Fire from ice
As impossible as it sounds, in this month’s masterclass Jonny teaches us how to conjure up a nice warming fire from a lump of ice, of all things!
We’re now into the coldest part of the year, and the colder it gets the more we need a fire to keep us warm. If we have something that will catch fire, but no ignition method, we should have a cunning plan up our sleeves; in this case, we can use the cold weather to our advantage. Luckily, our winter weather means that the coldest days are also often the clearest days. For the following method to work, we need a sunny day.
The first thing we need is ice – the clearer and cleaner, the better. The ice needs to be two inches thick (at least) to start with, so that when you’ve melted it to shape it will be in proportion. Take a slab from a frozen pond or lake.
If you want to try it at home, but it’s too warm, then boil the kettle for three minutes, leave to cool and then boil it again before freezing it; this will get rid of the chemicals and gases in the water.
Cut or melt your slab into a circle. When you’ve got your ice more or less circular you can rub your hand over both sides to mould it into a perfect lens shape [pics 1 and 2]. This may take a bit of time, and you will get a cold, wet hand, but persevere. The smoother you can get the ice, the better. Don’t forget that the larger the lens, the more sunlight will pass through, and the hotter the focal point will become. For good results, a half inch in thickness and six inches in diameter works best.
As a youngster I remember playing with a magnifying glass, burning anything that moved or didn’t move. The principle is the same. The sun shines through the lens and onto the tinder you have – in this case, char cloth. Make a tinder bundle and put the char cloth in the middle of it [pic 3]. Move the lens towards or away from your tinder until you get the smallest spot of light possible [pic 4]. This is where the focal length of your lens is. Hold the lens steady. Often it helps to prop the lens up on something stable. The light is concentrated into a small area on your tinder [pic 5].
Firstly, you’ll see a blackening on the spot, followed by smoke. Leave it until you get a small ember, or maybe even a flame. With char cloth, I get a small, orange burning ember [pics 6, 7 and 8]. The ember can then be introduced into a bundle of dead bracken or grass [pic 9]. Et voilà – fire from ice!