LAST WORDS

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - BY BRIAN MOR­RIS

Fire; it’s a beau­ti­ful thing. It can pu­rify wa­ter, cook meat, ster­il­ize, cau­ter­ize, pro­vide life­sav­ing heat and light up the dark­est night. Our mas­tery of this el­e­ment is one of the things that sep­a­rate us from our pri­mate cousins. Yet, for most of us, with­out a lighter or matches, fire-start­ing might as well be alien tech­nol­ogy, be­cause the abil­ity to pro­duce it on de­mand is not a skill set most peo­ple have. What is fire? It seems sim­ple enough: It’s just a con­coc­tion of heat, oxy­gen and fuel. So, why did it take hu­mans so long to mas­ter it, and why is it that even to­day, most hu­mans still have no idea how to pro­duce it in the ab­sence of a me­chan­i­cal in­stru­ment de­signed to do so by a rel­a­tively few num­ber of peo­ple on this Earth? Well, to be­gin with, the con­di­tions to make fire have to be just right, or it sim­ply won’t hap­pen. Any­one who has ever tried to mas­ter the bow drill or the pump drill can tell you that. When it comes to fire, my rule of the “7 Ps” stands true more than ever—and that is, "Proper Prior Plan­ning Pre­vents Piss-poor Per­for­mance." The worst sit­u­a­tion you can find your­self in when it comes to fire­craft is hav­ing no avail­able com­bus­tion-en­hanc­ing de­vices and hav­ing to try to use man­ual fric­tion, such as rub­bing two sticks to­gether, to even­tu­ally make an em­ber you can fi­nesse into a flame. That said, if you do find your­self in this dire sit­u­a­tion, tech­nique and proper ma­te­ri­als will cer­tainly make the dif­fer­ence be­tween frus­trat­ing fail­ure and tri­umphantly warm suc­cess. One of the key fac­tors in mak­ing fire us­ing a fric­tion method is wood se­lec­tion. You want to ei­ther use a com­bi­na­tion of a hard­wood and soft­wood or a hard­wood and hard­wood to cre­ate fric­tion. One key point to re­mem­ber is that you should try to avoid woods with a high resin con­tent, such as cedars and pines. It is also wise to avoid trees that pro­duce high con­cen­tra­tions of nat­u­ral oils, such as birch. Hick­ory, white oak, elm and other sim­i­lar woods work quite well for fric­tion fire-start­ing tools. Once you have the right ma­te­ri­als, it’s all about get­ting your tech­nique down to a science. And, as I’ve said many times be­fore, the time to work on a sur­vival skill is not after an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion has commenced. While fric­tion fire will prob­a­bly not be num­ber one on your list of go-to meth­ods for start­ing a fire, it is the most skill in­ten­sive, so it should not be ig­nored when you are man­ag­ing your sur­vival train­ing pri­or­i­ties. Be­cause you are a squared-away stu­dent of sur­vival, you will have a fire kit with lots of al­ter­na­tive fire-start­ing de­vices that give you the best chance of get­ting a flame go­ing when you need it the most. There are a few things that no fire kit should be with­out. Less ob­vi­ous than a good lighter and wa­ter­proof, strike-any­where matches are fat­wood shav­ings (“lighter knot”). I find that these work great at tak­ing a flame, even in in­clement weather. In ad­di­tion, I al­ways have a bar of mag­ne­sium and a fer­ro­cerium rod. I pre­fer to pre-shave a small pile of thin sliv­ers of mag­ne­sium onto a square of duct tape, which I then roll up and keep for when I’m ready to strike a spark and start my fire. I also keep a fire pis­ton in my fire kit. A few chunks of solid fuel in a small plas­tic bag, along with some cot­ton wad­ding sat­u­rated on one side with pe­tro­leum jelly and the other cov­ered in wax, also make a nice ad­di­tion to any fire-start­ing kit. Dryer lint, char cloth, jute twine, a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, com­pressed cot­ton wads and, space per­mit­ting, a road flare with the tip sealed with a layer of wax round out a de­pend­able fire kit. Don’t be just an­other mon­key with a lighter—get out there and learn how to make fire to­day so that when the time comes, you will be more than ready to pro­vide this amaz­ing and life-sav­ing re­source for your­self and the peo­ple you care about.

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