On Discovering Self

"Walk in Peace... Learn from Nature... Find Yourself...

Monday, November 21, 2011

On the Subject of Firecraft

   So yesterday, I woke up, looked at the digital weather station hanging on the wall next to my bed, and the outdoor thermometer said "16° F" and I just knew I wanted to got to the woodlands. It would be brisk, and I would have to bring the right gear, but it would be a perfect day to work on Firecraft. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am a member of BushcraftUSA and I am working on the Bushclass requirements for the online classes found on their forum website. One of the requirements is "Student Practice for Feather Sticks and Shavings" which requires you to post a picture of your practice, which is a hat or cap full of shavings. But first, I need to get out to the wilderness. I decided to do some more "One Stick Fire" practice, as this is a good skill to keep well practiced for those rainy days or snow days. More after the jump.

I knew that things might prove to be a little challenging as it had snowed the day before. It was such a cold and crisp day, but I enjoyed the hike out to one of my favorite riverside spots. I have a debris shelter lean-to setup and a fire pit and it would be a perfect spot to practice firecraft. As I hiked out there, I practiced following animal tracks in the snow. It was a perfect day for it and there were rabbit, squirrel, fox, racoon and deer tracks all over the place. Very easy to see the rabbit trail runs to setup simple snares if you needed to. There was also one set of human and dog tracks that I decided to follow for as far as I needed to, just for the practice. These tracks took me nearly all the way to the cut off into the woods that would take me to the river site. Once I was there, I set to work finding a piece of dead wood. To build a fire is just that, you have to set to work "building" the fire. It takes a little time, but is a sure method for getting it started in nearly any kind of conditions. For a "One Stick Fire", you only have to find one good piece of wood. Find a dead limb or tree off the ground and vertical and as dry as possible. This can be a challenge in winter, as green limbs can appear as dry. Cut a piece about the length from your finger tips to your elbow or a little more, and about as round as your fist or a little larger. Split this with your bushcraft knife and the baton method into sizes that are "thumb sized" and "pencil size" and finally "pencil lead size". These are relative terms and you just need to get close. Then using some of the thumb sized pieces, shave off some good, curly shavings. Sounds simple? Well, it took me a while, but I got the job done. Then I had to fill my hat, which for me is a rather large Tilley TWC5.
   Next it was time to enjoy the fruits of my labors.
I laid down a good base layer, which can be anything such as a piece of bark, a row of sticks, even a flat stone large enough to keep you shavings and tinder off the wet or snowy ground. Next to this I laid a small log to act as a prop to lay my kindling on. This keeps the kindling from crushing the shavings and allows air to surround the shavings and tinder so that it ignites quickly. Next I laid down my tinder, in this case some cotton balls, and on top of that I laid on my shavings. I then sparked off the cotton with my trusty firesteel and added the "pencil lead sized" followed by the "pencil sized" kindling and lastly the "thumb sized" kindling.

 Finally, it was time to put the water on for tea and this made the whole process worth it as it came to a boil in a very short time. It felt good to have some heat and a fire to warm up to. By this time, it was getting very near the time I would have to start heading back, but I was very happy to have this requirement completed for my bushclass. I of course had to take pictures of the whole process and that led to giving me a good story to post here on the blog. I hope you enjoyed the adventure, as fire building and firecraft are one of the most important things to master in bushcraft. If mastered, you will be able to boil water for safe drinking, help to regulate your body core temperature, cook food and signal for help in distress and many, many other purposes.
   I would like to encourage you to continue practicing your own brand of firecraft and learn all about man-made tinders, natural tinders and fire starting methods. As I go forward with more of the bushclass requirements, I will try to post some of the results here and maybe it will be just enough to peak your interest in joining BushcraftUSA and the Bushclass courses that are offered. It is a great way to learn and polish your skills, even if you have been doing these things for a long time.
   In the end, it was a great day for fire building, getting into the wilderness and enjoying the newly fallen snow and finding the peace that is always out there in the world of bushcraft. Happy exploring.

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