5 Of The Best Ways To Start A Fire Without Matches That You Should Know

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If you want to survive in the wilderness, then you must know a variety of ways to make fire without using a lighter or matches.

There are different ways to make fire using various items, and these can come in very handy when someone in your group drops the lighter or lost the match.

The items include common household tools and natural objects.

You can use them together to create friction, or you can also magnify the heat rays of the sun. Knowing all these methods and being able to utilize any one of them when the need arises, will undoubtedly make you the lord of flames!

Start a Fire without Matches

Gather a Source to Burn

You can begin with collecting dry wood because you need to create friction and also maintain a flame when it is built. Dry wood will work out fine, the dryer the better. If you are in a moist region where dampness is everywhere, then you can look for dry wood under the ledges, internal logs or any other place that is not damp.

You must also understand that not all types of wood offer same quality when it comes to making a fire because not all of them ignite equally. Some of the trees start a fire more actively, and they can be found in different regions. For example, paper birch has paper-like bark that can make good tinder even when damp. Moreover, you can also explore your options beyond wood.

At times, you are not in the wilderness, because making fire without a lighter or a match is a practice that is commonly associated when you are out in the bushes. Therefore, wood is your best choice. Nevertheless, in urban settings, you might not find any trees, and you need to adapt. You can use old books, furniture, and wooden pallets for this purpose.

Understand the Process of Making Tinder Nest for Your Fire

Making tinder and nest to nurture the embers that you create into a flame is as equally important as gathering the source to burn. For all the fire making techniques listed below, you must understand how to make a tinder nest for nurturing your embers.

1. The Hand Drill

  • You can begin by building a tinder nest from any dry material that came from plants. Make sure to use the stuff that conveniently catches fire.
  • You can find a wood piece and use it as the base of your hand drill. This base is also known as the fire board. You must drill on this wooden board to create friction.
  • With the help of a knife, or a scissor or any other sharp cutting tool, make a notch on the board in V-shape, right in the center of the board. It should be big enough to hold the spindle stick you have to create friction.
  • Put small pieces of bark under the notch. These pieces will enable you to catch the embers that you have created from the friction between the board and the spindle.
  • A spindle stick that is most effective for this process should be thin with at least half-inch in diameter and approximately a couple of feet long. You can position it on the fire board, precisely in the V-shaped notch.
  • Now hold the spindle in between your flat palms and start rolling it back and forth. Make sure that you are pushing the stick firmly on the board. Continue this process quickly until an ember is formed on the board by pushing one hand forward and then the other.
  • Place a few small pieces of bark right next to the notch and shift the embers onto this little piece of bark and then place the bark with the ember on your tinder nest and continue to blow gently on the nest to create the flame by transfer the ember.
  • Start adding large pieces of wood to maintain a large fire. This method requires plenty of physical and mental determination because it can take a while to make fire using this method.

2. The Bow Drill

  • Begin by making a tinder nest while choosing dry plant materials.
  • Find a substantial piece of wood or stone to use as a socket. This socket will be used to put pressure on your spindle.
  • Then look for a long and flexible wooden piece, about the length of your arm and slightly curved. Try to look for a bent section because you need to use it as a bow, and it will serve as a handle.
  • The string of the bow must be made of abrasive and robust material to absorb friction, and you can use your shoelace or even a thin rope, rawhide or paracord.
  • Make sure that you tighten the string as much a possible at each end of the bow. Loop the string of the bow around your spindle stick once and whittle one end of the stick in a pointy shape to limit friction within the socket.
  • The rest of the procedure is very similar to the previous one. Find and place the fire board with tinder nest underneath and make a V-shaped notch in the middle of it with the help of a knife.
  • Now place one end of the stick in the notch and then stack the socket on the top and hold it in your non-dominant hand and start sawing the bow back and forth quickly by pressing the curved part of the bow in your other hand.
  • When ember is formed, place it on the tinder nest right next to the fire board or underneath it and start blowing gently until the ember is transferred to flames in the nest.

3. With the Help of Steel Wool & Batteries

  • You can also make fire with the help of steel wool and cells if you have them along with you.
  • Begin with making a tinder nest using any dry plant material that can conveniently catch fire. The nest here will be used to create a flame from a spark. You can use a battery with any capacity, but 9V batteries usually ignite very quickly.
  • Now take your steel wool and rub it on the battery terminals. Fine steel wool will work better for this purpose. Continue with creating friction by rubbing the battery on the steel wool. The aim is to generate a current through the steel wires that will heat up and ignite. Instead of steel wool, you can also use a paper clip, however; the process of rubbing remains the same. The process works similar to how the wires operate in toasters or light bulbs.
  • When the wires of the steel wool start to glow; blow them gently nurture the flame.
  • As your steel wool starts to glow brightly; transfer it to the nest quickly and continue to blow gently until the tinder begins to ignite and create a flame.
  • Then carry on with adding large pieces of wood to make fire.

4. With the Help of Steel and Flint

  • Flint rocks tend to emit sparks with friction. Again, start your process of making fire by building a tinder nest with dry plant material.
  • Now take your flint rock and hold it between your forefingers and thumb. Make sure to carry it from the back (at least a couple of inches from the edge that you will rub on steel).
  • Now grab a piece of char cloth between the flint rock and your thumb. If you don’t have access to char cloth, then you can go for lightweight tree fungus as well.
  • For steel, you can use your knife and rub it against the flint rock and continue with this process until sparks begin.
  • You can catch these sparks with the char cloth or tree fungus or carry on with the process until the fabric or fungus begins to glow like an ember. Char cloth is designed to hold an ember without catching fires.
  • Now place you char cloth on the tinder nest and start blowing gently for inducing a flame and then add larger pieces of wood to make fire from the flame.

5. With the Help of a Magnifying Glass

  • To begin with this process, you have to make sure that there is enough sunlight to create fire. Generally speaking, the sun doesn’t need to be covered by clouds for full magnification of the rays. If you do not have a magnifying glass at your disposal, then you can also use binocular or eyeglass lenses for this technique too.
  • You can add water to the lens for a more focused and intense beam of light.
  • Keep in mind to build a tinder nest first, with the help of dry plant material and place it on the ground.
  • Now, tilt the lens towards the sun to adjust the angles to create a small circle of focuses light on the tinder nest.
  • Hold the lens in place until the nest starts to smoke and ignites a flame then blow gently to nurture it and start adding large pieces of wood to create a fire of your desire.


You’ll find many other ways of igniting the fire too, but the above-mentioned are the most convenient and favorite. Having lighters and matches in your backpack is not a bad thing, but these methods will come in handy when you have misplaced or dropped them somewhere. Whether you are in the wilderness or in the urban outdoors, these techniques won’t stop you from making a fire in your time of need.

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Sammy Garrard

I am the Founder and Chief Editor of outdoorsity.net and a prepper with over 15 years of experience. I’m excited to my knowledge and the things I learn while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where I live and around the world. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook!

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