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How To Make A Fire With A Knife

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Outdoors during bad weather? A knife gives you the ability to start a fire in otherwise impossible conditions. Starting a fire like this every time is great survival practice.

Tools: A fixed-blade survival knife or very strong folding knife . A ferro rod or similar unbreakable, inexhaustible, weatherproof fire-starting material. Pre-made tinder. Wood for the fire.


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Step 1: Find Useable Wood. Even in the most dire weather, you'll be able to find dry wood inside upright, dead branches and trees. Pull or cut those down and chop or break them into useable lengths. If you need to "chop" wood with a knife, place it against the log you want to cut and whack the back of the knife with an forearm-sized piece of wood. Do this in the same "V" shape you'd make if you had an axe and you'll be through in no time.

Step 2: Split The Wood. You want to get to the dry wood inside a log, right? Well, you'll need to split that log open and into smaller pieces, exposing as much of that dry wood as possible. Hold a log upright, place the knife across it taking advantage of any pre-existing splits or cracks and again, whack that knife with that forearm-sized wood baton. A knife is shaped like a wedge for a reason.

The real trick here is to apply equal pressure to both ends of the knife. You'll need to push the handle down as hard as you're hitting the tip with the baton. Takes a little practice to get it right, but it's a remarkably easy method once you've got it down.

Step 3: Make Kindling. You'll want some very thin pieces of that dry wood, some finger size pieces of it and some wrist size pieces. Again, all with exposed, dry wood.


Step 4: Arrange Your Fire. Grab a limb or log that's a few inches high (depending on conditions and surface) and use it as a backstop both to block any wind and give you a foundation to build the fire on. The idea is to create some air gap between whatever tinder you're using and the kindling, so you don't suffocate the fire early on. Pile the kindling, ready to go, off to one side where you can easily grab it.


Step 5: Spark Your Tinder. Use a Vaseline-soaked cotton ball (make them by the sandwich bag by stuffing cotton balls and Vaseline in, sealing it and mixing them around) or some very fine, very dry bark shavings or similar found material. Hold your ferro rod in one hand and the knife in the other. Hold the knife still while pulling the ferro rod backwards, scraping it against the knife's cutting edge. If your ferro rod is new, it may take a couple swipes to scrape off the coating in the area you're using before it shoots sparks. But it will and those sparks are incredibly, incredibly hot. Provided your tinder is dry and of fine enough dimensions, it'll catch.

Step 6: Slowly Add Wood. Once you've got a nice little flame off your tinder, begin arranging the smallest pieces of kindling you've got in such a way that the flame is hitting their narrowest sides, with plenty of room for the fire to breathe. As those catch, do the same with more of that same size until you've got a slightly larger blaze, then slowly scale the wood in size until you've got a sustainable fire going. As you practice this, you'll develop a feel for how much wood you can add how quickly without snuffing out the fire. It may help to blow into the heart of the fire at this point, adding oxygen. A slow, steady breath is best, you don't want to scatter the fire materials or blow out your newborn fire.


Safety: In all but a genuine emergency, only make a fire where one is permitted. Have water or a shovel on hand to extinguish the fire should it get out of control. Keep hair and clothing away from the flames. Clear an area around the fire of any inflammable materials out to a radius of 10 feet or so. Knives are sharp, by using a baton, you can avoid swinging one.


Practice with this method every time you start a campfire and you'll have the skill polished should you ever need to rely on it in a genuine emergency. Don't be caught unawares, always carry the tools necessary to make a fire when you're in the outdoors.

Photo and Video: Chris Brinlee Jr

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