Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

Starting a fire with traditional quartz and steel

Before you can make fire with traditional quartz and steel you first need to add some tinder that will catch a spark when you strike the steel against the quartz or the other way around. Some ideas for tinder is amadou which is from bracket fungus and it grows at the base of trees dead and alive. It is also called the horses hoof fungus. Punk or fat wood are good for tinder because they are dry rotten wood that usually have ants nests inside. Anything charred like cloth, wood and amadou are great to use as tinder for flint and steel. But to have charred tinder you must first have a fire. To char the punk for example you would either chuck it in the fire and watch it turn black then bury it to put it out. Or if you have a tin, put the punk inside then place the tin in the embers and wait for 10-15 minutes while it cooks. Take it out of the fire and here you will have excellent tinder for quartz and steel fire lighting.

When using any traditional steel and rock combination for making fire, the stone has to have a razor sharp edge for maximum sparks when striken. To get the sharp edge if not already you can do what is called knapping, which is when you have the piece of quartz or flint and you hit it with something hard and with some force like a rock and then a shattered piece will come off, usually leaving a sharp edge. The first nations used this method to make arrow heads and other tools.

The history of making fire in this way goes back to the age when they first had iron and steel, it was used always in the medieval period in homes to start their fire to cook upon. It was used by the legendary mountain men who explored and trapped their way across North America. And it was for this last part of history that first made me fascinated with making fire in this way.

The match would take its place but it has endured through many ages of men and is still popular today.

Once you have your sharp edge you need your steel to strike it. You can use the back of your knife also but there are many traditional steels from around the world.

If you are using the back of your knife then the way to hold it is to pinch it in the middle of the blade with your thumb and 2 fingers. You hold the other steels in this way.

Now for the sparks, you can make sparks fly up or down depending on what you strike on what. For example if you strike the quartz with the steel then the sparks go up. If you strike the steel with the quartz then the sparks will shower down. This last method of making the sparks fly down you would have a tinder box filled with tinder such as charred punk to catch the spark. The other way of striking the quartz with the steel you would place some tinder on top of the quartz right on the edge of where you are striking and hold this tinder in place with your thumb.

The striking action is a flick of the wrist with the striker. The quartz with your tinder on top is being held still. You do a fast confident strike down and only grazing the quartz. This is enough to send sparks flying and usually if the tinder is good, one strike will do.

You have to practice this motion because some people tend to catch the stone too square on and big chunks of quartz are now flying which is like knapping. When you get the rythm you can strike up and down in a fluid motion.

Once you have the spark land on the charred punk you must now gently blow on this small ember to make it grow. Here you can transfer the ember onto some amadou to make sure you will still have an ember when you mess up the punk. You now need to make the ember bigger so you will use birch bark, more punk, dryed grass and many other things to turn the ember on the punk into flame. You create a birds nest of dryed grass and with the glowing punk in this nest you gentle blow which will make it get hotter and spread eventually onto the dryed grass. You can wave it around to help with heating it up. The flame is there and now you build the fire up starting with tooth pick size twigs until the fire is hot enough to use logs.

Chilcotin Holidays

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