Monday, September 29, 2014

DIY Fire Starter: Modification to Cotton and Petroleum Jelly

DIY Fire Starter: Modification to Cotton and Petroleum Jelly:
So I wasn't satisfied with Petroleum Jelly and Cotton (LINK To The Original Post) as a part of a fire kit because of all the mess, so my buddy Jeremy Moran (you will see him in a few pictures on this post and others) has been after me to make a modification of this fire starter using drinking straws as the vessel. Until Friday when I was getting ready for the preparedness expo I had fought the urge to make these as its not a part of a kit I would likely use (I love my Char Cloth! LINK), but when we were thinking of things we could give away this fire starter was the first thing out of his mouth. So like normal with fire starters we will start this post out with a quick performance video and then go into how you actually build the fire starter.

Straw Cotton/Petroleum Jelly Fire Starter Video

A few notes on the video: A) this is Jeremy, not me; B) When it comes to Ferro Rods bigger is better (compare my video to this one, and you will notice one strike to light vs. the 5 or 6 in this video); C) I think a better method for getting into this fire starter would be to cut the tip off at an angle then use your Leatherman to pull the tinder out so once again your hands don't get messy; D) Please don't use a cutting tool where you are applying force toward your body, its a good way to get hurt.... good thing we had an ambulance in the garage :); 

Fire Starter Building Instructions:

1) Cut your straw to the desired length (length of an Altoids tin or whatever space you wish to fill). Once this is complete crimp one end of the straw with a Leatherman and use a fire source to melt the end until the straw is sealed.
2) Prepare your cotton by rubbing in as much petroleum jelly as you desire and then prepare the cotton for insertion into the straw (notice in the background how all the cotton is rolled into long skinny rolls slightly smaller than the diameter of the straw), once complete insert as much cotton as you possibly can into the straw with a pair of tweezers or needle nose pliers (NOTE- the more you get in the longer the burn time will be, the video was the first one he made and only had two pieces of cotton in it, subsequent ones had four).
3) Crimp the remaining open end and melt closed using your fire source of choice. That gives you a completed and waterproof fire starter to throw into your kit that will not get petroleum jelly all over everything else. NOTE- In this step be sure no cotton or petroleum jelly is sticking out the crimped end or you will more than likely accidentally light off your fire starter.
4) Cut off the end of your choice and light with your choice of combustion device (ferro rod works well with this fire starter). If you use it with a ferro rod be sure to spread it out a little to increase your surface area. I believe these would be best to aid in lighting a marginal tinder bundle by placing it in the center of the wet or marginal tinder bundle, lighting the fire starter, turn the tinder bundle on its side and allow it to light and then flip it over and begin to add smalls to the fire.


While this is not my fire starter of choice, it is a fun little project for a cub scout troop or a younger survival group (Pathfinder Youth Program) to test out and make during a meeting. The burn time of roughly a minute or two  is what prohibits me from giving it an endorsement as a reliable fire starter to carry regularly. It can't compete with a Dragon Ball (LINK), Fire Pad (LINK) or even Dryer Lint (LINK) as a fire starter in a wet environment but is defiantly a way to cut back on the mess if you are a die hard for this type of sure fire. Would I bet my life on it, no, but then again I could always find a poplar and get inner bark during a rain storm and make fire so all would not be lost!

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