Through observation, trial, and error, the earliest humans learned how to use the world’s four essential elements: earth, water, air, and fire. The first three elements occur naturally, but the fire must be made by an active force, like electricity. Perhaps the first fires that ancient humans observed were those started by lightning strikes, says an article from the American Council on Science and Health.
- Discovery of Fire
- Friction-based Fire Starters
- 1. Primitive Drill
- 2. The Bow
- 3. Striking Flint
- 4. Steel Wool and Battery Fire Starter
- 5. Fire Starting with a Magnifying Lens
- Bottom Line
Discovery of FireThe source explains that early humans probably studied the aftermath of wildfires and tasted some of the burned vegetation and animals the fires left. Although these primal ancestors noticed the power destruction fire brought from the heavens, they also found that it provided light, warmth, and protection from the dangerous predators that feared it.
Friction-based Fire Starters
Are you ready to use some of the survival skills you learned in scouting? Using friction to ignite a flame is one of the earliest forms of starting a fire. Did you know that there are different techniques that you can use for friction-based fires?
It is based on hardwoods that can stand up to the friction. These techniques use a spindle and a fireboard, both of which you can find in the woods. The spindle is a simple stick that you’ll use to make friction by spinning it rapidly between your hands on the fireboard, which is a flat piece of wood.
What Kind of Wood to Use
To make your fireboard (also called a thunderhead), pick a slightly softer wood like pine or another type of fir tree since its natural resins in fir wood provides lubrication to make the spindle rub smoother on the fireboard, explains the source.
Whatever you use, be sure that it is completely dry. Any trace of dampness will make your fire- starting efforts useless. Lay your spindle and fireboard out in the sun to dry. You can also leave it on a window seal indoors.
Methods To Start A Fire Without Matches Or Lighter
1. Primitive Drill
This method probably takes the most energy to start a fire, so get ready to work. Primitive drills were some of the earliest fire-starting tools ever used. You can find all you need for this method in any wooded area where you are camping.
What You Need:
Tinder- This is the raw material you need to start a flame from the heat of the friction. Use any natural things around you that will readily ignite, like dry bark, leaves, or grass. They must be completely dry, or they will not burn.
Fireboard - Choose a piece of wood that’s approximately ¼ inches thick and about two feet long. Use a sharp knife to cut a V-shaped notch into the wood carefully, then use the blade's point to carve a small indentation across from the notch.
Spindle - Find a hardwood stick that is straight and about ¾ inches in diameter. Use your knife or hatchet to carve away the outside of the spindle, so it has eight sides and is pointed at both ends.
i. Find some dry bark and place it under the fireboard’s notch.
ii. Put your spindle into the indentation on the fireboard and start rolling it rapidly between your hands. Keep steady pressure on the fireboard and keep rolling up and down the spindle until you create a burning ember.
iii. As soon as you see the ember, give the fireboard a little tap until the burning spark lands on the bark and starts to burn. Move the bark to your small tender pile and blow on it gently to get a flame started.
2. The Bow
The first friction-based fire starter can wear down your hands before you see the first spark. If you use the bow method, it will be much easier to keep enough pressure to start a flame. The only additional tools you will need are a homemade bow and a socket.
How To:i. Prepare your spindle, fireboard, bark, and tender as you would for the primitive drill.
3. Striking Flint
Your ancient ancestors had to use what was available around them to survive. Areas around the first civilizations had ample flint deposits, which became the raw material for the first human tools. Flint is soft enough to be carved by harder stones into tools and weapon heads.
During the Age of Iron, humans discovered how to make steel and noticed that it produced a spark when it was struck by flint. Another fire starter was born.
Using a Flint and Steel Fire StarterSome people say that starting a flame with flint and steel is easier than using the friction-based method, says the Mineral Education Coalition. If you don’t have matches or they get wet, having a flint & steel fire starter set will do the trick. Here’s how to do it.
What You Need:Small piece of flint
Small piece of steel, or even the back of your penknife blade.
Small piece of char cloth, or a small amount of birch bark
Small tender pile, or a small piece of steel wool
How To:i. Place the char or bark around the flint and hold it between your forefinger and thumb, like a pencil. You need at least three inches of the edge of the flint hanging out from your grip. Hold the steel piece or pen knife in your other hand.
4. Steel Wool and Battery Fire Starter
What You Need:Small piece of plain steel wool (not the steel wool pads filled with detergent)
Small tender pile
How To:i. Gently rub the steel wool across the positive and negative terminals of the battery. The charge of the battery will heat the steel wool and create burning embers in it. Gently blow on the embers to start a flame.
5. Fire Starting with a Magnifying Lens
What You Need:A magnifying glass
Small tender pile
How To:i. Arrange your tinder pile in a dry place where you intend to build a fire.
If you ever find yourself without a lighter or a match, don’t despair. Do as your prehistoric ancestors did and make a fire with simple tools around you. Remember never to have a campfire unattended and extinguish it well before you leave.