Friends, food and fire

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a weekend in the woods last weekend with Stuart, Dave, Mike and Ollie.

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After we had set up camp, collected firewood and made a fire,  Stuart cooked some soap and bannock bread for our lunch.

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We soon learned that  Hornbean (Carpinus betulus) is certainly not a good wood to burn as it burns slowly and gives out very little heat.  Instead we collected some Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and Birch which had been felled as part of the coppice management of the site.

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After lunch I “tapped” a Birch tree to obtain some sap.  After about 5 hours we had enough sap for a cup full each.

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Ollie and Mike were cooking our evening meal and had brought along a joint of pork to cook in a dutch oven.  We experimented with making a “dakota firehole” to create embers, heat the dutch oven and cook the pork and I must say that it worked very well.  In the picture below the angled airhole is facing forward.

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Once our meal was cooking I spent some time teaching friction firelighting with the bow-drill

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At about 7pm the pork was cooked as were the foil parcels of vegetables and the cider gravy.

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here is the sliced pork joint which had been basted with honey.

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After a good nights sleep, it was Dave’s turn to cook breakfast.

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Bacon, tomatos, baked beans, omlet and something I really enjoyed….eggy bread style crumpets.

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Once breakfast was completed we had another session with the bow-drill and everyone achieved a good ember and produced flame.  I also demonstrated other firelighting methods including fire -by-condom!  I cooked pasties for our lunch

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and by mid afternoon it was time to break camp and head for home.

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Green woodworking group gathering

It was the monthly gathering of our green woodworking group again today. The day started very well with me being given an old picture of a Finnish Skolt Lapp woman making cordage out of Reindeer sinew, by rolling it on her cheek. This is a method I have never encountered before.

If you look closely at the picture you can actually see the cordage the cordage vibrating as she rolls it.

Then I was asked to make a fire in a creative way, so decided to see whether the winter sun was strong enough to make fire using a condom and crampball fungus (as mentioned here). My friend filmed this piece of film for me and if you look carefully you can see the smoke starting to appear as the fungus is ignited.

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This is my friend Will, turning out a Alder bowl on his pole lathe.

and here the children are also learning to use a pole lathe.

Everyone enjoyed the day, especially with the beautiful spring-like weather.

Reflector fire

Referring back to my post on making a whistle, the base of the drinks can, can of course be polished to a mirror finish and because of it’s parabolic shape can be used to make fire. Point the can base at the sun and hold a piece of tinder such as fungus, in front of the reflector and adjust the fungus until you find the focal point of the reflected sunlight. The fungus will ignite instantly as you can see below.

Personally I prefer to use the reflector of my torch as it’s something I carry with me all the time, and like the base of the drinks can it is also parabolic shaped. Even a small torch reflector from a Maglite torch, works incredibly well and needs no polishing.


Place a small piece of fungus on the end of a thin twig and hold in front of the reflector and adjust to find the focal point and it will ignite instantly.

Making fire with a condom

While teaching fire craft at the World Scout Jamboree earlier this year, the most popular method of firelighting proved to be fire by condom.


Basically you put some water into a condom and tie the end. Then you manipulate the condom to form a lens shape.


Once you get the shape correct the result is instant. Personally I favour Crampball Fungus for this method of firelighting.

I’ve just found this video which demonstrates the method rather well.