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How to make char cloth

Char-Cloth making is very useful skill to have in regards to making fire, with a spark you can create fire. With a small piece of char-cloth and a spark it will start to glow red and get very hot.

I do hope you enjoy these and please make sure you check out my other articles here. Also with that if you are into Bushcraft or would like to see a little more on what I teach then please check my Instagram page Capsos_Bushcraft.

A big thank goes to Capsos for sharing his work with us.

Step 1: CHAR-CLOTH

How to Make Char Cloth

Tinder Bundle – “A large amount of flammable material (Dried fern leaves, Silver birch bark, or many other things) in the shape of a bird’s nest with a indentation in the center that takes the char-cloth, once the char-cloth is in the center of the tinder bundle, cup the tinder bundle in your hands and slowly blow into the bundle.

WARNING THIS WILL BECOME VERY HOT AND SHOULD BURST INTO A FLAME.

Step 2: SAFETY

How to Make Char Cloth

ALL ACTIONS AND INJURIES CAUSED WHEN DOING THIS PROJECT IS DOWN TO YOURSELF AND I HOLD NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURIES YOU INCUR.

Step 3: WHAT YOU NEED

How to Make Char Cloth

With this one you will need the following,

A tin “I tend to use a old tobacco tin”.
Some old fabric either 100% cotton or denim.
A heat source (either a campfire or wood burner).
A small stick.
A knife
A small screwdriver.
Fire-Proof gloves

Step 4: PREPPING

With the knife or screwdriver put a small hole into the lid of the tin you plan to use.

Now find a living green stick and sharpen the tip to a point to wedge into the hole and make sure it won’t easily fall when the tin is being moved.

Step 5: THE FABRIC

With this you need to remember not to pack the tin with too much fabric otherwise it may not fully work due to density.

Cut you selected fabric up to fit inside your tin, Making sure you don’t include any buttons, zips or any other things that may cause problems.

Now fill your tin to about 3/4 the way up without squashing it flat.

Now replace the lid.

Step 6: YOUR FIRE

Now get your fire nice and hot,

Put your Fire-Proof Gloves on and place your tin into the flames / embers “Without stick in lid but keep to hand”

Step 7: SMOKE JET

After a while on the fire depending on the amount of fabric in the tin you will start to see a jet of smoke coming out of the hole in the top of the tin.

Step 8: GAS IGNITION

Keep an eye on it once it starts to smoke and on the occasion the smoke might catch fire and become a jet flame. Leave this as it is the gasses burning off.

Step 9: FINISHED

Once the flame dies down and disappears leave it for another min or two.

Add the stick to the hole in the lid (This has to be done on or near the fire asap as if the air gets to it the whole lot might just auto ignite)

Now again with your gloves move the tin off the flames and to a place to cool down (Remembering to keep that stick in till the tin is cold)

Step 10: COOLING DOWN

Now whilst you wait for this tin to cool down why not use the heat to make a cup of tea or some home hot lunch.

Step 11: FINISHED ITEM

If yours looks close to this when the lid is removed and is very easy to tear, I would then say it seems like you have made your first batch of Char-Cloth….. Congratulations

Step 13: Ignition

This is how it should look once ignited with a spark and blown on gently.

To make a spark that can light a fire, all you need is flint, tinder, and some good old fashioned friction. It’s a fire-making method that’s been around for thousands of years. But sparks are tiny, delicate things, so if you want to turn one into a roaring flame, you have to be deliberate about it. Directing a spark onto a pile of kindling won’t do much; even placing one into a pile of small, thin tinder may not set it aflame, especially if it’s damp. Thus, the best thing to do is to catch your spark in something slow-burning, but highly combustible, which can then light your tinder, which can then ignite your kindling, which can in turn set your larger logs ablaze. Going from spark to fire is all about working in deliberate stages.

What’s your best bet for successfully initiating the first step in the process? Char cloth. Today we’ll tell you what it is and the simple method of making a supply of your own.

What Is Char Cloth?

Char cloth has been used to make fires for centuries, and for good reason — it’s lightweight, compact, easy to make, and highly effective in igniting tinder.

Char cloth is created through a process of pyrolysis, which Wikipedia tells us is the “thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperature in the absence of oxygen.” Basically, char cloth is created by combusting an organic material in a way that releases its gasses without burning it up completely.

The resulting substance has a low ignition temperature — just a single spark or point of heat can start it burning. What can be used as the source of that heat? An empty lighter, flint and steel, firesteel, a lens, even a condom can do the trick (see this article for more ways to make a fire without matches). Once the char cloth has been set off, it will ignite your tinder easier than had you employed the original spark/heat source directly to it. Char cloth smolders longer than a match, making it advantageous in getting slightly damp tinder going, and while matches can fail on a windy day, a sturdy breeze can actually help get a spark-ignited piece of char cloth going.

Char cloth can thus be a life-saver in survival situations and makes an excellent addition to one’s camping supplies or bug out bag. And outside its fire-making benefits, making some is actually a pretty fun little science experiment!

How to Make Char Cloth

Supplies Needed:

  • Sealable tin can. An empty, clean shoe polish can, Altoids tin, metal Band-Aid can (do they still make those?), etc. To make a larger batch of char cloth, you can use a coffee can sealed with foil on the top.
  • 100% cotton material. An old t-shirt, pair of jeans, handkerchief, canvas, etc. Fabrics that contain artificial fibers will not result in a combustible material, so make sure it’s 100% cotton. Other organic materials like burlap can work too.
  • Scissors
  • Nail, or other puncturing tool

Step 1: To ensure complete, uniform charring, cut your cotton material into strips/pieces that can be placed into your can without their being rolled or folded up.

Step 2: Make a small hole in the top of your can with a nail or other tool. The hole will allow the smoke/gasses out of the can. You don’t want the hole too big, as this will let oxygen into the can, causing the cloth to burn.

Step 3: Seal the container and place it on a small fire or a bed of coals. Smoke should escape from the hole in the can. If flames appear around it, that’s okay. Watch the can, and once it has stopped smoking, turn it over. It will begin to smoke again. Once this smoke has stopped, remove the can from the fire.

Step 4: Inspect your char cloth. It should have turned black but not become ash, and feel semi-rigid without being brittle.

Step 5: Separate the pieces to give them a little air, and then either store them in the charred can (wipe off the soot and peeling paint) or in something more compact, like an old film canister (do they make those anymore either?).

Making Fire With Your Char Cloth

When a piece of char cloth catches a spark, it easily burns, but it doesn’t flame up. So you can’t put it right into a bunch of kindling. Instead, you want to place it a tinder bundle. A tinder bundle can be made from all sorts of fibrous and fluffy materials such as dried grasses, lichens, seed heads, and the bark shavings of cedar, birch, poplar, aspen, and cottonwood trees. Shred your material up into stringy fibers and then work them into a nest shape that’s about the size of a softball. You don’t want to pack your nest too tightly; allow room for airflow.

If you’re using flint and steel to make your spark, hold the flint in your left hand and your steel striker in your right. Hold a piece of char cloth between your flint and your thumb. You can also put your char cloth directly onto your tinder nest, and direct your sparks onto it.

Here I’m using a handy firesteel rod to light my char cloth.

Once you light your char cloth, place it in the center of your tinder nest and gently fold the sides of the bundle towards the smoldering char cloth so they touch it.

Blow on the char cloth until your nest flames up.

Place your burning tinder bundle under a teepee of twigs, and you’ll soon have a roaring fire!

Introduction: How to Make Char-Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

Hi and welcome to another Instructable by me Capsos.

I do hope you enjoy these and please make sure you check out my other Instructables on here, Also with that if you are into Bushcraft or would like to see a little more on what I teach then please check my Instagram page Capsos_Bushcraft Have a brilliant day and please like this and leave a comment below. Thankyou

Step 1: CHAR-CLOTH

Char-Cloth making is very useful skill to have in regards to making fire, with a spark you can create fire ! with a small peace char-cloth and a spark it will start to glow red and get very hot.

Put this into a tinder bundle

Tinder Bundle – “A large amount of flammable material (Dried fern leaves, Silver birch bark, or many other things) in the shape of a bird’s nest with a indentation in the center that takes the char-cloth, once the char-cloth is in the center of the tinder bundle, cup the tinder bundle in your hands and slowly blow into the bundle.

WARNING THIS WILL BECOME VERY HOT AND SHOULD BURST INTO A FLAME.

Step 2: SAFETY

ALL ACTIONS AND INJURIES CAUSED WHEN DOING THIS PROJECT IS DOWN TO YOURSELF AND I HOLD NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURIES YOU INCUR.

Step 3: WHAT YOU NEED

With this one you will need the following,

  • A tin “I tend to use a old tobacco tin”.
  • Some old fabric either 100% cotton or denim.
  • A heat source (either a campfire or wood burner).
  • A small stick.
  • A knife
  • A small screwdriver.
  • Fire-Proof gloves

Step 4: PREPPING

With the knife or screwdriver put a small hole into the lid of the tin you plan to use.

Now find a living green stick and sharpen the tip to a point to wedge into the hole and make sure it won’t easily fall when the tin is being moved.

Step 5: THE FABRIC

With this you need to remember not to pack the tin with too much fabric otherwise it may not fully work due to density.

Cut you selected fabric up to fit inside your tin, Making sure you don’t include any buttons, zips or any other things that may cause problems.

Now fill your tin to about 3/4 the way up without squashing it flat.

Now replace the lid.

Step 6: YOUR FIRE

Now get your fire nice and hot,

Put your Fire-Proof Gloves on and place your tin into the flames / embers “Without stick in lid but keep to hand”

Step 7: SMOKE JET

After a while on the fire depending on the amount of fabric in the tin you will start to see a jet of smoke coming out of the hole in the top of the tin.

Step 8: GAS IGNITION

Keep an eye on it once it starts to smoke and on the occasion the smoke might catch fire and become a jet flame. Leave this as it is the gasses burning off.

Step 9: FINISHED

Once the flame dies down and disappears leave it for another min or two.

Add the stick to the hole in the lid (This has to be done on or near the fire asap as if the air gets to it the whole lot might just auto ignite)

Now again with your gloves move the tin off the flames and to a place to cool down (Remembering to keep that stick in till the tin is cold)

Step 10: COOLING DOWN

Now whilst you wait for this tin to cool down why not use the heat to make a cup of tea or some home hot lunch.

Step 11: FINISHED ITEM

If yours looks close to this when the lid is removed and is very easy to tear, I would then say it seems like you have made your first batch of Char-Cloth. Congratulations

Step 12: Movie

Apologies for the movement i was trying to hold a phone and my Ferrocerium Rod in the same hand.

Step 13: Ignition

This is how it should look once ignited with a spark and blown on gently.

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Introduction: Char-cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

in this instructable I wil show you how to make char cloth, char cloth is the product of having the oxygen and hydrogen taken out of the cloth making it pure carbon which does not burn with a flame, it burns as an ember and is very easy to catch on fire, it usually takes about five sparks to start it up, or sooner if you have a magnifying glass

Things you will need:

100% cotton cloth

a tin with a hole in the lid

a pair of tongs

Step 1: Find the Cloth

most people think you need 100% cotton but that is not true, any organic fiber will do, that’s how people make lump wood coal, but I do admit that 100% cotton is the easiest to use, you can find it in most t-shirts

Step 2: Get the Tin

find a tin that is air tight with a lid (ex. a paint can), once you have one, poke a hole in the top about 2 to 3 mm. wide make it small but not to small, the hole will act as an escape for the gasses to burn off in the fire creating a vacuum inside the tin

Step 3: Cut the Cloth

cut the cloth to your desired length, make sure it fits in the tin.

Step 4: Place the Cloth

place the cloth inside the tin as best you can, don’t over pack it because if you do you will have a difficult time getting the cloth out later

Step 5: Tongs

make sure you have something to get the tin out of the fire with safely

Step 6: Start Up Your Fire

once you are ready go ahead and start the fire place the tin inside where it wont get knocked over

Step 7: Inside the Fire

once inside the fire after a minute or two, you will notice some smoke and maybe a flame, don’t be alarmed, that means its working and the gasses are burning off, once you see that there is no more smoke or fire coming out of the tin then it is ready to be taken out and placed aside.

Step 8: Place Aside

have a place ready to put the tin, it will be very hot so use the tongs to move it, do not remove the lid right away or it might be ruined, because if a ember is in there when you open the lid the oxygen will rush back in and burn the cloth, so let it cool for 15 minutes with the lid on

Step 9: Once Cooled

once it is cooled and you can touch it you may remove the lid, be careful because the cloth is very fragile, so gently remove the cloth from inside the tin.

Step 10: Once Its Out

once it is removed take a small piece of the cloth and light it with a match, if it burns with am ember and there is no fire then you have done it right

this project is dangerous and involves fire, I am not responsible for anything that may happen, this is for educational purposes only

If you make this project please post a picture and show others how you made it, and feel free to expand on this idea I would love to see your ideas, and we can learn from each other and always be safe.

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Learning how to make char cloth at your house is pretty simple. Using just a few common household supplies, you can make a material that ignites easily with just a small spark.

Char cloth is a great addition to any survival kit. Seal it up in a ziplock baggie and place it with your preferred fire starter and you’ll be prepared to light a fire when you need it the most.

Why should you use char cloth to light tinder?

A lot of tinder won’t light with just a single spark from a magnesium fire starter or flint and steel.

Unless you have a really dry tinder bundle made from very fine materials, you may have trouble starting a fire.

Since char cloth will light with a small spark, you simply light the char cloth then use that to ignite the tinder bundle.

Once your tinder is lit you can slowly add larger fuel to the fire. So basically, char cloth makes lighting a fire easier and it’s more reliable than using a tinder bundle by itself.

What Is Char Cloth Made From?

Char cloth is an organic material that has been heated up inside a container without oxygen. The lack of oxygen allows gasses from the material to escape without the material actually catching on fire or combusting.

The process is known as pyrolysis, which is a type of thermolysis. Charcoal, a popular grilling fuel is made the same way.

Although you can make char cloth from a variety of different materials, cotton works the best. Blue jeans, wood and other fibers can be used but an old cotton T-shirt is my favorite.

How To Make Char Cloth

To learn how to make char cloth, the first item you’ll need is some type of tin container. An Altoids tin works perfect but you can also use a soup can or something similar, just make sure it’s clean and you have a way to seal it off.

To begin, take a cotton shirt and cut it into several small square pieces. The sizes don’t have to be exact. roughly a 2 or 3 inch square will work.

How to Make Char Cloth

For the best results, only use about 3-5 squares of cotton at one time. It may take a little longer if you need to make a lot of char cloth but it turns out better if you don’t overload the tin.

How to Make Char Cloth

Next, take the tin and poke a small hole in the top. I used a roofing nail which worked really good but any nail, punch, or small drill bit will work.

Don’t make the hole to big. You want the hole just big enough to allow the gasses to escape. A large hole could allow oxygen to enter the tin which will ignite the cotton and ruin your char cloth.

How to Make Char Cloth

Now take the cotton squares and place them inside the tin. I put 4 squares into the tin.

How to Make Char Cloth

Take the tin outdoors and place it over a camp stove, canister stove, campfire or other fire source that will supply a small amount of heat. Since you don’t want to inhale the gases, it’s important to do this step outside, plus it smells pretty bad.

I used the small exterior burner on our barbecue grill which worked great.

How to Make Char Cloth

You’ll want to place your heat source on its lowest setting. If you’re doing this over a fire, allow the fire to burn down so only coals are remaining. If the heat source is too hot it could ignite the cotton.

After about 2 minutes you should start to see smoke coming out of the tin. If you see the smoke starting to light on fire you need to turn down the heat. A nice slow steady stream of smoke is what you’re looking for.

How to Make Char Cloth

After about 20-30 minutes the smoke will stop and the char cloth is done. The total amount of time it takes over the fire depends on your heat source, the tin and the amount of material inside. This batch cooked for 20 minutes.

Just keep it over the fire until it stops smoking and you’ll have good results. For thicker items like blue jeans it will take longer.

When the char cloth is done, let the tin cool completely before you open it up. This prevents two things. First, you don’t want to burn yourself. Second, if you allow oxygen to enter the hot char cloth it could ignite which will ruin the whole process.

How to Make Char Cloth

Once the tin is cooled, open it up and inspect the finished product! You’ll notice the tin has changed color but you can use it over and over again.

How to Make Char Cloth

You should be able to handle the char cloth without it breaking apart, however, it’s somewhat fragile.

How to Make Char Cloth

This picture shows the char cloth burning after I lit it with only one strike from a ferrocerium fire starter.

To protect the char cloth from moisture, store it in a sealed ziplock baggie or other watertight container.

Overall – How To Make Charcloth

Learning how to make char cloth is a fun and easy project you can do right at home.

With just a few simple supplies you can make a great fire starter to put into your survival kit so it’s ready when you need it.

How to Make Char Cloth

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There are many reasons as to why fire is an essential part of our survival. The most obvious being warmth and the ability to boil water. But there are so many more benefits than just these.

Benefits of Fire

Some of the best benefits that come with the ability to start a fire include:

    Warmth – in a survival situation, fire can give you the needed warmth until help arrives. Light – a fire can provide you with enough light to carry out any important tasks. Purification – we can never be completely sure that any given source of water is completely safe to drink. Fire will provide you with the chance to boil your water to make it safe. Signal – the ability to get a good fire going can get you rescued. If you are in need of rescue, create a set of three fires which is the universal sign that you need help. Keep predators and insects away – a fire scares most wild creatures and will keep them at a safe distance. Cooking – pretty self-explanatory and cooking over a fire is often simple enough. Morale – starting a fire makes you feel good and it should. It gives you all those great benefits which significantly increases your chance of survival. It makes you comfortable and helps you feel safe and secure.

That being said, fire can be tricky without the right equipment, even more so if you are in a situation in which you are panicking. This is one of the biggest reasons that it is advised that you pack multiple ways of starting a fire in your bag.

One item that should definitely not be overlooked is char cloth. It’s very lightweight, can be made at home, and catches a spark with ease. Check out the video below by the King of Random.

If you believe that a fire is easily done by just directing some sparks to a pile of tinder, then good luck. It isn’t as easy as they make it look in the movies but this is where char cloth comes into play.

What is Char Cloth?

Char cloth is created by combusting an organic material in a way that releases its gasses without burning it up completely. What you are left with has a low ignition temperature — just a single spark or point of heat can start it burning. This can then be added to your tinder to get your fire going.

What You Need to Make Char Cloth

    Sealable tin can – altoids tins work perfectly but any tin will do. 100% cotton – An old t-shirt, pair of jeans, handkerchief, etc. Make sure that it is 100% cotton though. ScissorsSharp tool – to puncture the tin

How to Make Char Cloth

Start off by cutting your material into small enough pieces that they can fit inside your tin without being rolled up. Place as many as you like inside.

Grab your sharp tool and puncture the lid of the tin. This hole will allow the smoke/gasses out of the tin. Be careful not to make the hole too big as this will let oxygen into the tin, causing the cloth to burn rather than char.

Close the lid and place it on a small fire or a bed of coals. You should start to see smoke escaping from the hole in the lid. If flames appear around it, that’s okay.

Once there is no more smoke being released, turn it over. It will begin to smoke again. Once this smoke has stopped, remove the can from the fire.

The cloth inside should now be black and be semi-rigid. Separate the pieces to let them air for a while before storing them away.

How to Use Char Cloth

It is important to understand that when your char cloth catches a spark, it easily burns, but it shouldn’t flame up. So you can’t put it right into a bunch of kindling.

You instead want to place it into a tinder bundle made from any fibrous and fluffy materials such as dried grasses, lichens, seed heads, and the bark shavings of cedar, birch, poplar, aspen, and cottonwood trees.

Shred your tinder up into stringy fibers and then work them into a nest shape that’s about the size of a softball. You don’t want to pack your nest too tightly or you will restrict the airflow.

If you’re using flint and steel to make your spark, hold the flint in your left hand and your steel striker in your right. Hold a piece of char cloth between your flint and your thumb. You can also put your char cloth directly onto your tinder nest, and direct your sparks onto it.

Gently start to fold the sides of the bundle towards the smoldering char cloth so they touch it, blowing on the char cloth until the tinder flames up.

Let us know in the comments if you have made and used char cloth and share your experience and tips with our readers.

Where the Past Comes Alive

As mentioned in an earlier post, the ability to control fire is the most essential and fundamental skill in human history. It is the bedrock for all the accomplishments that come after. One of the primitive or traditional skills growing in popularity today is learning how to start a fire. Many methods exist for starting a fire without a flame. Using char cloth combined with a flint and steel striker has to be one of the most popular methods today, and was popular as a traditional fire starter as well.

The history of char cloth is fuzzy at best. Its story was not recorded in the past, so we really have no idea how long it has been around for. We do know it was a very popular ways to start fires in the past in such periods as medieval Europe, the Vikings cultural height, and was the most popular way of starting fire much later for the mountain men.

One skill all these people would have understood was how to make char cloth.

Here are the steps you need to know to make char cloth.

First off to make char cloth you will need a fire going. This is the first step since it will take a few minutes to let the coals burn down, and coals are what you need.

Materials

While your fire is burning down you need to get a tin of some sort and a piece of 100% cotton.

Altoid tins are by far the most popular tins used today due to their ease of purchase. They will work perfectly, but you will need to punch a hole in the lid of the tin. This hole will allow smoke to leave the tin. Make sure the hole is not overly big though. A hole too big will result in too much oxygen being let into the tin and letting the cloth catch on fire. When you make char cloth you are basically trying to bake the cloth, and not actually catch it on fire.

Also check the tag on the cloth article to ensure it is 100% cotton.Cut the cotton into smaller pieces so they fit into the tin.

Onto the coals

Once your coals are ready and your cloth is cut and into the tin, place it in the coals. After a few minutes it will begin to smoke. That means everything is going according to plan. Continue to let your cloth bake until the smoke stops.

Remove

Once the smoke stops rolling from the tin it is ready to be removed from the fire and cooled. After several minutes you are ready to open the tin and admire your new fire starting creation.

Using char cloth is simple when you pair it with a flint and steel striking system. Flint and steel is a percussive form of fire starting in which the flint is struck to the steel and sparks are thrown. Char cloth comes into play by catching the thrown sparks. Once the spark has been caught it goes into some dry tinder and produces a fire.

Learning how to make char cloth is a very simple process, but is essential for traditional skills and understanding older ways of living.

The best fire starter in a survival situation is char cloth. It holds a flame longer than a match and once you’ve got it going it’s easy to light a bigger fire by feeding it. Plus it’s super easy to make your own so you’ll never run out. Make it and keep a tin of it in your gear and in your bug out bag. It could save your life.

Char cloth is the best fire starter. It is a slow burning cloth that’s been carbonized to give it a very low burn temperature. Char cloth holds a flame for a long time, unlike a match or a flint, which is short-lived. Once you’ve caught a spark on a piece of char cloth you can feed it with tinder to get a cooking or heating fire going, even when it’s cold and damp outside. Are you ready to learn the easy way to make the best fire starter?

While you have your wood stove going this winter. Grab an Altoids tin and some fabric scraps of cotton or linen and make a few cans of char cloth for your emergency kit. That’s all you need to make the best fire starter. And it really is that easy.

Char cloth (also called charpaper) is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature.” — Wikipedia

Char cloth is used to make a fire without matches. Char cloth will burn from a few sparks made with a flint and steel, through friction, or through a magnify glass and sunlight. And it burns for a relatively long time, giving you time to feed it with tinder, like dried grass, leaves, and bark, to get a fire going. Matches just don’t stay lit long enough outdoors to get a good fire going with the available tinder – especially when it’s damp and cold. Keep [a fire starter kit in your emergency kit and include char cloth.

What you’ll need to make char cloth:

Make your char cloth in the winter while you are heating your house with wood. To make it you’ll need an altoids tin, a nail and hammer, and several pieces of cotton from a torn flannel nighty, a t-shirt, a worn sheet, some old clothes, or even fabric scraps. Make sure the fabric is 100% cotton, linen, or hemp. It needs to be a plant fiber for the pyrolysis reaction to work. A manmade fiber will melt and a protein fiber like wool or silk won’t have the same chemical reaction.

How to Make Char Cloth

Poke a tiny hole in the top of the altoids tin with your hammer and nail. This is to let the combustion gasses escape.

Cut several pieces of cotton to fit inside the altoids tin. They can be any size from an inch square to the size of the bottom of the altoids tin. These will be the finished sizes of your char cloth. Don’t make them too small as you want them to hold the flame long enough to catch your available tinder on fire.

How to Make Char Cloth

How to make char cloth on top of your woodstove

Most instructions on the internet tell you to build a fire and put the altoids tin directly into the coals and watch the gases escape. But you need to stop the pyrolysis when you see the gases stop escaping from your tin. This is awkward if the tin is inside your firebox.

On the other hand, you can place your altoids tin on top of your wood heater or wood stove and make the char cloth on the top of your woodstove. It takes a little more time, but you aren’t in a hurry. Just put it on the back of the woodstove and keep it there until the process is finished.

How to Make Char Cloth

The gases that escape have a sweet smoky smell. Have good ventilation in the room when you do this. There isn’t enough smoke produced to actually set off a smoke alarm. (Note: if you have asthma don’t do this indoors, it could trigger a reaction).

Put your prepared tin on top of your wood stove, when you have a good fire in the fire box. After an hour or so the altoids tin heats up enough to begin the reaction. The reaction takes several hours. When it’s done you’ll have carbonized cotton squares – char cloth.

After about 4 hours, I remove the altoids tin from the stove top and let it cool and check the reaction. But don’t open the tin while it is still hot. The sudden influx of oxygen could set the contents of the tin on fire, if it’s still smoking.

How to Make Char Cloth

When I see that the bottom fabrics are dark brown, I flip the altoids tin on its lid and complete the charring on the other side. This takes about 3 or 4 more hours, depending on how hot you keep your woodstove. Periodically check for colour. You are looking for blackened fabric throughout. If it is black in the centre but dark brown to tan on the edges you need to cook it for a little bit longer.

How to Make Char Cloth

When you are finished, transfer the char cloth to a new altoids tin and put it in your 72 hour kit bag with a fire flint, and some tinder. I put dryer lint and some post it notepads in another altoids tin for the best fire starter kit. You can also pick up packaged tinder for your emergency kit.

Use the heat from your woodstove to make the best fire starter

Over the winter, while your woodstove is going you can make quite a bit of char cloth. But use the same precautions making char cloth as you would with a lit candle. Don’t leave the house with your box of char cloth on the top of the wood stove, and don’t go to bed with it in process. I take mine off the top of the fire box overnight and put it back on in the morning, just to be on the safe side.

How to start a fire using char cloth

Use a flint and striker to catch a spark on your piece of char cloth. Feed the char cloth spark with a little dry grass, cotton fluff, or other flammable, light fuel. Once that catches fire place a bit of dry kindling on top and you’ll have fire you can feed with wood to keep it going for cooking or warmth.

Alway use fire carefully and wisely and never leave a burning flame unattended. Supervise children carefully around open flames.

Learning to start a fire without matches is an essential homestead survival skill. Char cloth is the best fire starter in these situations.

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How to Make Char ClothFor those who don’t know, char cloth is a useful tool for starting a fire. It is so flammable that you only need a few sparks to create an ember. Then you can use that to get a fire going. Of course, you can start a fire with other types of tinder, but most of them won’t catch fire as easily.

Although you can buy char cloth online, I recommend making it yourself as the materials cost very little. In this video, Sigma 3 Survival School explains how to make char cloth step by step.

How to Make Char Cloth

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cotton (from a T-shirt or anything made of cloth).
  • An empty Zippo lighter.
  • Some sticks and twigs for a small fire.

Here’s how to make it:

  1. Fold up the cotton and put it inside the Zippo.
  2. Build a small fire on top of the Zippo.
  3. Let the fire burn until there’s nothing but ash and charcoal.
  4. Let the Zippo cool off completely before you pick it up.
  5. Open it up and remove the cloth, which is now char cloth.

And that’s all there is to it! To start a fire, stick the char cloth in the top of the Zippo and turn the striker wheel. A few sparks will hit the char cloth and create an ember which you can blow into a flame.

To see exactly how this is done, watch the video below.

How to Make Char Cloth

If there were one fire-making skill I’d recommend all preppers get good at it would probably be making fire from char cloth.

It’s a great skill for truly learning and understanding how to build a fire since it prevents fire-making “laziness” — something we can easily develop in the days of lighters and matches — since it forces you to collect and use only good materials and have your skills down pat.

In addition, these skills will also help you easily translate to getting a fire going from a primitive bow-drill, hand-drill or any other friction-fire method.

And finally, if the time ever came where you really needed to get a fire going, and you had an easier fire-starting tool like a lighter (which you should carry with you anyways), it will be that much simpler.

With that long winded intro, how do you go about making charcloth anyways?

Well, that’s the focus of this post and video.

The process is super simple but first let’s start with getting some ingredients:

What You’ll Need:

  • Some metal or tin container: This could be an Altoids tin, a chew tin, or like I use an old pellet tin from my pellet gun.
  • Some plant-based material: Cotton balls, cotton makeup remover pads, even cut up pieces from an old cotton t-shirt will work great. Other materials like flax, hemp, and burlap are also great.
  • A heat source: This heat source is typically an open fire but it can also be your outdoor grill or even your indoor stove top if you need to (for which I”ll explain how to minimize the smoke so your significant other doesn’t kill you)

How to Make Charcloth

Making charcloth is a very simple process. If you’d prefer a visual demonstration, be sure to check out my video on making char cloth here:

Here’s the written description of the process:

Step 1: Step one is just to prepare your heat source if necessary. If this is an open flame than make sure it has burned down to a decent amount of coals for a coal bed. Other wise you can just use your grill or stove.

Step 2: Punch a hole in the top cover of the tin with a small nail

Step 3: Fill your tin with your cotton (or other) material and cover it up.

Step 4: Place your tin on top of the heat source

Step 5: After placing your tin on the heat source you’ll notice smoke starting to come out of the top hole. This smoke will continue until it stops at which time you’ll know the charcloth is complete.

How to Make Charcloth Indoors (without getting in trouble)

Making it indoors is the same process as above but instead of letting the smoke just bellow out of the hole and filling your kitchen and home, you can light the smoke with a flame. It will stay lit much like a candle. When that flame goes out, your charcoal is complete.

  • Posted in Fire and Energy, Wilderness Survival, Winter Survival

Copyright © 2020 Tactical Intelligence. All Rights Reserved

How to Make Char ClothWhen you’re lighting a fire with a flint and steel or other striker that makes fire from sparks, char cloth is your friend. Char cloth can make the difference between getting a fire started and just throwing sparks around. Char cloth is blackened fabric that catches a spark, starts burning, and won’t blow out until it’s burned out. It works kind of like charcoal, but it burns faster and it’s far easier to light. You want some in your fire starting supplies, and it is super easy to make, so let’s get started.

What you’ll need:

100% cotton fabric. The looser weave the better. Jersey t-shirt material will work, but it doesn’t catch spark as well as terry (towel material) or my favorite, monk’s cloth (I purchased mine at Wal-Mart). You can use your old towels for this project as long as they are 100% cotton. I’ve heard that any natural fiber fabric would work (silk, linen, hemp, etc.), but haven’t tried any except cotton. Polyester, rayon, spandex and the like are not natural fibers. Don’t use those.
Can for cooking the fabric. I used an old chocolate sampler can–similar to an altoids can. You can also use a cleaned out vegetable can with foil for a lid or a little larger container like the holiday cookie tins. Punch an air hole in the lid of your can for the smoke to escape.
Heat source. I like a fire. It’s cheap and fast. You can also use a camp stove or your gas grill or other similar cooking device.

How to Make Char Cloth cooking tin and cotton monk’s cloth (quarter for scale)

How to make char cloth:

Step 1: Cut your fabric. You can cut it into large pieces that you can tear apart after they’re charred, or cut it into little individual serving size squares (about 1 1/2 inches square is plenty).

Step 2: Place the fabric in the can and close the lid. Don’t pack it too tightly–you want air circulation in the can.

How to Make Char Cloth That tin of fabric is in there somewhere . . .

Step 3: Cook the can of fabric on your heat source. I was told to cook it until it stops smoking, but that can be kind of hard to determine in a fire pit. This is really best done outside–the burning fabric doesn’t smell all that good. Generally 15 minutes or so should be plenty. If it’s taking longer to get fully blackened and be able to break easily, you may have too much fabric stuffed in your can. There’s nothing wrong with leaving that can in the fire until the whole fire burns out, but 15 minutes should be sufficient to char your cloth.

How to Make Char Cloth finished monk’s cloth char cloth

Step 4: Let the char cloth cool. It is now ready to use or pack carefully in your fire starting supplies. Finished char cloth is fairly fragile–it tears and breaks much easier than uncooked fabric, so you may want to put it in a protective container rather than just a baggie tossed in your kit.

How to Make Char Cloth burning char cloth

That’s not too hard, right? To use your char cloth, place it where a spark will land on it from your striking tool. Use the lit char cloth to light your other tinder and get your fire going.

Keep preparing! Angela

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Introduction: How to Make Char Cloth With a Tuna Can

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

I sacrificed my kids clothes and a can of tuna to make some high quality fire starter! Here’s how to make a great batch of Char-Cloth to add to your emergency kit.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

WARNING: This project should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate training. Misuse, or careless use of fire and flammable materials may result in serious injury, property damage, and/or death. Use of this video content is at your own risk.

Step 2: What Is Char Cloth?

Char-Cloth is a fire starting tinder that has the ability to capture and hold a spark amazingly well, and for a considerable amount of time.

“Char cloth (also called charpaper) is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature.

It is capable of being ignited by a single spark that can in turn be used to ignite a tinder bundle to start a fire.

It is sometimes manufactured at home for use as the initial tinder when cooking or camping and historically usually provided the “tinder” component of a tinderbox. It is often made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slows and the cloth is properly charred.

Charcloth ignites with even the smallest spark, and is therefore commonly used with a flint and steel.”

I use it as my tinder of choice my acrylic fire piston.

Step 3: Materials You’ll Need

This project can be done with items you probably already have around the house!

  • 1. Tuna Can
  • 2. “Lid lifter” style can-opener
  • 3. Nail, punch, or small screwdriver
  • 4. Cotton fabric

For cotton fabric, old T-shirts work very well if they’re 100% cotton. You can find this information on the tag inside the shirt.

I also found that cotton balls work extremely well, and have become my new favorite!

Step 4: Cook the Cotton

Step 5: Fire It Up!

The goal is to heat the container up over 400C, and this can be done in a variety of ways. For example;

  • 1. Use solar power via your Solar Scorcher from another project
  • 2. Place directly in an open flame
  • 3. Any other outdoor method of inducing heat. (Outdoors because potentially harmful gasses will be released and can smell up your house)

When the container gets hot enough, the cotton releases gasses, including hydrogen and methane gases. As these gasses are cooked out, the fiber becomes carbonized through a process called “pyrolysis”. This means that the fiber is charred, but not burned.

You can tell the process is working because you’ll see the gas venting through the hole in the top of the container. These gasses are flammable, and may ignite. Don’t worry if they do because that’s normal and just fine.

The cooking is done when the gas stops and the flame goes out.

Note: I’ve found that cooking them beyond the point where the gasses stop, and flame goes out, can negatively effect their performance, so take the container off the fire as soon as practical.

  • Place a layer of aluminum foil over the hole to prevent air from sucking back into the container.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes

Note: The container is very hot, so use protection on your hands to avoid being burned while applying the foil.

Step 6: How Did It Turn Out?

When the container has cooled off completely, open it up and the first thing you’ll hopefully see is that your white cotton fabric (or cotton balls) have turned completely black.

Note: If there are parts that are still white, or brown, it’s not cooked completely and needed more time on the fire.

To test your batch of char-cloth, brush gently with an open flame. The cloth should capture the heat and form a small spark that will continue to smolder for an impressive amount of time. 1 cotton ball can last a couple of minutes.

By blowing air onto the spark, heat will transfer quickly and can engulf the entire cloth.

This is the great advantage of the cloth. It can deliver a lot of heat when you need it (by blowing on it), or just hold a spark for a couple of minutes while you’re getting your tinder bundle ready.

Step 7: In Closing

Well there’s how to make a batch of char-cloth using materials from around the house. It’s great for emergencies, so go make a batch for your emergency kit right now!

Haven’t see the video yet? You can still see it here!

If you like this project perhaps you’ll like some of my others. Check them out at www.thekingofrandom.com

1 Person Made This Project!

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How to Make Char Cloth

Making char cloth is a useful survival skill to have as an alternative way to help getting your fire started. Char cloth is something that needs to be prepared and therefore requires some forward planning. In this article I will explain how to make char cloth and show you how easy it is.

What is Char Cloth

First of all, what is char cloth? Char cloth is a piece of cloth, made from natural products, that has been converted via a process (explained below) into a slow burning material. This material will ignite at a low temperature, but produce a hot ember.

The traditional method of getting a spark onto the char cloth is using a flint and steel or a fire piston. This ember produced can then be placed into a tinder bundle to ignite the tinder and make fire. The process of converting the cloth into char cloth is called pyrolysis, which is basically using heat to change a material in the absence of oxygen.

Char cloth is easy to make! The tools and material are as basic as the steps to make your own!

What Do You Need To Make Char Cloth

The ingredients for making char cloth are very basic and can usually be found readily available in most homes.

  • A piece of cloth that you can cut into 5cm x 5cm (2 inch x 2 inch) squares. Cloth must be 100% cotton. Do not use and synthetic material.
  • 1 small tin with a tin lid that can seal and hold your pieces of cloth.
  • Fire – you can use a stove top too, but hey, we are in survival mode here!

Making the Char Cloth

The method of making the char cloth is almost as simple as the ingredients!

First of all, start your fire. While your fire is getting established, you will need to make two or 3 small holes about 3mm in diameter (1/10 inch) in the lid of your tin. A suitable sized nail punched through the lid will do the trick.

The next step is to cut the cloth to the size of your tin. Place the pieces of cloth into the tin. You can put several pieces of cloth in the tin at the same time, but don’t pack the tin tightly with cloth. About four or five pieces should be fine.

Once that is done, seal the lid of the tin securely and place the tin in the fire. You don’t have to place the tin in the centre of the fire, on the side of the fire, close to the flames will do just fine.

Final Steps

Now comes the hard part! Waiting! As the tin heats up, you will see smoke starting to come out of the holes in the top of the tin. Sometimes there will even be fire coming out of the holes. This is a normal part of the process. As the cloth in the tin heats up, gasses are released and these sometimes ignite as the escape through the holes.

When the flames or smoke coming out of the holes in the tin lid stop completely, it is time to take the tin out of the fire. Caution needs to be exercised here! The tin is very hot! Using a pair of pliers or tongs for this task would be a good idea. Once you remove the tin from the fire, place the tin upside down on the ground to reduce the amount of oxygen going into the tin.

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Allow the tin to cool completely. Once the tin has cooled, you can prise the lid open. The pieces of cloth inside should have charred black. If any of the corners have not charred, you can simply cut them off.

And there you have it! You are now and accomplished char cloth maker and have another great survival skill to add to your repertoire.

Using your char cloth to start a fire is just as easy. We will do a future post on how to use your char cloth, so stay tuned to MyGreenTerra.com so you don’t miss out!

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How to Make Char Cloth

How to make char cloth is a common survival question. Char cloth is a very traditional fire starter which, according to some, has been around since before the middle ages. It is commonly used as the tinder in spark based fire starting methods, such as with a ferro rod or flint and steel. Char cloth does not burst into flame, but will easily turn into a red, slow burning ember with just a spark. This makes it an excellent way to ignite handfuls of dry grass, pine straw or leaves when a lighter is not available.

How to Make Char Cloth

There are just a few things to keep in mind when making your own char cloth. The first is that you have to use natural fibers for the end result to work correctly. The easiest source of starter material is a handful of 100% cotton gun cleaning patches. They are precut squares, inexpensive and large enough to provide a good target size for sparks and acceptable burn time when lit.

How to Make Char Cloth

The other key concept is that char cloth is created as the result of a pyrolytic reaction, similar to charcoal. The main difference is that we’re starting with cotton instead of wood. So, we need to heat up our cloth squares in the absence of oxygen. One of the simplest and cheapest ways to do this is with a piece of aluminum foil. Just fold a large piece of foil in half and put about twenty of the cotton patches inside. Then tightly fold and roll the three edges of the foil to form a good seal. Finally, poke a small hole, about half the size of a pencil eraser, in the center of the top piece of foil.

How to Make Char Cloth

Cooking the char cloth is best done outside and a gas grill works perfectly. After the grill is fired up, just put the aluminum foil “packet” on to cook, making sure that the center hole is facing up. Leave the grill lid open. The hole acts as a timer to let us know when our char cloth is done. It won’t take long before smoke starts coming out. This smoke is from the cotton cloth off-gassing and lets us know that everything is working as planned. As soon as the smoke all but dies off, carefully take the foil off of the grill and let it cool for a few minutes. All the cloth inside should be a dull black and I usually spark test a piece from each batch to make sure it works as intended. It should smolder, kind of like a cigar and glow red when you blow on it. The rest of the char cloth can be stored in a sealed, dry container or Ziploc bag so that it will be ready when you need it.

How to Make Char Cloth

Most people know it as char cloth but it is also called “charpaper”. Char cloth is made using vegetable fiber and the most common fiber used is cotton but it can also be made from linen and jute.

The process to covert the cloth to carbon form is called “pyrolysis”, which is nothing more than the decomposition of molecules by heat to break a chemical substance down into a simpler form. The making of char cloth causes a chemical reaction as it forces most of the gases out of the material, but not all of them, otherwise you would end up with a pile of black ash.

Synthetic materials would not reduce to carbon form when heated, synthetic material is not organic and would essentially melt away. Burning of this type material may also produce toxic fumes.

The process reduces the material to its carbon form, however if heated too long it will reduce to ash form. It may take a bit of practice to get the cloth to where it can be handled without crumbling apart and yet has achieved the low ignition point.

One hundred percent cotton tee shirts are ideal for making char cloth and some have had luck using cotton balls as long as they say 100 percent cotton.

The cloth once converted correctly is slow burning with a low ignition temperature. The material can be ignited with a single spark, which in turn is used to ignite dry tinder. Once you have char cloth all you need to create an ember is a spark.

Always make your char cloth outside where having a fire is not a safety hazard. The process will create fumes/gases.

Making Char Cloth

1.) Small metal container than can be sealed tightly such as a mint tin, (altoids) or other container.

2.) Cotton, linen or jute fabric

3.) Tool (s) to cut the material to fit into the container

4.) Fire source, open flame is recommended

5). Heavy gloves to handle the hot container or metal pliers/tongs large enough to grasp the container

6.) Tool (s) to create a small hole in the container lid, use a small nail, or drill a hole

The hole is essential. It is needed to allow the gases to escape and yet is not so large as to allow oxygen to reach the material. Use a finishing nail end and just puncture the metal with the tip of the nail.

Cut the cloth to fit into the can and you can roll or layer the material. Seal and place close to the flame, you just want heat applied to the bottom or one side, in other words do not allow the flame to lick up the sides or over the top of the container. You want slow partial combustion.

Once on the flame you will see, smoke/gas escaping from the hole after a few minutes. The gas is flammable. Once the smoke stops flowing out the hole or is reduced dramatically, you can flip the can over to make sure the entire material has been charred, and then look for more smoke. Remove if you do not see any.

Leaving the container on the heat after the gases have stopped flowing out the hole will allow oxygen to enter which will accelerate combustion, and this of course will burn up the material. The gases exiting the hole prevent oxygen from entering.

Let cool and then remove the cloth. Check your work by creating a spark to see if the char cloth will take the spark and form an ember. Once lit char cloth can be difficult to extinguish. You may have to seal it in a metal container to deprive it of oxygen; otherwise, it will burn up the entire piece and can be a fire hazard if left unattended.

How to Make Char Cloth

The Fastest Way To Get Off The Grid

How to Make Char Cloth

Never worry about starting a campfire again!

If you’ve ever experimented with alternative “survival” fire-starting methods — like rubbing sticks together, focusing a magnifying glass, flint and steel, etc. — you know that no matter how “dependable” the method, it can still take a while to get a spark to catch your tinder and get it glowing enough to actually get a fire going. Heck, if it’s wet and rainy, it can be difficult to get a fire going even if you’re starting with a lighter!

The key is in your source of tinder. Out in the wild it can be really tough to scrounge up the perfect combination of thin and light and totally dry. That’s why those with Bushcraft experience always carry an emergency kit (like the famous “Altoids Kit”) and always include in their supplies a pack of dependable all-weather fire-starters. One of the favorites is Vaseline-soaked cotton balls. Another is Char Cloth.

What’s Char Cloth?

It’s a funny word, right? Char Cloth is just cloth that is turned into charcoal. Why? Because charcoal burns very hot, and compared to ordinary wood, paper, or cloth, it’s a more pure concentration of volatile carbon. And the great thing about using cotton cloth for your charcoal source is that your charcoal will be made of very thin fibers which will catch a spark even faster!

You can easily prepare your own quick lighting emergency “char cloth” with just a tin can, a cotton T-shirt, and a large source of heat such as a barbecue grill, campfire, or if you want to be tricky, by using the sun and a big magnifying glass like he does in the video below. The idea is to place your cloth in the can, heat up the can enough to release and burn off all the cotton fibers’ biogases, and then simply collect what’s left — ie. pure charcoal.

If you’re already pretty schooled in Bushcraft, you might be thinking ahead. What if we substituted cotton balls for the T-shirt? Would that work even better? Watch the video to the end! (He has you covered.)

Digging Deeper.

As cool as this is, I find it fascinating to think about what’s “wasted” in this process.

What if you didn’t just burn off the escaping gas and actually used it for something useful? Like, say, cooking?

Essentially the video above describes the same principles used to make a DIY wood gasification stove — like the ones many backpacking survivalists use to cook food, and which I personally use when I’m out boondocking in my camper. But rather than use the gases to cook dinner, the focus of the char cloth project is simply to get at the valuable leftover charcoal.

The process in each is the same, though. The idea of a wood gasifier is to separate the natural combustion process. Contrary to the common assumption, wood doesn’t actually burn. When you make a campfire, what you’re actually doing is heating up the wood to release the gases (a stage called “pyrolysis”), then burning the released wood-gas.

Pyrolysis (gas release) happens in the absence of oxygen. That’s why he puts the cloth in a tin can, leaving only a small hole for the gases to escape. A gasifying cook stove (like the SoloStove) uses the same idea to separate the pyrolysis process from the combustion process, first heating up wood in the central chamber to release the hot gases, then introducing “secondary air” from side chambers to combust the gases at the top of the stove. The result is a very clean-burning wood-gas stove that can cook dinner very quickly using only easy-to-find twigs.

To circle back around to char cloth.

If you already have a charcoal-producing gasifying camp stove — like the SoloStove or another homemade version — then you can make your own emergency kit char cloth without even being wasteful! All you have to do is use a cotton T-shirt or cotton balls in your fuel chamber while you’re heating up leftovers, and you’ll be ready for your next out-of-lighter-fluid emergency. (Helpul note; To get the purest charcoal you need to make sure your gasifier stove restricts oxygen to the fuel chamber and lets in plenty of secondary air.)

Introduction: How to Make Char Cloth.

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

If you are going to make a survival kit or just going camping in the wild you are going to need some tinder to light your fire. If it is wet outside finding tinder is going to be hard, so taking some of this you are going to have a good chance of making a fire.

Step 1: What You Need.

All you need is a small metal tin, some cotton and a tin opener.. You can get cotton from an old sheet or some old clothes.

Step 2: Preparing the Tin and Cotton.

Take the tin and using your tin opener or a nail and hammer, make a small hole in the top of the tin.
Then take your cotton. Cut it into lenths about 3cm wide and then cut your strip into 3cm squares.
Dont worry about the cotton fraying.

Step 3: Making the Char Cloth.

Put some of the cotton squares into the tin making sure there is plenty of free space in the tin. If there is not enough cotton in the tin, it won’t work properly. If there is too much cotton in the tin then it won’t work properly.
Put the lid back on.

Step 4: The Easy Bit.

Find a source of fire or a large amount of heat and put your tin in it so the entire tin is getting hit by the heat. Then just leave it there for around half an hour. I said it was easy.
You can use an incinerator or a fireplace in a house to make char cloth.

Step 5: Final Bit.

When the tin is cool again you can open it up and see your homemade char cloth.

This doesn’t always work, but it tends to.
This is not something I am taking credit for as it was not my idea, but I want other people to know how to make it the way I do.
Good luck.

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We are often asked by our “grown up” wildlings how to make char cloth at home, so we thought we would write up a slightly more detailed how-to guide to help you all along on your way

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

How to Make Char Cloth

Fire lighting workshops are core to every course we run and char cloth is our top tinder of choice.

Sparks are delicate little things, although they burn incredibly hot and bright (up to 3000 degrees C from a ferro rod), sometimes to make best use of our sparks we need to catch and tame them.

THIS IS WHERE CHAR CLOTHS COME IN

Char cloth is a great fire lighting medium for beginners and we use it for all of our fire lighting workshops. It easily catches a patch of sparks making it ideal for building confidence in all our budding wildlings. The sparks should hold long enough for us to work our magic on a tinder bundle and create fire.

You can of course buy char cloth online but why waste your pocket money on something that’s so easy and fun to make yourself. Making char cloth is a wonderful way to put any old garments that may be too well worn for the charity shop to good use, meaning we’re wasting as little in life as possible which can only ever be a good thing!

Preparing char cloth with your family makes for a brilliant little science lesson for anyone who is home schooling, or looking for a fun little project on the weekend.

Although the material you use may feel dry to the touch, it will contain a certain amount of moisture that will hinder our fire lighting progress. Turning it to char cloth will drive off any remaining moisture and will give us the best chance of catching a spark.

Making char cloth is a similar process to making charcoal, we are just going to be doing it on a micro scale in comparison. To make char cloth we have to change the chemical compound of the cloth or organic matter via a process called pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis turns the cloth into a slow burning fuel with a low ignition temperature which is a big fat win for us. In simplified terms we are burning or charring the cloth, in a controlled oxygen deprived setting.

Simple in principle – but actually quite complicated the more you read into it. The beauty of char cloth is that it will catch and hold even the smallest of sparks – which is why it’s great for flint and steel, fire pistons and ferro rods.

WE’VE GOT A SIMPLE BREAKDOWN OF HOW TO MAKE CHAR CLOTH, A RECIPE IF YOU WILL.

WE MAKE CHAR CLOTH SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY TO OTHERS DUE TO THE QUANTITY WE MAKE AT A TIME, WHICH WE THINK GIVES US A SLIGHTLY MORE CONSISTENT COOK

YOU’LL NEED :

100 percent cotton or natural material.
(Towels and flannels work best due to the loops in the material)

Sharp pair of scissors

An empty tin – I use an old round travel sweet tin

Drill with a 3mm drill bit attached or a nail of the same diameter

A small twig that fits snugly inside the hole in the lid of your tin

Bed of hot coals ( the embers of a fire or bbq after you’ve cooked your meal for this)

Pair of long handled tongs

METHOD :

First let’s make our vessel to create char cloth, this can be any small tin with a fairly tight fitting lid. Make sure it doesn’t have a rubber seal that will weld itself shut on the first cook.

Make a small hole in the top of the tin, using either a drill or nail and hammer. Your tin is now ready to start cooking char cloth and should last you many a char cloth making session.

Light a fire and let this burn down to a nice bed of coals. Whilst this is happening we need to cut the chosen piece of material into strips, slightly shallower than the tin you will be using.

Roll up your strips of material nice and neatly but not too tightly to create a giant snail shell the width of your tin.

Close the lid of your tin and using fire gloves or long handled tongs place the tin into the embers of the fire.

(Side note for the little wildlings – don’t be silly like me and not use gloves or tongs. Fire is hot so please be careful)

At this point we can don our fire gloves again and open the tin quickly to look inside. I say quickly because if you leave the tin open then the cloth may combust and just burn up into thin air. We’re looking for a consistent char throughout the cloth. If there are any patches of un-charred cloth, then return to the embers for a few more minutes.

If you are happy that the cloth has charred to perfection, we can replace the lid and set the tin aside pushing the stick inside the hole we made in the tin earlier. This blocks out all oxygen from the tin until cooled completely.

Once completely cooled, your char cloth is ready for fire lighting. Remember that your char cloth will start absorbing moisture from the air – so make sure to keep your char cloth in a zip lock bag or tin with a tight fitting lid, to keep any moisture at bay.

FANCY EXPANDING THIS INTO A BIGGER HOME SCHOOLING PROJECT?

Char cloth has been used throughout the ages to create fire using multiple methods of combustion. Why not find an era that fascinates and captivates the whole family!

Think medieval, frontiersman, native americans, vikings … you can research the food they would have cooked over fire and give it a go in the garden.

Use your one walk a day to go and search for other materials to char. Anything natural living or previously living will work – leaves, twigs, moss, tree bark, pine cones, snail shells, small animal bones. Experiment and record your findings, do any of these chars catch and hold a spark to create a fire?

You could also look for pieces of flint for a more natural way to create fire as an alternative to a ferro rod.

THE BORING BIT!

Striking flint with steel can cause small sharp pieces to chip away, these fragments are unpredictable and could cause injury to the eyes and any exposed skin. We recommend that children wear eye protection until they become more skilled at striking flint with steel.

Try to avoid sparks landing on any other flammable materials such as clothes.

Char cloth embers burn incredibly hot. We recommend that you move your char cloth ember with either fire gloves, a pair of tongs or using two sticks.

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    How to Make Char Cloth

    How to Make Char Cloth

    Starting a fire during an emergency can save your life. The inability to build a fire can cost your life.

    Hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, hunting and many other outdoor activities all require basic wilderness survival skills to handle an emergency situation. Your vehicle ran off the side of the road in a remote location (no cell phone service) with no help in sight and it will be dark soon. This too would require basic wilderness survival skills to handle this situation.

    Making fire is significantly important to survive physically and mentally. The heat provided by a fire warms the body, dries wet clothes, disinfects water, and cooks food. Not to be overlooked is the psychological boost and the sense of safety and protection it gives. In the wild, fire can provide a sensation of home, a focal point, in addition to being an essential energy source. Fire may deter wild animals from interfering with a survivor.

    Let’s assume you are able to make at least one fire for the first night of survival. You cannot assume that you are going to be rescued the next day, or that you will find your way out of the wilderness the next day. This is why It is crucial that you know how to make char cloth. This will enable you to continue to build fires until you are able to make it to safety.

    Char cloth (also called charpaper) is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature. It is capable of being ignited by a single spark that can in turn be used to ignite a tinder bundle to start a fire.

    It is sometimes made at home for use as the initial tinder when cooking or camping and historically usually provided the “tinder” component of a tinderbox. It is often made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slows and the cloth is properly charred.

    Charcloth ignites with even the smallest spark, and is therefore commonly used with a flint and steel. It will ignite with the spark of two rocks or with a lighter as long as you are getting at least a spark from that old lighter.

    We have found four very effective ways to make char cloth. Making it at home under more controlled conditions allows you to make your own char cloth, store it in a small tin and make it a part of your outdoor survival gear. We also show you how to make it under primitive conditions should you need to make char cloth in a survival situation.

    By: John Milandred

    Char cloth is a wonderful thing to have on you when you are out in the wilderness and trying to start a fire quickly. Char cloth will catch the smallest of spark from your ferro rod so that you can quickly get a fire going. I will detail the process below on how to make char cloth and how to store it so that it is available to you when you are out in the bush.

    First off, let’s go over what char cloth is and how it is useful to you. Char cloth is simply what it states, it is charred cloth. Cloth that has been charred but not burned. It is used to catch a spark from a ferro rod so that you can get a fire going quickly and painlessly. It is good to carry around because it is simple to make and also lasts a long time if you make just a small amount of it. It also saves the time of having to locate and gather lots of fire tinder when you are in the bush (this knowledge/skill is essential, but not always time efficient). If you are a bushcrafter like me, then your least favorite way to start a fire is with a lighter or matches. The reason is because this isn’t a sustainable way to keep making fire. Eventually, you use up your matches or your lighter runs out of fluid. If you are training to be self sufficient in the bush then you must be well adapted to using a ferro rod and different kinds of tinder. That is where the char cloth comes in.

    The first step is making sure that you have all the materials needed. You must have the cloth that will be charred. I simply cut a few small squares off of a white T-shirt. Next, you will need a tin can to char the cloth in. The simplest and most cost efficient way is an altoids can. I like to buy 2 cans, one for the charring process and one to store the finished product in. You will also need something to poke a couple of holes in the lid of the tin can like a knife or a nail. The last thing you will need is a fire (I know, it’s an oxymoron that we need an existing fire to create something that will help with future fires, but stay with me! The goal is to make these at home or in your spare time so that you have them when you are in the bush).

    The first thing you want to do is cut small strips of cloth no larger than the tin can that you will place them in. I usually cut & char 3-5 pieces at a time. I like to make them a little shorter & narrower than the tin can so that they fit inside comfortably. They will also shrivel down even smaller once charred.

    Next, you want to poke your hole(s) into the tin can. If you are using a decent sized nail, then one hole should do. If you are just using the end of your knife then a few small jabs close together should do the trick. You don’t want this hole to be very large. You don’t even want it large enough so that the whole nail goes through, just the tip. This hole is simply to let the gases out of the tin can to keep it from exploding. The hole should be pretty small so that oxygen won’t enter and cause the cloth to catch flames. Once this hole is created place the cloth (3-5 pieces is my preference) into the container and close the lid.

    The next step is making sure you have a fire with a solid & hot foundation. Once some hot coals have been established your fire is probably ready for the char cloth. Place the tin can in the flame and wait. I usually use sticks in a chop-stick fasion when placing and removing the tin from the flame. The Tin should shortly have smoke coming out of the hole(s). This is a good thing. Let the tin can remain in the fire until the smoke has nearly stopped. I then take my char cloth out and let it cool so that I can view the results. If I am happy with the results then we have successfully made char cloth. Sometimes I have to place the tin back in the flames upside down to ensure that both sides of the cloth are equally charred, but not always.

    After completion, I simply transfer the char cloth to a clean and uncharred Altoids can where I will store in and pack it with me when I head to the wilderness. You may repeat the process as many times as you like so that you can stockpile your char cloth when you are heading to the outdoors. I hope this article has been helpful and feel free to ask any questions you may have about the process. I will write another article soon on using char cloth in the bush.

    Flint-and-steel is an early fire-making technique that dates back to the first days of metal work in Europe and Asia. This method creates a red-hot spark when a piece of high-carbon steel is struck against a hard, sharp stone edge (like a flake of flint). Flint-and-steel is often confused with ferrocerium rods and magnesium bars in modern times, but the true flint-and-steel set produces tiny steel shavings that are ignited by the friction of striking the steel and stone together. These steel sparks are caught in fire-charred material—commonly called char cloth—which is then transferred to dry tinder and blown into flame. It’s this charred material that is so essential to success with flint-and-steel, and is the topic of this post. Contrary to popular belief, char material doesn’t have to be made from cotton cloth.

    Flint-and-steel char can be any blackened, plant-based material that will catch and feed a spark. As mentioned, it’s part of traditional flint-and-steel fire building, but it’s no one-trick pony. Char can also easily be lit by modern implements like ferrocerrium rods and optics (magnifying glasses and parabolic mirrors). Cotton and linen were the popular raw materials for making char cloth on the American frontier, but you can also use most flammable plant fibers, bark tinder, cattail fluff, some shelf fungi, and punky, rotten wood.

    To make your char, you’ll need a metal container that is nearly air tight, with just a few small holes made by a punch or nail. Fill the can with the material to be charred, and place it in the center of a campfire for 5 to 6 minutes. Smoke and maybe some flames should begin to jet from the small holes in the container. After three to five minutes, the smoke should almost stop jetting out. At the 5- to 6-minute mark, use a stick to carefully roll the hot container out of the fire and let it sit until it’s cool to the touch. Open the box once cool. You’ll see that the char material is black, shrunken, and fragile—but not burned to ash. It should catch sparks well. If not, it was either a poor material to use, or it might need further charring. If it is not yet blackened and fragile, it will definitely need further charring. Try a different material or a hotter fire next time.

    Another way to make charred tinder is to ignite a ball of tinder material (tree bark fiber is my favorite), and once it’s engulfed in flames, drop it into a glass jar or metal box and close the lid. The lack of oxygen will snuff out the flames and embers, leaving a combination of char and dry tinder. This material will last indefinitely and will reignite from a small spark and a steady breath of air. Of course, you have to have fire to make the stuff to make more fire later, but this is part of our heritage—these skills and the wisdom to plan ahead for our needs.

    While we’re on the topic of char, I’d like to dispel one fire-building myth. You can’t just grab some chunks of charcoal from a campfire and use them as char. Campfire charcoal was created in an oxygen-rich environment, and it does not behave the same as true char cloth, which must be created in a low-oxygen environment in order to work properly, or to work at all.

    I have to confess that when my hunting buddy first told me about char cloth I had no idea what he was talking about, but of course, I acted like I did. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you.

    So the short answer.

    Char cloth is a piece or organic material that is “charred” until it is mostly concentrated carbon.

    The result is a piece of fabric that makes it easier to get your fire going quickly, especially in harsh and unfavorable conditions — all without a high-temperature spark.

    I was so impressed by this I decided to make some myself. The result, I got so fired up (pun intended) I had to share how to do it with all of you.

    Here’s what you need:

    • Scissors or knife
    • Small metal tin (Altoids tin’s work well)
    • 2×2 in squares of 100% cotton fabric
    • Propane camp stove or similar, fire, or barbecue grill
    • Nail or punch

    Cut a natural fabric into squares.

    Make sure it is 100% cotton. Other blends of material can result in melted globs — that won’t do you any good.

    Having big squares is not necessary because char cloth only has a one-time burn session, but squares too small can result in an ineffective product as well. You don’t have to be exact on the size of the squares. Rough edges or uneven shapes is fine too.

    Cut the fabric the same size and shape as the tin box you will be keeping the char cloth in.

    Cotton balls can work as well. Also, I recommended that you only do a couple of pieces of cloth at a time. If you have too many sheets, it will take too long and not work correctly.

    Find a metal tin.

    Once you have prepared the squares, get the tin box ready. Altoids tins work great for this. If you will be making a large amount of char cloth use a paint can or oatmeal can.

    Punch a hole in the top of the tin. You want a hole in the tin so that the box doesn’t explode or cause injury. Don’t go dying on me now.

    Place several squares in the tin. Note: if you don’t have an Altoids tin or something similar, you can use tin foil. It takes a little bit longer but works the same.

    • Simply wrap the squares into a flat bundle of tin foil and place it on the burner. A barbecue works great with the tin foil as well.

    Place the tin on a small camp burner or grill. Place the tin directly on the flame and wait anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Keeping the flame set on low helps you maintain more control over the process. When done, remove the squares from the heat and let them cool down.

    The squares should be a blackish color, but still flexible. If the material crumbles when you take it out of the tin, then you burned it for too long. If this happens, start over with more squares, but keep the tin on the burner for less time.

    Note: using white cloth can aid in the process and produce a better result.

    Then after the cloth has cooled down enough, put it in your EDC or in with your fire starting kit and use it the next time you go camping, hunting or hiking.

    Be sure to test your char cloth before your life depends on it!

    Please let me know if you have any questions, tips or char cloth making problems in the comments section below.