Being skilled at primitive fire starting can go a long way when it comes to surviving in the wild. Fire will not only keep you warm, but it also acts as protection from wildlife, and most importantly, it allows you to cook your meals.
There are several different methods to start fires, and our personal favorite is using a flint and steel. From the experience that we have, your chances of starting a fire on your first try are the highest with this method. We will be mentioning a few other methods of primitive fire starting, as well, to give you freedom of choice (especially if you don’t have flint and steel on you). So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Methods of Primitive Fire Starting
Using the Hand-Drill Method
According to The Lost Ways, which is one of the most comprehensive guides in this matter, knowing how to start a fire is the second most essential skill after collecting and purifying water. The first thing that you should do is use a knife or a razor to cut a fireboard. You should be going for something of a V-shape. Once you have done that, place bark or leaf litter below it.
The second important step is to make a depression at the fireboard, fit a spindle in it (at least 2 feet long), and start running it through both of your palms as fast as possible. The idea is that you create somewhat of a hand drill and try to maintain the same tempo until you see the leaves or wood catching fire. Lastly, you should put the lit ember to the bark that is set up in a triangle shape. Blow a couple of times until you see stronger flames.
Using a Pump Fire Drill
As one of the favorite methods of the Native Americans, starting a fire using a pump fire drill can be quite efficient if you have a spindle made out of softwood and you are able to connect it with a hardwood crossbar and a flywheel. Not to mention, you should ensure that the fireboard is made out of softwood, also.
The idea is that the installed thong twists around the spindle, moving the crossbar and creating enough friction until a little ember is started at the bark that is placed on the softwood fireboard.
If what you are looking for is a method that isn’t that hard to master and with which you can ensure steady speed and pressure, you should go for the bow drill. The first step is to create a round hole in the fireboard that is made out of softwood. Keep in mind that the stick you are using for the spindle should be somewhat thicker and made out of stronger wood.
Once you have done that, place the bow fixed with a loose string through the round depression, secure it with a rock, and focus on doing a sawing motion. The idea is that you go back and forth until you can finally create coal that you will use for sparking a flame in a pile of timber wood.
Using a Fire Piston
If you have used a bicycle or a basketball pump at least once in your life, then you know that the air that gets compressed through it reaches high temperatures. The idea with this method is that you create a hollow dent at the piston, through which you will be able to stick a bit of tinder. Start pumping and pushing the tinder back and forth until you reach the desired temperature of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit and have started a fire on that tinder.
As Claude Davis suggests in his book, The Lost Ways, you can use a few different items for a fire piston, such as bamboo or a horn. Just make sure that the inside of the DIY piston is smooth and thoroughly polished (for additional friction).
One of the coolest methods for starting a fire has to be the plough method. It may not be as efficient as the hand or bow drill, but it is certainly one for which you need the least amount of items. You will need to get a larger softwood fireboard, as well as a thicker hardwood stick.
The idea is that you start grinding up and down the fireboard, making sure that as many of the dust particles from the fireboard are being released. The final result should be an ignited tinder with which you can start a fire, as long as the wood material hasn’t been dampened beforehand.
Flint and Steel
Finally, this is a method that we consider to be the most effective for a few reasons. The first one is that you don’t need a lot of strength, given the fact that there is no drilling involved. The second one is that getting flint and steel is quite affordable and should be an essential part of your survival kit.
By striking steel that is softer than the material flint is made out of, you will be creating embers and sparks that you can transfer to bark and set fire to good wood. If you don’t have a piece of common steel on you, items such as knives or axes will work, as long as the edge is made out of carbon or stainless steel.
Also, by striking that piece of steel at the flint with a fast wrist motion, you will be able to light a piece of cloth on fire. When that is done, you should transfer the folded cloth to a batch of bark, blow a couple of times, sit down, and enjoy the fire that you have successfully created!
The methods we have covered above are some of the best primitive fire starting methods you can use. They are effective, do not require much equipment, and have been used for hundreds of years to keep people safe, warm, and fed. Be sure to try out your chosen method before going out into nature though!