How To Make A Fire With Your Survival Knife
You will want to know how to make a fire, even when matches or a lighter are not available to you. This skill can be a lifesaver, particularly if you find yourself without matches or a lighter in a survival situation.
What do you need?
You will need a Survival Knife with a carbon steel blade. This is important because a survival knife with a stainless steel blade might not produce the spark you’re looking for. The spark comes from little pieces of metal coming off of the striker or Survival Knife in our case. That’s why we use the backside of the blade and not the sharp surface. Using the cutting surface will make your blade dull. That is also why a stainless steel blade may not work. The harder the steel, the smaller and hotter the pieces that come off will be, making it easier to burn the tinder and get our flame going.
You will also need a strike rod. No, not the variety they used to beat a red-headed stepchild in years past. A strike rod is usually made of magnesium or a mixture of steel and magnesium. I recommend you use a string to affix it to your survival knife if the handle of your knife has a hole that you can use, or attach it to your survival knife’s sheath. At the very least a strike rod should be always available in your survival kit.
You will also need carefully prepared tinder. Use your Survival Knife to trim dry bark off of trees, if possible dead tree limbs. Dried grass or the cotton like material behind some tree barks like a cottonwood make excellent tinder. Shape the tinder in to a bird’s nest, this provides the glowing embers some shielding from the wind. Try to keep the material as loose as possible. Don’t bunch it together like a snowball. Loose material has more gaps where oxygen can fuel the flames.
How do you actually make a fire with your Survival Knife?
Clean the ground of debris where you are going to build the fire. Clean an area wider than you need to. Safety is always critical. You want to use the fire for warmth and to cook food for survival. You don’t want to discover how the U.S. Forest Service trains their firefighters.
Pre Build your bundle of kindling, making a tee-pee frame. Leave yourself a space to place the burning tinder in to the middle of the tee-pee structure of kindle wood. Try to use the cover of your surroundings to avoid strong winds or rain from directly hitting the site where you plan to build your fire. This will make your job easier when conditions are less than perfect.
Gather your tinder. You want loosely spaced, very fine thread-like shavings put together with slightly thicker shavings. A birds nest configuration should work well because it has built-in protection from the wind. If you need to, you can smash thicker bark against a rock to expand the fibers of the wood. You can use your survival knife to make small thin shavings from bark. Some barks like Juniper or Cottonwood are especially great for tinder but any dry bark should do well. Dried grass can also be used. It isn’t a bad idea to save this kind of tinder in a dry Ziploc bag for future use. The tinder will need to be dry. While you can most likely get away with wood or even kindling that isn’t completely dry, you will be out of luck if your tinder is wet.
Lay your tinder near to the site you made. Place the strike rod barely above the tinder or lightly touching the tinder and strike the rod with the backside of the blade of your survival knife in a downward movement. This will cause the spark to fly off the blade and on to the tinder. You can also keep the knife stationary and move the strike rod down the length of the backside of the blade of your survival knife if you wish. I like to leave the strike rod stationary and as close to the tinder as possible, but this is based on preference. The moment an actual spark catches on the tinder you will need to apply air to your budding fire by blowing gently on the glowing tinder. As the red glow grows bigger, apply more air. Remember you aren’t the big bad wolf blowing down the three little pig’s house.
When the tinder is hot enough (glowing) or essentially has a flame of some sort, carefully move it underneath your pre-built kindling pile. Continue to provide a source of air by blowing directly on to the glowing tinder. Once the tinder is lit to a flame, you may need to keep adding tinder to get the flames high enough to burn the kindling. Once the kindling has caught fire you can continue adding kindling to get the fire strong enough to add small pieces of wood and bigger ones from then on.
Remember starting a fire with just a Survival Knife and a strike rod can be challenging, even when conditions are ideal. The best thing you can do, is be ready to go by practicing. Once you have the skill of creating fire with your survival knife down pat, practice as much as possible. You want to have this skill already learned when you find yourself in a survival situation. That is NOT the time to learn or practice fire making skills. Practice not only in good conditions but try to practice in unfavorable conditions as well. Some windy or damp condition practice will make you a pro in no time, or just cold, wet and frustrated.