Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Post: Fire-Cattail and Waxed Jute, by American Grouch

Today’s post is written by a fellow blogger. This man is the real deal. His posts on winter camping are certainly something that you should not miss. Most of his writings can be found on his blog: American Grouch. Be sure to check it out. It will be well worth your time.

I've seen this method before, wanted to show how I do it and a slight twist to the usual recommendation. I'm sure there are other and perhaps better methods, this has worked for me for a while now.
You'll need some simple ingredients to get started.
1. Paraffin wax
2. Jute twine (I use the small stuff but many suggest the bigger twine)
3. Pot to melt the wax in
4. Knife
5. Fire

Word of caution, once melted the wax is quite flammable, your wife, if you use one of her pots, is also flammable. (Hard to impossible to get the wax out)

If you use a camp fire, use caution as the heat level is not as easy to regulate as your stove top. I like doing it outside so I used a small fire.

Once I've got the fire going and waiting for it to burn in a bit I cut the twine, 8 to 12" in length.

With the fire about right I'll put my melting pot on with a couple blocks of wax.

Once the wax is melted I'll lay in the twine, I do not suggest putting a whole bundle in at a time. You also do not want to let it get too hot.

Once they've been in a bit I'll pull them with a stick and lay them to cool.

Here is where things start to differ compared to what most recommend. Where I live, if I NEED a fire as in right now, I need it right now. I don't have the time or luxury of nimble fingers to pick and peel the jute apart to make it fibrous enough to take a spark from a firesteel. It would be winter, between -20 to -30 with howling winds, snow or freezing rain. In those conditions a man's fingers are not nearly as dexterous as in normal conditions. Fingers get stiff, don't want to move, hard enough to grasp the firesteel and striker. Something I usually do with mits on for that very reason, pulling jute twine into a fibrous nest with mitts on is impossible. (One of the other reasons my firesteel is large, built into a deer bone and easy to grasp, even with mitts.)With that in mind, I like to twist or roll the waxed twine into lumps, or balls or squares as seen here:

Then I'll mix these up with old cattail fluff. It'll stick to the waxy jute. Further if you pull the jut a bit and get good gobs of the cattail fluff mixed together you can squeeze it back into a compact unit. The cattail fluff is very easy to ignite but it burns extremely fast. If you are using it in conjunction with waxed jute though it fires the jute which will burn a nice long time. Basically, your using the easy ignition point of the cattail to get the twine going. Most of what I have seen others recommend is pulling the jute apart to make your tender bundle. I like to use cattail fluff with the twine as it works much better for a fire right now situation.If you've got it right, it'll look like this, as with all of my fires I really try to build them on a layer of birch bark. It's prolific here and a very nice fuel. You can see just how nice a bed of material you have to receive the spark.

It'll take a spark very easily and spread to flame as well with little extra effort.

Incidentally, I used the left over melted wax to reseal my leather tinder bag. A pretty nice leather piece my daughter made for me.

The waxed jute twine and cattail fluff, travels light and easy and in good quantities. Here's what the inside looks like, cattail fluff, jute twin, cedar and pine shavings also in there as well as a couple pieces of fatwood in the bottom.