How To Start A Fire With Sticks

One of the most common questions in the world of camping and sportsmanship is how to start a fire with sticks. This is truly a professional maneuver, as just about any type of miscalculation or stray from the advices process make this task nearly impossible to do. There are three basic formulas, which we’ll get into here. They all take time – it took me most of an entire summer of trying before I even got one fire out of any of these methods. But with time, comes reward. Keep that in mind.

1.Hand Drill Method

For this approach, make sure you have a large quantity of tinder, as the friction depends on it to keep the ember alive and eventually turn it into a flame. Get some grass, pieces of shrubbery, cattails, small bits of wood, anything that burns easily. Pile them all together into a nice mass of burnable material. You’ll need what’s called a spindle, basically a thin, round, but sturdy piece of wood, and a base board as well. Here we go:

  • Cut a divot into the side of the base board, running its height. You can start with a V-shaped notch and then make it slightly deeper with a knife. Put a piece of tinder, like a wood shaving or leaf, underneath the notch to catch ember.
  • Firmly put the spindle piece into the notch. Roll it between your hands without letting it move out of the notch. You’ll want to apply as much downward pressure as you can while moving the spindle between your palms.
  • The goal is to get the tip of the spindle to ember itself, turning a glowing red. When this happens, try to spread the ember onto the piece of tinder you’ve placed underneath the base board.
  • Move the ember to your tinder pile, and employ a good deal of blowing in an attempt to produce a flame. Here is a great video tutorial:

2.Bow Drill Method

With this method, you’re going to start with the same expansive pile of tinder. Employ the same techniques we discussed in the last section. The bow drill method is a little more advanced and requires better ‘on-the-fly’ wood working skills, but also has a slightly higher success rate.

  • Start the same way as with the hand drill method, by cutting the notch into your base board of wood.
  • You’ll need a crossbar, or ‘bow’ shaped piece of wood and will connect it to your spindle, using rope, other pieces of thin wood to tie, or whatever else you can pull together.
  • Attach a small, solid piece of wood on top of the spindle to act as a handle for downward pressure.
  • Place your knee or another heavy object on the baseboard to weigh it down so that it won’t shift or topple during the fire-starting process.
  • Apply pressure to the handle, forcing the spindle down into the notch in the base board.
  • Simultaneously, pull the bow back and forth to create friction. The goal here is to create the same amount of friction as you would in the hand drill method of how to start a fire with sticks, only without wearing out your hands. Hence the bow.
  • Keep going until you’ve got an ember on the bottom of the spindle, then transfer that ember to your small piece of tinder underneath, and then to the large pile of tinder. Once you’ve got the pile of tinder at an ember, blow on it strategically to birth a flame.

This video walks you through the steps.

3.Fire Plow Method

This is the most basic way to start a fire with sticks, but also the most complicated. The fire plow method is essentially just rubbing to sticks together until you get an ember. Let’s outline the best approach for using this method (with the obvious hope that it won’t end up being a last ditch effort!)

  • Widdle one stick down to a dull point. This should be the smaller of the two pieces of wood.
  • The other piece should be much larger and more sturdy. This will serve as the base, the matchbox, if you will. Cut a groove in the top of this log, vertically down from near the top to near the bottom.
  • The goal is to ‘plow’ the smaller piece of wood repeatedly in the groove of the larger piece, creating an ember which will then be transferred to your tinder pile. You’ll want to make sure that the widdled piece is as hot as you think you can get it. The transfer to the tinder pile is direct from the wood, there is no intermediary when using this method. Here is a great video on this method.

How to start a fire with sticks: Best Practices

“How to start a fire with sticks” is now something you (hopefully) won’t have to stress about too much anymore. All three of these techniques definitely require patience, an immense amount of practice, and repetition to master. I recommend working on them in your yard or on a car camping trip several times. They you’ll have the techniques down before you find yourself stranded in the wilderness.

Gather a bunch of loose wood and burn-ables, and keep them on-hand for practice. That way, you’ll also get some experience in what works best for the tinder and what should be kept out. I also recommend practicing your blowing techniques quite a bit, even if its just on your wood-burning fireplace in the living room.

If you become a master at any of these techniques, you should consider teaching lessons to everyone you know – you may end up saving their life!

Conclusion

Starting a fire with sticks is one life skill that definitely is good to master before you have to put it to the test. If you have any tips on how these methods have worked for you, please share in the comments so that others can learn them and employ them in their fire starting. I’ve been doing this for twenty years and just recently feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Sadly, most people don’t know how to start a fire with sticks, so please share this on social media so that we can grow awareness. Good luck!

Harvey Specter
 

"Sometimes hunting is the only thing that makes sense"

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