Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cotton Ball Fire Starter

You’ve probably heard it on TV — Fire is Life.

Well, in a survival situation, having a fire is way better than not having one. So let’s talk about how to make sure you are successful when you try to start a fire.

One of the easiest ways to guarantee success is to have some kind of Super Fire Starter. The function of a Super Fire Starter is to catch the spark from your flint and steel set, or catch the flame from your lighter, and then create a hot, long-lasting blaze that will ignite the kindling and then the fuel wood so you can have a good campfire.

You can go out and spend your money to buy fire starters from a sporting goods store, or you can make them yourself. I’m going to tell you how to make your own at home, and the cost is next to nothing.

It’s simple. Light a candle and drip some melted wax into a cotton ball. Before the wax cools and solidifies, press the cotton ball and wax together until you end up with a waxy pellet about the size of a large marble.

Make several, and stow them in a zip-lock baggie. Stuff this in your pocket along with your lighter or striker whenever you go hiking or camping, hunting or fishing.

You might ask why not use just a plain cotton ball? Well, you can do that. A regular cotton ball catches a spark very well and leaps into a vigorous flame. But without the wax, it burns out very quickly. The waxed cotton ball behaves similar to a candle. When a candle burns, the wax provides the primary fuel for the flame, while the wick burns very slowly and lasts a long time. It’s the same thing with a waxed cotton ball — the wax fuels the flame and it burns for a long time, so the cotton ball itself doesn’t get consumed too quickly.

I did a test to compare the burn time of a plain cotton ball against the burn time of a waxed cotton ball. The regular cotton ball caught fire and burned briskly right off the bat, but it wasn’t long before the size of the ball got smaller and smaller, and the fire went out after 1 minute and 3 seconds.

The waxed cotton ball caught fire a little more gently at first, because the fuzziness of the ball was hidden by the wax coating. But as the wax ignited, the flame was at least twice as vigorous as the plain cotton ball. And it continued to burn with the same intensity right up until the end. The waxed cotton ball stayed ignited for a full 5 minutes 42 seconds.

Out in the woods on a cold, dark, perhaps rainy night, you need all the fire-starting power you can get, because it’s tough getting a campfire started under those conditions. I recommend having a few waxed cotton balls tucked into your pocket, alongside your lighter. They’re cheap, easy to make, and they just might be a lifesaver.

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