Fire Starter
April 9, 2018 12:25 PM   Subscribe

My husband has mentioned several times over the past year that he would love to learn how to start a fire from scratch. Is there a way to make a birthday gift out of this ?

My husband enjoys watching survival-type shows (Primitive Technology, Bear Grylls, etc) and has said more than once "I wish I knew how to make fire!" I thought it would be fun to give him some kind of fire-starter "starter" kit (ha ha) for his birthday, which is coming up next month - but... might that ruin his dream of making a fire on his own? I Googled "fire starting classes" in Denver, but only found multi-day survivalist classes, which would be overkill. Any ideas on how I could turn his dreams into a birthday present? I don't want to just buy him a book. I'd welcome other ideas related to survival or primitive technology as well!
posted by GoldenEel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Start saving dryer lint now, and pack it up in a pretty little box with a flint.
posted by phunniemee at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jas. Townsends has exactly this.
posted by Botanizer at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Start saving dryer lint now, and pack it up in a pretty little box with a FERRO ROD
posted by fluttering hellfire at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This isn't a birthday gift idea, but the Primitive Technology youtube channel is addictive.
posted by FencingGal at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

A fire steel like the Ferro Rod that fluttering hellfire would be my suggestion. If he wants to get into more involved techniques he can but the fire steel is both pretty easy to use and pretty satisfying.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2018

Give him a selection of fire starters. Doritos, cotton balls, branches from last year's Christmas tree, cotton pads dipped in wax, egg cartons filled with hamster bedding and wax, wax kisses, etc.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do you mean building a sucessful campfire, but starting with something like a match, lighter, flint & steel, whatever? Best way to learn that it to get a box of matches, gather as many different kinds and sizes of material as you can and start trying. It can be tricky when you start to avoid smothering it or letting it go out, especially if your wood is limited, wet, etc. but you just need to get experience and learn from the fire, there's no secret supplies needed (except for the match or lighter or whatever, though there are all kinds of ways to make helpful pre-made tinder like wax covered paper or sawdust or whatever.)

Or do you mean really from nothing like making a drill or bow on site from local resources (sticks and plant material)? (Primitive Technology style.) In that case maybe a pre-made drill or bow to model his after? Or an amusing or interesting book with instructions? (Though you can find instructions online of course.) Or just related?

How about marshmellows, chocolate and graham crackers as incentive? :)
posted by thefool at 12:42 PM on April 9, 2018

My personal favorite ancient fire-starting tech is a fire piston, but there are so many!

If you search 'bushcraft' rather than something like 'fire starting classes' you might have better luck - I feel like that phrasing is more associated with the less-hardcore variety of wilderness stuff.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Making a good fire out of stuff that's lying around -- even with firestarters --is really difficult, especially if you don't know the hiding places to find dry tinder and kindling. But from his interests, t seems like while your husband might like some dryer lint and a ferro rod, your husband would probably go insane over a small group weekend wilderness workshop retreat. These are things where you pay someone some dollars and they drive you and some other people out in the boonies away from human habitation, and they teach you how not to be dead.

Denver seems like it would be a great place for such workshops to be a thing, so maybe alter your Google search terms and see if you can give him a weekend he'll never forget!
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2018

Get him a flint and steel kit and a copy of My Side of the Mountain.
posted by bondcliff at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do part time work in a bushcraft camp here in the UK. The search terms you are looking for are things like bushcraft, wilderness skills and firelighting.

Most bushcraft schools/courses offer 1 day introductory type things that are meant for exactly this kind of level of interest and ability. Here's one in Ward, CO. Dude that runs it looks like he runs towards the more neolithic end of the spectrum (i.e. fire starting without any modern tools like ferro rods).

Getting a fire going from a ferro rod and tinder is a great starter and confidence builder. Bow drills and such can be done by a novice (I managed it on my first try!) but it's very hard work. I definitely recommend a 'basics' type course if you can find one, that covers shelter, fire, water and so on. Getting a fire lit is brilliant, but the confidence and skills you can gain by adding a few more activities make spending a full day on a course really worthwhile. If your husband enjoys a day course, overnighter courses and weekend courses are a heap of fun too.

Looks like there's also quite a large Meetup group in the Denver area.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:19 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, I also have a couple of Youtube series to recommend.

MCQBushcraft in the UK has a really great series called Bushcraft Basics, which is well worth watching. It has a few UK specific videos (about access rights and laws on knives for example), but most of it is applicable anywhere.

And there's a Youtuber called Scrambled O in Ohio who is working his way through a Bushcraft A to Z.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2018

Is this an isolated wish or maybe part of a bigger desire for 'survival skills'. Maybe there is a course or weekend workshop you could do together to gain this skill, and some more to boot. An experience, especially one you can share, is the best kind of present!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2018

Agreed that a course of some kind would be the way to go here. The whole point of starting a fire "from scratch" is that you don't have anything to start with. A ferro rod is no less a product of modern industry than a bic lighter, it's just harder to use and you can get more uses out of it before it wears out. A bow drill is something you can make from nothing (although making decent cord is a skill in itself to be sure, probably even moreso than using a bow drill because it requires some plant identification skills and knowledge of the local area—but one usually has at least a shoelace available so starting with pre-made cord isn't an unreasonable shortcut) and it's not that hard to learn but it's much easier if someone teaches you, mainly so that they can keep saying "Faster!" and "Keep going!" long after you are sure it's Just Not Working.

A one-day survival skills course would be an awesome present. I think you should do that!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pack up some marinated beef, skewers are fun, some parboiled potatoes, fresh peppers, onion, tomatoes on skewers, marshmallows, etc. Kielbasa and long forks is tasty and easy, too. Go someplace where a fire can be built, even the back yard. Make sure you have some matches, takeout napkins and chapstick, just in case, maybe even some old, dry twigs. Present the steel and striker. Admire his Manliness as he Makes Fire. Cook. Feel empowered. Bring beer, wine, etc. as desired. Bring little candles to light in a s'more or cupcake; they make exceptional emergency fire starters. American Surplus & Supply has fire starter stuff, or pick up a small survival kit.
posted by theora55 at 2:10 PM on April 9, 2018

I've started a fire using a bow drill made from found wood and a bootlace. This is pretty much "from scratch" although I did use dryer lint for tinder.

Here's how I learned:

First, I bought this kit online. The advantage of a kit is that it's really hard to start a fire with a bow drill for the first time and if you just try found materials you'll never know if you're using the wrong kind of wood. A kit is guaranteed to be the right kind of wood.

Then I practiced A LOT using various YouTube videos as reference. I filled almost 2 cedar boards full of holes before I got my first flame.

Once I'd started a couple fires I gradually replaced the elements from the kit: first the bow, then the spindle, then the hearth board. After each replacement I'd make another small fire to verify that the new piece worked.
posted by justkevin at 2:20 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

As a gift-- perhaps get him a decent "bushcraft knife" and a "swedish firesteel".

Making a fire kinda falls under the umbrella of current crop of bushcraft videos-- I've been really enjoying a Youtuber called Joe Robinet-- he's nice and chilled out (and often brings his dog on camping trips with him), worth watching a few of his videos to get an idea how he makes fires, essentially it's just being methodical with making different thicknesses of wood before you begin.

Just from watching him I've been able to make start and build a fire way easier. I'm generally just doing it in my fire pit which I would have traditionally used a fuel/cube/candle/etc to get it going, but it's just fun kinda zen task to make shavings, feathersticks, etc and get it all going with a spark.
posted by Static Vagabond at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you are looking for a book to supplement your gift, try Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting (review from The Guardian).

I'm coming to the end of wood stove season, and the single biggest help was learning to build a fire the Mytting way.

Have you looked at Fire Making Kits and Supplies For Boy Scouts?
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:16 PM on April 9, 2018

It's the learning that's the important part. I'd suggest contacting people from one of those outdoor groups in your area, and just ask around about hiring someone to take you both out and teach you firestarting one afternoon. As you can see from this thread, there are a lot of methods and types of equipment, but an outdoor educator-type person could run all of them down with you in a couple of hours and you'll leave more knowledgeable than you are, but without having to sign up for a longer course that includes other skills you don't care about right now.

How cool would a custom-designed, 3-hour workshop just for him be? Really cool.
posted by Miko at 4:26 PM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I took a 3-hour survival skills class that included multiple techniques for starting fires, in addition to learning to use a compass and some other useful stuff. Maybe search for something like that? I feel like REI might have classes like this.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:30 PM on April 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband enjoys watching survival-type shows (Primitive Technology, Bear Grylls, etc) and has said more than once "I wish I knew how to make fire!"

If he's been watching Primitive Technology, he already does know how.

But here's the thing: knowing how and being able to are not at all the same. Converting the first to the second generally requires many hours of practice. And practice is not something you can wrap up and present to somebody else in a box.

If what he actually desires is being able to make fire, he needs to start trying to make fire and just not giving up until he can.

I don't know your husband, but when most people say stuff like "I wish I knew how to make fire!" they're not actually serious about putting in the work required for actually acquiring fire making skills; they're expressing admiration for people who already have them on the basis that having those skills is admirable.

I suspect that, like many of us, he just likes fires. And if that's the case, it might please him to own one of these tidy little portable fireplaces.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 AM on April 10, 2018

Mora knives are inexpensive good quality Swedish knives.
They have a model which is a small knive complete with fire steel built in.
here's a link to an Amazon listing but they are readily available at outdoor stores
posted by yyz at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2018

« Older How to stop bumping head on bathroom medicine...   |   Where should I live? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.