Tuesday, March 22, 2011

True Tinder

The beauty of learning primitive skills is realizing the amazing powers of the plants and trees that have surrounded us everyday.

It's no secret that as a survival instructor and student of bushcraft and primitive ways, fire and the constant journey of creating and maintaining it has become an unshakable passion.

I am always eager to learn of new ignition sources whether primitive or manufactured as well as new sources of tinder.  My real desire and focus is learning of natural tinder that exists and can help you in a winter survival emergency.

Winter has always been my main focus because of my belief that of all four seasons that we experience here in the beautiful Canadian wilderness it provides the greatest degree of difficulty for survival.

That's where true tinder comes into the picture.  Birch trees, mainly white or paper birch, are located in almost every corner of Ontario.  Birch trees have always been known as a gift to the fire maker.  Peeling away its white bark and lighting it as if it were local newspaper for the fireplace.

Well the Birch produces another amazing gift.  Tinder fungus.  On a live Birch tree tinder fungus is considered a true tinder.  The fungus grows on the outside of the tree and looks almost like a black mushroom head.  That black exterior of the fungus is hard and protects the fungus from the rain and other attacking fungi.

Take your knife and cut in between the tree and the fungus.  The fungus will come away from the tree quite easily.  The inside that was attached to the tree will be a spongy light orange colour.  With the tip of your knife dig in and loosen up some of that orange spongy material. 

Now it's time to light this amazing true tinder.  With your flint and striker in hand strike a spark into the inside of the fungus.  The spark will begin to burrow itself into the fungus and smoke.  The fungus will not catch on fire but rather grow into a coal.  The fungus itself acts like an accelerator similar to cattail.

The fungus coal will grow and can then we cut out with your knife and dropped into your tinder bundle.  Once into the tinder bundle you can nurture the coal and the bundle into a fire.

The lit fungus has been used to transport a fire coal for great distances.  It was also known to be used as a hand warmer for voyageurs and woodland trappers in the winter time.  The smoke from the tinder fungus can also ease a headache in the forest.

So the next time you're out in the woods look around for the white birch tree and see if you can find that amazing tinder fungus.  Cut a few off and keep them in your fire starting kit.  They can prove invaluable and the knowledge you posses life saving.

BlastMatch Fire Starter, Tinder Fungus and Tinder Bundle

My 8 year old survivor boy blowing fungus coal.
 Note the black area in the middle of the U-shaped area.
  That is the growing coal.

Fungus coal in the tinder pile.  Note the smoke.

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