Spare Time Activities/Fire without matches

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Spare Time Activities: Foreword 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Fire without matches

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SUPPOSE we start on fire by friction as our first Esses Toe Ac. It’s easy enough if you first of all get the right kind of materials and then know how to use them. Now if you are half the Scout we take you for you won’t buy your fire- making outfit from some Scout “shop,” but get down to it and make it yourself, and the first question is, “What kind of wood shall I use?” Well, there is no need to import tamarac or balsam fir or any other foreign wood, for it can be done just as well with our native woods, such as elm, sycamore or willow. In point of fact, the writer has made fire with an old broomstick and a bit of a Tate sugar-box, so it doesn’t really much matter. All you have to remember is that the wood you use must not be too hard or too full of resin to prevent it crumbling a little when friction is applied, and by far the best wood of this kind is elm. If you are lucky enough to find a dead elm tree fallen over and can get permission to cut off a few pieces from the stump you have got the best possible wood, but if not a few pence will purchase plenty of odd pieces of elm from a friendly undertaker or carpenter, and these will do just as well.

The sketches clearly explain how to make your fire set. The twisted raw-hide is fastened to a stiff piece of wood two feet long to form a bow. The platform is a piece of elm, as also is the spindle. The palm is a stone with a hole in the centre, or you can make one from a knob of wood. The tow is made by fraying a piece of rope. Having got your elm, make a flat platform about 6 in. by 2 in. by ½ in. thick. Then from the same wood make a shaft or spindle about a foot long, shaped rather like a cigar, with one rather rounded blunt end and one pointed end. It is important that one end should be fairly broad, say ¾ in. in order to get plenty of friction. Now you want a palm or socket. The best thing for this is a flat stone with a little recessed hole in it, but unless you live at the seaside this may be difficult to find. However, make a note of that for your next seaside camp, and meanwhile you will have to carry on with a wooden palm. You can make this of a thickish piece of wood with a hole bored in it about ⅜ in. deep. A small knot of wood does pretty well – just a little knob cut off level, with a hole bored in it by the top of a knife. Remember, by the way, to put a little grease in the hole or it will get very hot. Our next need is a bow. For this any stiff piece of wood will do, but it must be stiff. You want a rigid bow and not a springy one, and you should make it, roughly, two feet long. These illustrations demonstrate the proper way to use the fire set. First you twist the rawhide round the spindle as shown in the centre sketches. Place the base of the spindle in the notch in the platform and commence drilling, the palm being at the top of the spindle. A glow will soon appear. Put the embers in the centre of the tow and swing it round in your hand. It will soon burst into flame, and you can get your fire going. For a thong some strong leather is needed, such as the belting used on small lathes and sewing machines, or you can make a twisted one out of a flat piece of leather, as shown in the sketch, but don’t try using your bootlaces – they will only break long before you get a fire. Note how the thong is attached to the bow by means of three holes bored in it; this enables you to easily adjust the tension on the thong, upon which a good deal of your success depends. All you need now is some tinder. If you are in the wilds you use dry fine grass or moss or bracken or fine shavings, but in more civilised surroundings you can get tow or frazzle out of an old piece of rope to use as tinder. When you have made your fire-lighting outfit you will want to know how to use it. Have you ever read Alone in the Wilderness, by Joseph Knowles? If not, you must. He tells you how to make a fire drill without a knife, or axe or anything, and many other things besides just to prove that modern civilised man could do what his primitive forefathers had done. If a Scout was lost in the woods he wouldn’t get excited and lose his head as though he were a towny; he would set to work at once and get the material to produce a fire, even though all his matches may have been used up. Having made the fire drill outfit, the business of getting a fire with it divides up into two parts. First getting a spark and then converting the spark into flame. To get the spark take your knife and gouge out a shallow round depression near the edge of the platform. Then cut a V-shaped notch in the edge of the platform reaching nearly to the middle of the shallow hole. See that this V-shaped notch is not too narrow. It should be almost as wide as the board is thick. Now fix the thong on to your bow. Just a thumb or figure-eight knot one end and slip through the two holes the other. Don’t have it too tight. Place the platform on a firm, smooth, surface and hold it down by putting your left heel firmly upon it. Slip the thong round the spindle, taking care that the spindle is outside the thong, and not inside. A glance at the diagrams will make this clear. Then put the base of the spindle on to the hollow in the platform and the point in the palm-stone held firmly in the left hand, with the left wrist pressed hard against the shin. See that the spindle is perfectly upright, and then start drilling away with the bow, slowly at first and not putting on too much pressure with the left hand.

In a few moments the wood will begin to get hot – so will you – and then smoke begins to curl up. Gradually press harder with the left hand and increase the speed of the bow. You will then have dense clouds of smoke and a little pile of glowing wood dust in the V-shaped notch. Do not disturb this, lay aside the bow, wipe your forehead and try not to be too much overcome by excitement. There is no need to hurry for the moment. Remember the motto, “Softly, softly catchee monkey.” The little pile of embers will smoulder for some minutes. Take your tinder of tow or grass or whatever it may be, and make it into a kind of bird’s nest about as big as you can conveniently hold in one hand. Then take your pile of glowing wood dust and put it into the bird’s nest with the tip of your knife, and close it all up. Then swing it round and round, holding it not too tightly, and just as it bursts into flames drop it on the ground and start your fire. You will probably bum your hands the first time, but never mind, it’s worth it, and if you don’t know the glow of satisfaction which comes from your first fire lit without matches you have not yet really lived.