it was cold and pouring down rain today so i figured it would be a great day to teach my boy how to find or produce dry tinder for firemaking in the wet woods. i always prefer to use natural tinder for firemaking because once you can make fire out of anything nature has to give you, using anything else is easy. such as chemical soaked cotton balls, trioxane fuel, and chemical pads like alcohol prep pads or acetone (fingernail polish remover) once you have flame any good dry tinder will ignite pretty easy. just because Ive practiced primitive survival skills for years doesn't mean i don't use the modern stuff. i always carry a Bic lighter with me and i always will.
the first rule of finding natural tinder when its wet is to make sure you are wearing camouflage so you can sneak up on it
actually these are cheap rainsuits we got in the clearance isle of walmart for a couple bucks. more people die from hypothermia in weather like this than do when its sub zero. theres cold, then theres wet and cold. being wet will kill you when the temps are in the 30s-40s.
one of the first things i spotted was a cedar tree. when it comes to tinder cedar tree bark is hands down my favorite. as you can tell part of the trunk is still dry even though it has been raining for hours. this is ideal and we could have just pealed off some and made a fire no problem but you don't learn from the easy stuff.
Now I did not take the bark from this healthy tree. You cant see it in the picture but there was a split off dead part brhind it. Thats what I took the bark from.
so i peeled some bark from the dampside so i could show the boy how to dry tinder with your body. i stripped some off and worked it in my hands to buff it a bit. it was damp but not real bad since i pealed off the wetest outer bark.
then i placed it inside my sweatshirt and folded it over and stuck it below my pantsline so it would stay put. it works best if you have a t-shirt with a pocket on your chest. you don't want the tinder touching your skin, it can absorb oils that will make it hard to light. keep it one layer out. your body heat and the wicking action of your cloths will dry it quite well if its not too wet.
it doesn't have to be cedar bark, most the inner bark from almost any tree will be dry in the rain. we moved on up hill looking for a place the wind was blowing threw well. wind will dry up wet far better than you might think. once on the top of the hill we started looking for some dead branches off the ground. with a little carefull observation we found some that were just damp on the outside. so we took a few sticks with us tucked under our rain gear. i also found this dead stump of really punky wood. after pulling it apart it was just full of dry lite punky wood. i got a big enough piece that i could have used it then and there as a platform to put the tinder on and light a fire.
well i figured we had enough to work with so we found a nice spot to set up a tarp with a place to sit and work.
once we had the shelter up we could start working the sticks we grabbed. i had the boy start shaving the damp wood off the outside of the stick to get to the dry wood underneath.
once he had a good dry stick we needed something to catch the dry shavings. since we had a shelter from the rain i took off my raincoat and layed it dry side up and had him start whittling some shavings onto it.
while he was doing that i took my dry stick and using the saw blade of my multitool i started making a fine sawdust with my stick. i didn't just saw it like i was cutting it in half. i would draw my saw sideways down the stick as i pulled the blade backwards. this leaves longer thin shavings rather than just sawdust. they tend to ignite easier than plain sawdust.
another technique i showed him was taking my knife and laying it perpendicular with the stick and leaving it at a 90 degree angle. and scraping the stick. this is by far my favorite way to get usuable tinder from a plain wooden stick.
our toys for the day next to the bag of tinder we made.
now i took out the some more of the damp bark that i had pulled from the cedar tree. i scraped the inner bark with the knife the same way i did the stick. i layed it onto the stick so it had a backing or bracing to it so i could scrape it. this produces a very fine fibrous tinder that is almost ideal to take a spark or coal.
once we had all this tinder worked up we placed it in a ziplock bag. since its illegal to start a fire outside of a fire ring in a state park we decided to find a legal place to actually start the fire. otherwise we would have just done it under our little shelter.