Starting A Fire With Just A Knife And What You Have On You

This is a continuation of the survival posts that I’ve been writing.  In today’s article I’d like to talk a little about survival and fire.  Fire is important for several reasons in a survival situation:  first because of the warmth it can provide if it’s cold.  It can dry clothes, purify water, cook food, boost morale, keep animals away, and provide a bright signal for anybody looking for you.  Although not always critical to have it is certainly worth investing a little time in trying to find alternate ways of lighting a fire if you find yourself in the woods without matches or a lighter.

Small survival kit

There are different ways to carry survival gear and it doesn’t always have to be in a pack the size of a Volkswagon.  I have a small Altoids tin survival kit that I carry with me.  I keep wire, matches, and a few other small items in it just in case something happens out there. Check out this link to Field and Stream where they have ideas on how to make different types of kits.

Fire Steel

Ok, the above link was kind of cheating because you do have matches, but what happens when you don’t?  There are different ways to make a fire without matches or lighter and the easiest is probably by using a fire steel.  I prefer the Gobspark Fire steel myself.  The good thing about a fire steel is that it always throws a spark.  You can fall in a river, leave it in a damp pack for months, pull it out of the ice, it’ll always throw a nice spark. Matches get damp and don’t work and sometimes lighters won’t work when it gets too cold and that’s why I always use fire steels to light a fire when I’m in the woods.  My son is a little over 2 1/2 years old and he’s never seen me light a fire with a match!  He probably doesn’t even know what a match is, but he’ll be using a fire steel by the time he’s five years old.  (Under my close supervision of course.)

Friction Fire

The hardest type of fire to make is a friction fire.  If you’ve watched any of the survival shows on TV no doubt you’ve watched guys twirl a stick between the palms of their hands or use a fire bow to create a fire.  It’s very possible to do this, but it also takes a lot of practice and knowledge.  You don’t even necessarily need a knife in order to make one of these fire bow kits, but it sure is a lot easier with one.

There are several parts to a fire bow and they need to be made properly if you’re going to make a fire.  I was going to make a diagram showing all the parts, but I found this excellent primer over to Nature Skills about making a fire bow. Check out the link and then swing back over here.

Now, how do you put it all together?  Here’s a video I found that explains how to use all the parts in the above post.  It is far better than most of the other videos I’ve seen out there.  This guy doesn’t even use a knife – just a rock that he knaps into a knife on the spot.

A thought about the video.  In it he uses natural cordage on his bow, which can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.  I like to replace my boot laces with paracord (like lots of survivalists), so that if I do get caught out there it’s one less thing I have to worry about.

Final Thoughts

In order to get good at these things you need to practice them.  And once you get them figured out you need to keep practicing so you don’t lose your edge.  Practice practice practice!

This skill combined with the ability to make a natural shelter will give you the ability to survive in nearly any situation.

As some readers commented in the last post if you have these skills and can survive with just a few items, imagine what you can do with a small pack full of basic gear.

Would you survive if you got stuck in the woods for a couple of nights with little or no gear?


-Jarhead Survivor