein on willow.

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The spindle shattered. Failure.

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Apple on mullein. Failure.

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Apple on sycamore. Failure. Well looks like I am getting that upper body workout. Dang.

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A new combo. Eastern cedar on Western cedar.

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Burn in looks great!

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V-notch ready to go.

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And it produced 4 wonderful false embers. The type of failure which first inspired confidence then disappointment over and over again. I know this combo is doable but need to work on it.

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I am not giving up tonight. Apple on Yucca.

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Under 10 seconds later an ember.

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I did get my workout for sure but dang that was more than expected. The Bushcraft HC really works great for friction fire. Cuts a v-notch so fast. Same goes for shaping spindles and fireboards. I suspect the thin convex grind and comfortable handle is why. My first LT Wright knife however own a good number of BHK. Despite initial problems getting my order filled the knife is very nice and well worth the 75 dollars. It sports a Robert Jones sheath made for Jeff White trade knife. A perfect fit. For now it's my prefered friction fire knife. That's about all. Just pointing out that failure does happen.
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Re: Primitive/marginal fire materials guide.

Post by zantra » Thu Feb 02, 2017 11:27 am

I need to shoot one about sparking a battery (cam, sat-phone, light) into charred punkwood, since it seems that none of the Alone cast are capable of so doing. They one and all waste one of their 10 picks on a ferrorod. :-)

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