Starting a fire, 1812 style

In this forum we will discuss various period methods and techniques for day to day tasks.
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Glengarry Fencible
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Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2006 11:33 pm
Location: York, Upper Canada

Starting a fire, 1812 style

Post by Glengarry Fencible » Thu Nov 16, 2006 10:17 am

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Flint and steel
Char cloth
Linen tow
Kindling and wood
Tinder bundle


* Make sure that your tinder bundle, kindling and wood are within reach. Once ignited, your char cloth will burn quickly. *

1) Prepare your tinder by splitting it as finely as possible. Tear some birch bark into strips that can go into the tinder bundle.

2) Loosen the linen tow to allow lots of room for air to circulate through it. Leave an area in which to put the burning char cloth.

3) Create a tinder bundle is using birch bark rolled into a cone and filled with linen tow. You can also fill the cone with strips of birch bark or wood shavings.


1) Place your char cloth on top of your flint. close to the edge. It may help to pleat it a bit, so it catches the spark better.

2) Holding the flint in one hand, carefully but quickly strike the steel against it. You don't need to use much force at all.
Striking the flint

* Be careful, the edges of flint are like a razor, and can easlily cut you. *

3) Adjust the char cloth as necessary to catch the spark. As soon as a spark hits the cloth, it will produce a glowing ember. Place the cloth in a bundle of tow, and wrap some of the loose fibres around it.

4) Place the tow in the cone of birch bark, and gently blow into it.

* The same chemicals in the birch bark that allow it to burn wet also produce a black smoke. Take care not to inhale it. Also, the smoke may turn your fingers yellow or brown. *

5) Continued air flow will cause the tow to ignite (quickly). Once this happens, place the burning bundle in your fire pit or fireplace, and gently add your kindling. Once the smaller wood has started to burn, you may add larger pieces.


* It is always a good practice to have a large bucket of water or a fire extinguisher on hand, so you can extinguish the fire when you are finished with it, or if it gets out of control *

Click here for a video demonstration

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