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When it comes to charring materials into tinder, cotton, wool and punk wood work extremely well. But that’s a very limited amount of material. Sometimes it may not be viable to rip apart our t-shirts and sometimes we can’t find punk wood or other suitable firewood to get a fire going. So, what else can you turn into char?
Well, the answer is: Any living or previously living organism on this planet that is rich in carbon, something we call a carbonaceous material, can be reduced to char for fire-steel ignition. Moss, algae, seaweed, flowers, tree bark, sticks, chestnut husks, fungus, leaves… they can all be turned into char and ignited.
Sounds crazy but it’s true. All living organisms on this planet are primarily made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. In the process of charring, all the hydrogen and oxygen molecules (moisture, tars, resins and oils) contained within the material are burned away and released as smoke and vapor. This leaves behind a mass of almost pure carbon. This essentially creates charcoal but in a different shape and form. Anyone that’s ever had a barbecue knows how easy charcoal is to light!
The Experiment: What Else Can You Turn Into Char?
- The charred moss caught a spark immediately and began to smolder the rest of the material around it. If pressed together the entire bundle would smolder in a matter of seconds due to the large surface area.
- The pine cone needles worked extremely well too but instead of smolder they burst into flames but that was probably due to it not being fully charred and still containing oil and resinous compounds.
- The conifer cones held a spark probably better than anything I tried today and is probably my favorite charred material after char cloth.
- The chestnut caught a spark and smoldered very hot and was easy to make a fire bundle with this as did the acorn shell. (It burned so intensely it burned a hold in my fire retardant gloves)
So that’s that little experiment done and dusted. The next time you run out of tinder you don’t have to look very far to find something to char.