Friction Fire with All Natural Materials

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When I was young, I was always fascinated with the idea of rubbing two sticks together and creating fire. I never accomplished it until I was a lot older. Fast forward thirty some odd years and I have finally started a fire in ways that would make the younger me jealous. Back then, I would sit on the porch and just rub two sticks together and wonder why it never burst into flames! well, now I know why.

The key aspect of getting a fire is from friction. Friction is defined as “the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another” over time this friction heats up and eventually causes an ember. An ember is a glowing, hot coal made of greatly heated wood. An ember is formed when a piece of fuel has only been partially burnt, and there is still usable energy in that piece of fuel. The ember produces a coal which will smolder until it burns out or until that heat is given enough oxygen and transferred to a more combustible material to create fire. Essentially, fire is a constant transfer of energy.

Today, we are going to discuss starting a fire with all natural materials using friction. Specifically, the Rudiger fire roll.  It is believed to have been invented by WW2 Prisoners of War trying to light their cigarettes because they did not have access to matches. The process of making fire with the fire roll is very simple. You will need:

  • Two flat surfaces
  • A cotton ball
  • Wood ashes
  • Tender bundle

In the example video below, I wanted to start this fire from natural material. I wanted to walk into the woods and start a fire with a cotton ball that I brought with me and naturally occurring items for the rest of the setup. I split a willow log in half with my knife and a mallet. I then used my knife to make sure the split logs were smooth because this is going to be our base for the friction. I then bird nested my tender bundle. In South Mississippi, there is no shortage of dog fennel to use at tender for your fire. Dog fennel is perfect for starting fire, I have not actually tried it but it I believe you could lite it with just a spark from an empty lighter or a spark from flint and steel. (I will be testing this theory out soon)

Next, I unrolled the cotton ball and sprinkled some wood ashes onto the cotton. Then you roll the cotton back up tightly. At this point it should look like a dirty cotton ball but more compressed. Place the cotton roll in between the logs or boards an now you’ll roll it up to compress the cotton. Do this a few times. Until the cotton roll is very firm. Now all you have to do is roll the cotton back and forth under your log or board with the longest strokes you can. Add pressure and speed. It should generally only take 15 seconds or less of rolling the cotton. You should see smoke at this point and the middle of the cotton roll with start smoking and turning black. Give it a little air and now you should have an ember. Place your cotton in the tender bundle and give it some air and in no time you should have fire! I have demonstrated how to do this at length in these videos. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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In the video below, I used a tampon to start a fire with friction.

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