This is the last of a very special bit of rope. How special is it? Well, the first indication would be that I inherited it. That's right-and pleased to get it too. What quality makes it special? It is the nearly perfect tinder for flint and steel. My father and I both won fire starting speed competitions with it-that and a very high-grade flint. It worked so well that my summer camp decreed that we would all have to use the official Boy Scout kit (a miserable exercise at best). But with this stuff my times were measured in seconds.
I'm not sure where it comes from, or how exactly it was treated. The strands are a lot finer and softer than any natural fiber rope I've ever seen, and there is an oily quality about the stuff. My dad said something about being from an old military pup tent from before the Second World War. I suspect some waterproofing oil or preservative was added.
So, how does this work? First, let's look at the stuff you'll need.
- A hunk of flint. It should be hard.
- A striker. This should be the highest carbon steel you can get. I use worn out files snapped off to a useable length.
- Some charred cloth to catch the sparks. The best material for this is white all-cotton tee shirts. Cut one into 4 inch squares. Ignite it. When fully burned, smother it by dropping into a large jar and capping it.
- Tinder. This is where the rope comes in. There are other things that will work. They have to be very fine and very dry.
- If you are serious about starting a campfire, have the whole thing prepped first, with a clear path for the fireball (you hope) to get to the center.
After that, it's easy. Make a little nest of the tinder with maybe 2 square inches of the charred cloth in the center. Put the flint over it, and strike with the steel towards the cloth. Success is when you see little orange glowing tracks spreading across the cloth. Wrap the tinder around the cloth fairly tightly to make good contact, and blow gently. I've made it work just waving the stuff in the air. When it bursts into flame (a bit close to your face was it?) thrust quickly into the tinder and kindling at the center of your fire.
Dale Austin 2006
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008