In my first “Playing With Fire” post I covered char cloth, the perfect material to catch a spark. Tinder comes next.
One of the simplest, handiest items you can add to your fire kit is a plain old pencil sharpener.
For me, it was a simple matter of rooting through a few of the junk drawers around the house. I knew I had a couple of the large, cylindrical ones for sharpening carpenters pencils down cellar in my toolboxes. I also found two or three plastic ones left over from my daughter’s childhood, and several that had apparently come free with my wife’s eyeliners and lip pencils that were up in the bathroom drawer. I found also two “high quality” ones left over from way back in architecture school. One in beechwood, and one in aluminum. I suspect I will find homes for a number of them in my emergency kits, but the one shown below is the aluminum one for my drafting set. I like it because it has the secondary advantage of two sizes of openings.
Making a fire is a very simple, incremental matter of coaxing your heat source from a glowing ember to an ever larger flame. The secret to this process is in staggering your tinder in a similarly incremental way. The fine shavings achieved from a pencil sharpener are an ideal early-stage. From them you can easily move on to wood peelings, then to ever larger splinters, and finally to twigs and smallwood until the flame can reach a point where it is strong enough to ignite your actual kindling pieces.
Also in the above photo- in any real emergency situation the absolute priority is in starting the fire. I am not such a “gram-weenie” that I begrudge carrying a tiny bit of extra weight if it will facilitate that same quick and efficient fire building. So, another thing that it is in all my emergency kits and my little firebox are “magic” candles. We all know these from birthday parties… they don’t blow out. This is very handy out in the woods, out in the breeze. Additionally, as they melt, the wax will coat your other tinder and smallwood, and further encourage the flame. One or two of these magic candles tucked in your kit alongside your waterproof storm matches take up almost no room, but give you just one more certainty of achieving fire.