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Thread: What is the best fire starting method for Alaska (with no man made materials)

  1. #21
    Member Rock_skipper's Avatar
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    A T-Light candle is a great tool if you have a match/lighter, you can start the fire then pull it out for futher use. ( the ones in the tin cups )

  2. #22

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    I have kind of funny story about starting a fire with a bow and drill. One time about 10-15 years ago, I was alone after or before a bear hunt and I was waiting for a pick-up from the pilot (my boss). Anyhow, to make a long story short, I was bored, and the weather was really nice. So, I started fooling around with my knife and I started wittling together all the parts to a bow and drill. If I recall correctly, I fashioned a fireboard from a piece of cottonwood that broke off a fallen tree. Then I gathered together a spindle, handhold and a bow and some string. I can't recall what I used for them. Anyhow, I practiced for about two days and then finally I got a flame. The funny thing was, I was not prepared after I got the flame to keep the fire lit and so it quickly went out. But, I basically told myself, I got the jist of how to do it. Bottom line is, it can be done, but it takes hours of practice. That, and cooperative weather conditions. It was hot and sunny and everything was bone dry. I can't imagine trying to do that when everything is sopping wet. Personally I don't go anywhere remote without my lighter, flint and magnesium, cotton balls with vaseline, and trioxane fuel. The one thing I would like to learn though is which natural materials work best to make all the necessary tools for a bow and drill. I just experimented and got lucky. I would like to know from an expert though, which materials make the best fire board, handhold, spindle, and bow in Alaska. I have played around with different things in my backyard with my kids and some things clearly work better than others. For example, I once tried using a vertebrae for a handhold and it was a horrible idea. Some sticks like birch and poplar are too flimsy for the bow. Things like this would be useful to know when trying to build a proper bow and drill. If you were in a true survival situation, you shouldn't have to experiment to figure our what works and what doesn't. I think part of the key to success is just knowing what materials to use.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    I forced myself to go out next to the house one day and try and start a fire with some magnesium and some flint. It took me quite awhile before I got an actual flame, and I darned near scraped off all my flint in the process. What I learned was even though the mag will do the trick when it takes off, don't skimp on it when you scratch off your pile, because it's not real easy to hit a small spot with a spark.....

    Not all mag rods/blocks and flint are created equal. The mag blocks with the glued on flint you would get at places like Walmart are cheap but low quality and can be difficult to use and scrape. Mag and flint from places like firesteel.com are very easy to use and shave with HUGE sparks. I'd highly recommend the site mentioned. I got three sets of 4"x3/8" mag rod, 4"x3/8" flit rod and a palm striker. One for my EDC pack, my GHB and my wife's GHB. Got them with holes drilled in the ends and the are on a loop of 550 cord about 20" long.

  4. #24
    Member jaydog's Avatar
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    A few years ago (oh say 20-25) I worked as an instructor teaching outdoors skills - one of my jobs during a portion of the year was demonstrating/teaching starting a fire with a bow/drill. Having the right woods and dry conditions is vital. As is having tinder that can take light from a single tiny glowing ember. I got to the point where I could start a fire by using just a "hand drill" (no bow - just spinning the drill between my palms). In southwest Michigan where I lived at the time the materials that worked best were a piece of yucca stalk (yep - this desert plant grows in the sand dune areas of sw Michigan) for the fireboard and cottonwood for the drill if using a bow (your bow need not be flexible and the wood type does not matter) and the dried winter stalk of a mullein weed for a hand drill. Ear wax works well to lube the handcup to allow the drill to spin more easily. I got very good at this (I needed to be - it was part of my job!). I could typically have a bow drill fire going in 3-4 minutes. As far as I'm concerned - in Alaska - it's fit only as a parlor trick. You never find me without at least one source of fire and in the field I always have several, along with firestarters and dryer lint for tinder.

  5. #25
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    Don't forget those waxy shotgun shells [empty of course]. They weigh almost nothing, and when properly cut and frayed, they really work quite well. It still takes a fire source [lighter, matches, etc] to ignite one.

  6. #26
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    If you're in the pine forests, lighter knot...that sap filled heart of the dead evergreen. I grew up in FL using lighter knot from the long needle pine...works great....burns hot and long, but you need a flame to get them going. Pretty hard to get a fire going without something man made.
    Somewhere along the way I have lost the ability to act politically correct. If you should find it, please feel free to keep it.

  7. #27

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    [QUOTE=jaydog;1333553..........I could typically have a bow drill fire going in 3-4 minutes. As far as I'm concerned - in Alaska - it's fit only as a parlor trick. You never find me without at least one source of fire and in the field I always have several, along with firestarters and dryer lint for tinder.[/QUOTE]

    Bow and drill are very do-able here in Alaska as well as other friction fire methods. I routinely get an ember in about 30 seconds once I start with the bow. It is not difficult at all but does require proper training to be able to be effective. I prefer bow and drill for my favorite friction fire but if natural cordage is to be used, I then recommend the Eskimo Strap drill friction fire. The latter is easier to be successful when using natural cordage. I don't know if I can post links here but I will try to post a link to the primitive fire playlist from my YouTube channel "Far North Bushcraft And Survival". The primitive fire videos were all recorded in South Central Alaska which has woodlands very similar to interior Alaska. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...86buJjGxFsQMWR
    Hand drill friction fire is also possible here in Alaska. I use elder stem as the drill and Chaga as the hearth board.

  8. #28
    Member akula682's Avatar
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    i too have done, and succeeded, at the bow and drill method... don't want to do it again as it is a LOT of work, however if you fell through the ice and need to start a fire this method will warm you up before the fire gets started.

    If I'm using my ATV where weight is not much of a concern, i have a primary tool to start fires, A MAP Gas auto ignite torch.

    When on foot, i use self made "candles" that you can start fairly easily and transport them to the fire pit. These are used as a back up to the several lighters and water proof matches that i keep in various locations on my person and pack, and ATV. Although i have never needed one, I also keep a magnesium starter handy just in case, (i can get a fire going long before i need that).
    Josh
    Back in Afghanistan, I hope for the last time.

  9. #29

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    Way....Way out in front, the best way to start fire in Alaska with "NO" man made material........Lightning.

  10. #30

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    Friction fire does not need to be a lot of work. It really does not take much effort for an adult to perform a bow and drill fire. The secret is in wood selection and in proper stance and execution. I once watched a father and son on video (who are quite famous now due to "reality TV) "teach" the viewers the "proper" way to do a bow and drill fire. The son about wore himself out with all the physical workout he did trying to get the ember lit. I don't remember if he ever did get it lit. It was very clear from the beginning that they in fact did not have a clue as to an efficient way to perform the bow drill friction fire. They were rank amateurs masquerading as "professionals". It was the big family that I think are called Browns and were stars of a "reality" show about backwoods life in Alaska. Anyway a person should be able to fairly easily still carry on a conversation during the whole process and should complete the process hardly breathing any harder than when they started. I have used fresh white spruce roots, black spruce roots and willow bark as cordage to perform friction fire here in Alaska. In other words all a person needs during the summer here in Alaska is a knife and they can make a friction fire set and get a fire going. Granted it will take a while to make the set. It won't be fast or instant fire by any means but it can be easily accomplished with several hours work to find, gather and make the set.

    I purposely carry a carbon steel sheath knife all the time when not in town or church. I can find a typical piece of quartz just about anywhere any where near the mountains. With that carbon steel knife and the piece of quartz (with a fresh broken sharp edge exposed) I now have a replacement for flint and steel. with that means of making sparks a person can then find some chaga which is a fungus that grows on birch trees in the northern latitudes. This chaga can then be cut into small pieces and dried in the sun for a couple hours. Now you have a replacement for char cloth and can then light a fire in the way of the standard flint and steel fire. Granted it is not as efficient since you are "making do" with what is available but it IS very doable. Not meaning to step on anybodies toes here but just pointing out the fact that if you are interested in this subject then do not write it off as not worth the effort. Armed with the proper knowledge. a person CAN start a fire here in Alaska even if they do not have the modern means to do so.

  11. #31

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    Cottonwood or willow is the best woods here in the North for both the hearth board as well as the spindle. For me it seems it works best to get the spindle as well as the hearth off the same branch or piece of wood. Alder makes a good bow. Birch makes a good bearing block for the hand. If you are lucky and come across a moose or caribou carcass, the Astragalus or talus bone makes an excellent bearing block that will last for years. Any green leaf can act as a lubricant for the bearing block. I suspect, though I have never tried it, that the white powder found on Aspen tree bark would also make an excellent lubricant for the bearing block. The white powder does make a good lubricant for sore tired feet that are starting to develop blisters so I suspect it would work for bow and drill bearing block. I need to try that some time now that I thought of it. green spruce needles also work as a lubricant. make sure you do not get any of this "lubricant" in the hearth board divot where you want friction to develop.

  12. #32
    Member akula682's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AGL4now View Post
    Way....Way out in front, the best way to start fire in Alaska with "NO" man made material........Lightning.
    as long as it doesn't hit you first, then its really man made fire...
    Josh
    Back in Afghanistan, I hope for the last time.

  13. #33
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    I was watching an episode of Dual Survival the other day, and although I'm sure it wouldn't be the best way to make a fire in AK, and I doubt it could even be done in the winter due to the low level of the sun, but, I was amazed to find out that you can use water in a zip lock baggie as a magnifying glass. I guess because even that creates a concave surface to intensify the sun's rays. Has anybody ever heard of this? I really had no idea this would be possible. May have to give it a try this summer to see if it could be done, or, at least weather or not I personally can do it......lol. All I know is from what I've seen, primitive fire starting is an art form. And even the best can't do it all the time. I'd sure like to become somewhat proficient at it though. I'm sure I'd be like Tom Hanks in "Castaway" if I just had to build a fire and was successful..... "I HAVE MADE FIRE...!!!"
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  14. #34
    Member akula682's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    I'm sure I'd be like Tom Hanks in "Castaway" if I just had to build a fire and was successful..... "I HAVE MADE FIRE...!!!"
    with "Winchester" (or Remington) sitting nearby with a blank face looking at you like you re crazy.
    Josh
    Back in Afghanistan, I hope for the last time.

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