You can easily learn how to start a fire with a magnifying Glass, an ice cube, a water bottle, a baggie with water, a flashlight bulb, a chocolate bar and a tin can or other highly reflective or concentrated lights.
I was not very good at starting fires in the fireplace so I loved Christmas time when we had tons of wrapping paper to put under the fireplace wood to get it started. Half the time the fire would quickly burn up the wrapping paper and go out. Now fires are easy for me and I love to see ladies and kids learn how to start a fire in our survival classes and then go on to show a bunch of manly men how it’s done. It’s so awesome to see them empowered.
Most people can’t start a fire easily because they don’t prepare. You will need the paper (tinder), magnifier and fuel. The fuel is larger and larger pieces of wood, depending on the size of the fire and how long you want it to burn.
First of all, experiment with a round magnifying glass and focus the light on the area you want to light on fire until you have a small white dot. Use a plain white piece of paper as your tinder and go out in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest overhead and try to light the paper. Make sure this is done over something that will not burn like dirt or concrete. Use white paper and you will see that it won’t light, then rub the paper in the dirt or use a black marker to draw a large spot on it. Be patient and try to light it again while focusing the light on the dark area and it will quickly burn a hole in it. Great, now you know how to make a hole but still no fire. It might light and burn if you hold the paper right, be sure and put it out completely as the fire can start back up. Note a flat page magnifier can be much different to work with. Even though they are not very strong, the larger surface area can concentrate more of the sun’s power on to the tinder. This time you will focus it into a tiny white square as opposed to the round circle. Make sure you notice one side of the flat page magnifier is smooth, face the smooth side down.
Warning – it’s never good to stare into the sun, or the magnified light, it can hurt your eyes.
Now the trick is to actually get a good fire going. For that you should always prepare some tinder, like a manmade bird’s nest or tinder bundle from some palmetto fur, dryer lint, char or anything else that burns fast and easy. Whatever you use chop it into really small pieces or pull it apart and then form it into a bird’s nest like in the picture. Now try it again with the small dark area inside the nest and then blow a little life into it as it starts to smoke and you see an ember. You can also take the entire bundle and move it around in the air to fan the ember and light the tinder bundle. Be careful not to burn yourself or start a fire out of control.
As it begins to light the tinder bundle (birds nest) flip it over to get the flames to burn up the rest of the bundle and slide it under the small to larger pieces of wood for the fuel and you will see the fire grow. I am still lazy about fires, so now I add lighter knot, pine needles, hand sanitizer or Vaseline to my wood and let it catch to keep burning. The hand sanitizer can be dangerous because you won’t see the flame and it keeps burning for quite a while. Make sure if anyone else is around they know it is lit or they could get burned. You want to use the Vaseline like making a candle, just coat the outside of a cotton ball, which acts like the wick and light it. It will burn for a long time. When I first started survival classes, I saw a video to soak the cotton balls in Vaseline. That was a bad idea, you need something dry to light easy and the Vaseline part will burn slow, don’t soak it, just smear some on.
All the other items listed above that can be used like a magnifying glass simply need to be used to either let light through and then concentrate the light to the tinder or reflect the sun to the tinder. A video even shows one guy polishing a tin can with a chocolate bar or some clay to shine a hot reflection from the sun. I prefer to eat the chocolate and use a lighter but in a survival situation you may have to do something extreme like sacrificing your chocolate bar for fire. All kidding aside, everything looks easy when someone with experience does it but there is a huge deference between watching or reading about survival training verses actually taking a survival training class. Our goal in the Omega Ranch Academy survival classes is to make survival techniques natural and easy for you. We see lots of students struggle with simple little mistakes that requires hands on survival training for them to get it right. Be prepared! Learn to survive and thrive!