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Tinder is a material used to begin a fire, it needs to be able to light your kindling and require the minimum of heat to catch alight. Good tinder needs only a small ember or spark for it to ignite, but it must be totally dry. It’s a good idea to have a waterproof tinder pouch in which you can store tinder safely until you need it. You should constantly be on the look out for potential tinder. It is better to have some at hand already than having to go off and look for some. Below is just a few examples of what natural materials you could use as tinder.

  • Cattail Down: Taken from the downy seed head of the Cattail plant during Spring. Excellent for use with a magnifying glass or modern sparks. The same can be said for Cottonwood, Aspen, Willows, Fireweed, Poplar, Rosebay Willowherb and Dandelion seed heads.
  • Punk Wood: Soft, decaying wood can be crumbled and lit with sparks providing it is dry.
  • Wood Shavings: Some wood can be scraped into thin shreds for tinder. See also Feather Sticks.
  • Resin: Conifers “bleed” resin when damaged, this burns bright and strong. Collect large amounts for improvised candles.
  • Horsehoof’s Fungus (Fomes fomentarius): This is found on dead birch and beech trees. To produce the useful part you must strip off the outer layer and remove the spoors underneath to expose the trama. This will leave you with a leathery brown layer. Simmer the fungus for 24 hours then hammer it out flat and massage hardwood ash into the fungus until it has dried. This will leave you with a tinder known as amadou which can be lit with sparks. Alternatively instead of boiling you could just scrape up the amadou layer with a knife to produce fine fibres, these should light from modern sparks.This does work with  other bracket fungi, any in fact that have that leathery trama layer, though not quite as well as Horsehoof Fungus.
  • Crampball (Daldinia concentrica): Crampball is another fungus that can be used for firelighting. Although rare outside the UK, it is very good tinder which can even be used to substitute charcoal to cook over. Break it open and ignite the core which is surrounded by silver rings.
  • Birch Bark Shavings: This is an excellent fire starter when used in conjuction with the natural peelings of the Silver Birch tree. The oils within the bark will help it ignite easily. Scrape the outer side of the bark with a sharp knife so you are left with a golf ball size pile. This can then be ignited with sparks. You can also do the same process with red cedar bark.
  • Other Tinders: dried grasses, feather sticks, tissue paper, shredded bark, termite mounds (crumble a chunk), powdery dry animal droppings, cotton fluff and lint.
  • Dead Bracken: A readily available tinder excellent for use with friction fire lighting. Strip the dry leaves and "buff up". Dries quickly and is an effective tinder.

Crampball                                      Dead Bracken

Man Made Tinders:

Parrafin balls - Impregate cotton balls with vaseline for quick firelighters that will take a spark
Wetfire TinderTM - A commercial product that are virtually indistinguishable from modern BBQ firelighter bricks, light when wet, but a much cheaper alternative can be found in your local hardward store!

Preparing Tinders:

Buffing: This is an excellent tinder preperation for friction fire lighting. To create a fine and fluffy tinder ideal for glowing embers rub and roll the tinder energetically between your hands. Some examples of "buffable" materials is dead bracken, dry grasses and Honeysuckle bark.

Ember extending: With a knife tip perforate a small depression in the surface of your tinder (such as a Crampball fungus) and place a glowing ember within. This will keep the ember alive and stop you from having to create another ember if it cooled too quickly. You can then transfer the glowing tinder to some fibrous material to blow into flames.

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