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How to Start a Fire with a Dead Lighter

How to Start a Fire with a Dead Lighter


If you have a lighter that has run out of fuel, but still has flint and spark left, you can use it to start a fire using by following a few basic steps.  Knowing about this simple and straightforward method may help you to avoid having to resort to more extreme and labor-intensive options.  You can also avoid using limited supplies of matches or other fire-starting items that you may have on hand. 

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Getting Started

The first step is to dig out a pit that will be big enough to hold the fire you’re trying to build.  It doesn’t need to be deep, but it needs to be able to shield the tinder and kindling from the wind in order to ignite effectively.  Set the dirt aside so you can use it to put out the fire when you’re finished.  Another great way to make your fire more efficient is to line the pit with rocks.  Use smooth, round ones for the edges on top and flat pieces for the bottom.  The rocks will absorb and radiate heat long after the fire has been extinguished.  You may also end up using less fuel to generate good, quality heat as well.

The trick with this fire is to start small and build it up as the tinder and kindling start to burn.  Take some small pieces of kindling and place them in a triangular pattern that will rest inside the pit.  Add some tinder around the kindling, and keep repeating as you create multiple layers of material.  However, you want to keep the center open, with the exception of a little bit of tinder.  Use the spaces between the rocks on top to anchor some of the kindling. 

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Starting the Fire

All you need is a loose wad of a few pieces of tissue, paper towels or cloth along with an aerosol canister that contains something that is flammable.  This could be hairspray, insect repellent or a cleaning product, it doesn’t matter.  The trick to using this method is to use flammable material.  Spray the material until it is evenly-coated, but try not to saturate it unless necessary.  This will help you to conserve the fluid while also preventing drenching, which can be a hazard while trying to start the fire. 

Next, place the material in the center of the pit so that it presses against the kindling on the bottom and sides.  All you need to do now is light the lighter so that the sparks from the flint will ignite the material.  Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, depending on wind conditions, the type of chemical being used as well as the quality of the sparks from the lighter.  Be prepared to go through some trial and error until you figure out the best way to light the material.  However, it should become second nature after doing it a couple of times, and you’ll be surprised at the effectiveness of this method.

While you can hold the material in your hands while lighting, which would logically make it easier to ignite, the risk factor also increases.  The chemicals can get on your fingers and accidentally ignite.  The chemicals can leak onto your shirt or jacket and also ignite.  You can also get burned if the material gets enveloped with fire faster than expected.  There’s also the risk that you can get burned while trying to place the material into the fire pit.  Finally, the material can burn out before it’s placed inside as well.

Consequently, it’s important to use extra caution if you do need to hold the material in order to get it started.  If you do, sit or crouch as close to the fire pit as possible, and you can drip it right inside once it ignites.  One final warning:  Never directly ignite the spray as it comes out from the canister.  Doing so will not ignite the kindling, tinder or fire-starting material.  A flash burn will occur instead, and this has the potential to cause serious injury. 

Additionally, there is also a minor risk of flames traveling back into the canister and causing it to explode.  Always spray and soak the material first before igniting.  However, you can safely spray some of the tinder and kindling as a way to help the fire spread from the ignition material. 

All you need now is to feed the fire with increasingly-larger branches until you get it to the size that you want, building a tepee as you go.  You can also keep the fire small and closer to the ground by feeding it smaller pieces as well.  This is a great way to build a hot, shallow fire that can produce the right conditions for grilling or cooking items on the rocks. 

Practice using this method, and remember to add some aerosol or flammable liquid to your survival kit and bug out bag.  You may be able to start dozens of fires after your lighter runs out of gas, and you can incorporate the same principles outlined here into different types of fires as well.  Try it for yourself, and see how this simple trick can be very useful out in the field. 


How to Make a Pump Fire Starting Drill

How to Make a Pump Fire Starting Drill

Out of all of the improvised fire-starting tricks out there, the pump fire drill is the most effective.  It requires minimal effort on your part, focuses energy where it needs to go, and you can light tinder in just a few minutes with this trick.  The downside is that it takes some time, effort and patience to put it together due to it’s complexity.   However, having it ready when needed will be worth its weight in gold if you are out of other, easier fire starting options.

Fashioning the Components

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The first step is to find a round piece of a hard wood or sandstone and fashion a disc that’s at least an inch thick.  Cut a hole in the center that is wide enough to accommodate a smooth and long stick of softwood.  ½ inch in diameter is ideal.  You want the stick to slide through but stick to the sides of the wheel.  The fly wheel will turn the stick later and create friction to start the fire.  Peel the bark off of the softwood stick.   Use cordage to secure it in place, and anchor it by cutting a gash into the bottom of the stick if possible for more stability.  You want it to be the same width of the stick. 

Next, take a piece of plywood or lumber to serve as the baseboard.  Cut a divot through the wood that is just a little bit bigger than the width of the stick.  This is where you will put the end of the stick along with the tinder that will get your fire going.

The next step is to make a crossbar that will be used as a handle as well as an anchor to hold the cordage that will create the spinning later.  Choose a branch that is around a foot long and two inches thick.  You can improvise on the specific dimensions as you go, but this should give you enough leverage and support to direct the forces and friction efficiently.  Bore a hole through the center of the handle so it can also fit over the long stick of softwood.

Next, cut a hole through softwood near the top that is wide enough to feed cordage through.  Take a three to four foot long piece of cordage and insert in the hole until half of it rests on either side of the stick.  Then, attach each end to the handle.  You can either tie it off or drill holes through either end of the handle, feed the cordage and tie off with knots. 

Using the Fire Drill

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Attach the cordage to the handle and place it through the stick before adding the flywheel.  Place the end of the stick through the hole in the baseboard and place this above the tinder.  Make sure that you are working on a firm surface to reduce the chances of the stick slipping as you exert downward force.  Wind up the handle so the cordage is wrapped around the upper part of the stick.  Press down on the handle and the string should release and cause the flywheel and stick to spin rapidly.  If you do this correctly, the string will rewind automatically and all you need to do is push up and down gently on the handle to keep the drill spinning.

Consider either rounding off the bottom of the stick or adding some rock to the end of the stick.  The rock will create more friction and help to get your fire going faster.  Find a piece of rock that is around the same diameter of the stick and secure it to the end with cordage. 

All you need to do now is press down on the handle until the fire starts.  Nothing could be easier, and you will exert minimal energy and avoid getting blisters or cut from using other traditional fire-starting methods.  The trick to using this approach is to make the unit ahead of time and deploy it as necessary.  However, it is definitely worth the effort, and you should consider including it in your arsenal of emergency fire-starting resources.