soda can, steel wool, and batteries for fire-starting techniques

Master the Art of Fire: 4 Unusual Fire-Starting Techniques

Fire-making is like magic. I love showing my friends bushcraft methods to fire-making, like using bow drill for friction fire or a ferro rod. There’s artistry to the process of fire-starting, especially from natural materials. However, every magician needs a few party tricks. Did you know that you can make a fire using an old condom? How about an old soda can? I’ve spent many hours in my yard getting some of these fire-starting techniques to work and can confirm that they do work. However, I can also confirm that they are hard as hell to do and may be better things to keep in mind than to attempt. Some are easier than others.

Here are some odd-ball fire-starting techniques to get a spark or flame:

1) The Frito Fire Technique

The “Frito Fire,” or “chip fire,” is a technique that uses the grease and fiber from a chip to maintain a flame. Fritos, the salty-delicious corn-chip are my snacks of choice when making a Frito Fire.

Instructions: How to use Fritos for Fire-Starting

While you’d be hard-pressed to get a spark to ignite a chip, a single Frito chip burns like an angry candle when lit. Pile them together as a quick fire-starter if you have a lighter on hand. When I say pile, your mileage may vary but I’d recommend 4-10 Frito chips.

Once in a pile, ignite the top corner of a single chip with a flame. Once the Frito catches fire, it will burn down while maintaining a good flame and lasts longer than you’d expect for a tiny chip.

These work great when your wood is slightly damp.

2) Fire from Electricity

Electricity is a fun party trick for fire-starting. The concept is somewhat obvious but you’re effectively creating a circuit where the positive and negative ends meet on something that will ignite.

Battery and Gum Wrapper

This is an easy one to accomplish that even a child could do it, though I would not recommend this. I used to do this all the time in electrical sockets both at home and in school. I was a child, so it does happen.

Instructions for making a fire with a gum wrapper:

For this, you’ll need the traditional gum wrapper that’s made from waxed paper covered in a thin layer of aluminum. Aluminum is what will transfer the energy for the short-circuit and the paper is what will ignite and maintain a flame.

Take the gum wrapper and fold it long-ways 4-times. You should have a thin strip of wrapper thinner than a no. 2 pencil. Again, think the size of an electrical outlet socket.

Then, fold it so that the two ends meet. Then, take those ends and fold those towards the middle. This should result in a shape that resembles a W.

Using a 9-volt battery, put the two tag ends of your gum wrapper on the positive and negative terminals. This will result in the middle of the W igniting.

Battery and Steel Wool

This one can get out of hand quick, so have a metal pot ready to throw your fist-full if ignited steel into. Steel wool is a very fine material and will ignite once you connect it to electricity. This will burn like a tinder bundle once going, so be warned.

Instructions on how to use steel wool as a fire-starter

Take a pinch or two of steel wool off of the main bundle. Touch the 9-volt battery to the steel wool, preferably not while you’re holding it. The steel fibers will turn red hot, ignite, and burn.

Then, for fun, do it to the big bundle once you understand the mechanics as a safe pyro-maniac.

3) Magnification Fire-Making

Fire from a Condom

Condoms have many uses. For the purpose of fire-starting, you can use a condom filled with water as a magnifying lens to refract light into a single point of focus.

Start by filling the condom enough to where the latex becomes translucent and almost clear. The more clear the latex, the better. However, refrain from overfilling to the point where it breaks and now have a 9-month runway before responsibility hits.

Use this giant ball of water as a way to focus light onto very thin pieces of fiber or better, wood dust from a failed bow-drill attempt. With enough sunlight, a steady hand, and patience, you can heat up wood dust to get a coal.

Glasses as Magnification of Sunlight

I won’t bother writing instructions for this one, but its worth mentioning. If you’re pushing your glasses up the bridge of your nose like me, you can use those same glasses to focus light into one spot. You’re basically using your glasses to turn the Sun’s light into a laser. There’s a reference to Cyclops, the X-Men character, in here somewhere.

4) Chocolate Bar and a Soda Can

This one is the stranger of the bunch. While this can sort of live in magnification, it’s kind of its own thing. Rather than refraction of light, this is reflection to a single focal point. You’re making a convex mirror

Instructions on using a chocolate bar and soda can as a fire-starting technique:

Using the chocolate, smear it onto the bottom of the soda can where it is bare aluminum. Using the wrapper, rub the chocolate as if you’re sanding and polishing the bottom of the soda can. If you do this for long enough, the chocolate will act as a fine abrasive and polish the bottom of the soda can to a mirror finish.

Once you have your concave mirror, find the angle of the sun and create a focal point of light on the ground. If you can get a hot white dot of light, you’re on the right path. This technique is similar to using a magnifying glass.

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