As I try to continually learn more about primitive skills, one of the factors that are key is knowing how to start a fire. While the methods of bow drill, hand drill, flint and steel are primitive, I was more focused on the characteristics of tinders during this lesson.
In my studies, I found there to be two main characteristics when looking for tinder in the wild. The main one is dryness. If a tinder is not dry, it will typically not hold a spark. The exception is some barks which have oils in it that makes it conducive to catching a spark even when damp such as Birch Bark. Also, notice I said damp, not wet.
The second characteristic is how fibrous the material is. When looking at barks, grasses and even leaves, they need to have little fibers that will catch a spark which allows them to ignite easily. Some of the time, that does require a little work such as taking an ember and blowing it into flame.
Over the past six months, I have used five different natural tinders and will attempt a sixth one soon because I want to know if mullein, when dried, will actually catch a spark as I have been led to believe.
In my attempt at a splitwood fire, I used poplar bark which seemed to do fairly well. During my outing at Warwoman WMA, I used fatwood that was natural and processed from a pine tree which was loaded with resin. Getting it to actually catch the spark proved challenging but I was successful.
The attached video shows the last three: Birch Bark, Cedar Bark, and Pine Straw. I used a ferro rod for lighting these fires for two reasons, the first being reliability even when wet, and the second is because it was a requirement for my Bushcraft USA Class.
I hope you enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions.
Use your instincts to survive