"It's The Charcloth, Stupid" - Adventures with my Flint & Steel Striker

The weekend was winding down and softball games and skateboarders were beginning to vacate the park behind the house. Spring read a book while I puttered around the kitchen. Done with tidying, I decided to step out into the backyard and experiment with my new Flint & Steel Striker.

I donned my new straw hat, camera in hand and removed the steel striker, flint and charcloth from the tin can holder.

I peeled off a bit of charcloth and held it to the flint and then spent a frustrating, somewhat painful and cramping 15 minutes thwacking and hitting the damn steel against it.

I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I was getting sparks. Sure, the flint was getting a bit dull in some sections, and that was affecting the result I wanted, but sparks kept flying.

Sure, I eventually got the charcloth smoldering, and it only took a moment to blow it into flames with some wood shavings from the shed.

But 15 minutes is too long when you need to get a fire going. And it was in calm, windless weather - all conditions optimal. I was warm and hydrated and my fingers were uncut and undamaged from canoeing and bushwhacking. I was in the backyard after a grueling day of sitting around. And then a thought occurred to me. I grabbed my keys, ran through the house muttering to Spring that I was just getting something from the car. I had put the charcloth that I made myself last week into a tinder kit in my knapsack that was sitting in my trunk.

I opened the zip lock bag, tore a strip off of the roll and compared it to the sample that came with my kit. Mine is the one on the left in the image above, and the one that came with the kit is on the right. Two differences jumped out to me. Mine was evenly carbonized, unlike the somewhat unburnt sections in the other - but more importantly (I think), mine was very thin, with fine charcloth fibers surrounded by air.

Feeling quite confident (as confident as one can feel in such circumstances, sitting in the backyard with a beer), I doubled over a strip of my charcloth on the upper edge of the flint, struck down with the steel and instantly my charcloth caught a spark.

Without any help, the embers grew and I could feel the heat coming off the strip.

Time after time, I put a new piece of charcloth on the flint, and time after time I got the charcloth glowing hot. To paraphrase James Carville - "It's the charcloth, stupid."

Pleased with the results, I sat back and watched the sun begin to go down. A woodpecker arrived to nibble on the suet hanging from the bird feeder.

A grackle (I think) dropped by to sample the dropped bird seed.

I examined the lawn that I had intended to mow, and decided to mow it tomorrow.

I pondered the shed and wondered how I was going to get a ramp set up to the door.

And since it was Sunday evening, I relaxed.

And Monty and I just sat, and Spring read her book and relaxed.



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