For many years I've tried to live by the rule of three; a backup to a backup to a backup. Life, being the hard mistress she is doesn't always allow us to follow this rule, but I try.
A couple of days ago, with full knowledge Sweet Wife (and let's admit it, yours truly) wanted a fire with the approach of our first nice cold front, I prepared a small tin for char clothe. As you know char clothe (carbon) made from one hundred percent cotton or other natural fibers is an excellent means of producing fire utilizing flint and steel.
I'll let my simple photography tell the story....
Use any old one hundred percent cotton t-shirt. In the picture above I used one of my twenty year old Jimmy Buffet shirts. You will need a small metal container with a tight fitting lid. Punch a small hole in its top to allow gases to escape. Don't forget the hole....cut small sections from the shirt.
Fill the tin, but not tightly...just fill it. The carbon sheets (when finished) will come out in layers.
Above, my cigar tin filled.
Notice the small hole in the middle of the tin....just large enough to allow the gases to vent. Your tin size isn't crucial. In the next picture you'll notice mine is fairly small.
Tools of the trade. A very good friend of mine attends yearly primitive mountain man events. A couple of years ago I asked if he'd bring me back a couple of steels and a few pieces of flint. I like the steels, the flint, not so much. The flint works, but I like mine in larger chunks. Small pieces tend to force you to work harder to produce sparks. Remember, the flint 'chips' off small portions of steel, the spark, with ignites the char clothe. Larger flint eases the task, and saves a lot of skinned knuckles. I prefer the steel to the left in this picture. The flint is just behind the steels atop the cotton strips.
Above two pictures; one of the steels and how it fits my hand. It works, but it's not my favorite.
A nice piece of flint, kinda small but it will throw sparks. Notice the white ridge of stone running along the top of the black section of flint...it chips off easy...careful with your eyes.
I like this steel. It has heft....
Another shot of the second steel...notice how it fits my hand....not good.
Tin packed and into the fire. Don't worry about placement of the tin in the fire....so many preach it MUST sit atop glowing coals. Bull hockey. Just make sure the lid is tight, otherwise the cotton will burn too quickly. When the gases finish venting from the hole, it's finished and ready to be pulled from the fire. Let it sit and cool. Mine glowed cherry red at the end. Don't panic.
Finished. Now you have char clothe.
A single piece of char clothe ready to accept a spark from your flint and steel. Once you have a glowing spark in the clothe, gently blow and place in your 'bird's nest' of tender and you have fire.
See those two glowing white eyes....if seen with the naked eye they'd be red...these are the product of a couple of sparks from my flint and steel and after the char had cooled. It sits on my fireplace mantle.
If you've found this interesting, and I hope you have, run over to YouTube or other primitive sites and blogs and do a bit of research. I know in a world filled with good old Zippos and Bics it my seem silly or far fetched to use flint and steel to start fires, but at least you'd have a skill few others possess much less understand. And besides, it's fun.
If all else fails, flick that Bic.