Sep 25, 2007 at 4:22 pm #1225202
I have some old cotton T-shirts that are about to retire and I thought instead of throwing them away, I could cut them up and have a lifetime supply of charcloth. I know you can make it by putting small squares in something like an Altoids can and putting them in a fire. But my question is can this also be done on my kitchen stove (electric). If so, which setting?Sep 25, 2007 at 4:38 pm #1403578
I wouldn't do it inside. As the gases escape they catch fire and they stink like you've never imagined cotton could!
Better results will be obtained with a tighter tin. Altoid tins will work… kinda. You really need a tight tin like a snuff box. Punch one small hole in it with a brad, keep that brad handy. Toss it right into a hot charcoal fire. As the gases escape through the small hole they catch fire… and stink. When the gases stop escaping and things settle down, pull it out with tongs and immediately plug the hole with the brad so oxygen doesn't get in. If it does, and it will with the Altoid tin, your char cloth could turn to ash cloth. Let things cool down before you open your tin and viola! Char cloth for life.
Also, don't do too much per batch. Smaller batches work better. Test each cooking to make sure you got it right. Takes a little practice, but it will amaze your friends.Sep 25, 2007 at 5:32 pm #1403583
Unbleached cotton muslin works very well (very cheap in fabric stores, etc.) Be sure to ask or check if it is flame retardant. A lot of cotton fabric for clothing (e.g. sleepwear) is treated and does not make very good char cloth, including some tee shirts. Cotton balls make very flammable char! I have used Altoids tins without any modifications. The hinge holes allow volatiles to escape as gases, but not enough oxygen gets in to burn the remaining carbonized char. Shoe polish tins also work very well, but seal so tightly that a vent hole is needed. It is absolutely critical that any container be allowed to cool completely before being opened or the char will indeed ignite. Good char cloth is great stuff, and only needs a very small spark to catch. I use a very small Burt's Bees lip balm tin as part of my survival kit to make char for a long-term survival situation; just enough to light a couple of fires, that can in turn be used to make another batch of char for the next fires. For that I would use native materials (shredded cedar bark, punky wood, grasses, etc.) as the raw material, since I generally don't wear any cotton out in the bush.Sep 25, 2007 at 5:45 pm #1403584
I've got a feeling this is going to be a long thread ;-)Sep 25, 2007 at 8:43 pm #1403614
D GBPL Member
@dangLocale: Pacific Northwet
I made some char cloth from some cotton shop rags. I've also used old cotton t's.
I used an altoids can with a small hole in it and instead of a fire I put the altoids tin on my canister stove. It worked great.Sep 26, 2007 at 8:54 am #1403663
wow… it's been a while since I've delved into that…
Anyhow, Gotta echo the comments above:
1) Wouldn't recommend doing it in the house
2) Unbleached Cotton Mulsin is great (as it Untreated Linen), t-shirts CAN work, but results can vary due to differeing amounts of chemicals used in production. I find cotton flannel is pretty decent…
3) Make sure watever container is nice and tight… I use altoids tins with success
My normal way is to toss said tin on some coals and watch the volatiles billow out (I punch a single small pin-hole in the top of the altoids tin so I can watch the smoke easier) when it's stopped smoking for a while, it's done.
There's a bit of an art to figuring out how much to pack in the tin or not… too much won't char properly… too little can actually burn…Sep 26, 2007 at 10:39 am #1403684
todd harperBPL Member
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
Thank you for posting about this.
Wow, do I feel ignorant–I've never heard of char cloth before. Now I can't wait to try this.
ToddSep 26, 2007 at 12:55 pm #1403711
@rosierabbitLocale: Pacific Northwest
I've never heard of char cloth before, either. A quick search on google found a definition on Wikipedia (inserted below). It sounds kinda cool, but messy. Is char cloth really worth the hassle to make? I'm rather partial to trick birthday candles – the kind that don't blow out in the wind because they, well, don't blow out in the wind.
Char cloth is cloth (linen or cotton) that has been combusted in the absence of oxygen. It is easily ignited by even the weakest of sparks.
It has been used as tinder, often in conjunction with flint and steel, for firelighting for thousands of years.Sep 26, 2007 at 1:12 pm #1403715
Eh, depends… if you take cotton balls + vaseline, or tinderquik tabs, you probably don't need it. Char-cloth is the long-time standard for catching sparks from flint and steel.
The main benefit is that you can make it on the trail as you use it.Sep 26, 2007 at 3:05 pm #1403732
You can buy a big bag of cotton flannel gun cleaning patches at Walmart for next to nothing. They are the perfect size and make really good char. Best tinder I've found is oakum rope caulk.
In reality, the buckskinner likely didn't make char cloth. Linen and woven cotton cloth would have been a precious commodity. More common char would have been made from punky wood or timber fungus. Timber fungus works well and burns a long time like incense. They found timber fungus, flint, and pyrite among the possibles of Otzi the Iceman. Circa 3300 BC.
Don't even get me started on my fire pistons ;-)Sep 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm #1403742
@fairweather8588Locale: The DesertSep 27, 2007 at 5:00 pm #1403898
Thanks for the replies everyone! I was going to head out to the woods this weekend where I can make a fire and cook up a batch but I think tonight I'll also give the canister stove method a try on my deck. I'm not going to try it inside after everything I've read. The consensus seems to be 6 minutes so That's what I'll try. I'll report back…Sep 27, 2007 at 5:31 pm #1403900
I Just tried it with my Gigapower stove and an Altoids tin and it worked! I'll post a video of it in my blog this weekend (too tired tonight). Very easy, very cool, and very cheap!Sep 27, 2007 at 8:02 pm #1403911
Glad it worked out! You really can't put a kitchen timer on your char. It's done when it's done. Let the smoke and fire die down… wait a bit longer and it's done.
See yaSep 28, 2007 at 8:14 am #1403943
"You can buy a big bag of cotton flannel gun cleaning patches at Walmart for next to nothing. They are the perfect size and make really good char. Best tinder I've found is oakum rope caulk."
Both interesting ideas… I may have to swing by Walmart this weekend…Sep 28, 2007 at 9:17 am #1403948
Jason, can't give you anymore insight than what others have said about the cloth.
Here is some info on char rope and how to make and use.
This is a quote from my website: ""Came across this fire making tool while cleaning my carage.
I call it rope char. It's easy to make compared to making regular sheet char. Not as fragile a sheet char.
This method was used in early times for pre-flintlock guns(blunderbusts). A glowing rope was used to ignite the powder.
In world war 1, soldiers in the trenches needed a means to light their cigarettes without showing the enemy a bright glowing match. At that time the "Trench" lighter was introduce. The lighter contained a charred wick/rope that would ignite easily with a spark and glow red hot enough to light em up if they had them.
I saw this on the net at some point in time and made one to see how they work.
It's made with a short length of alum. tubing and strands of cotton from a floor mop. The mop needs to be 100% natural cotton. If you can find a piece of 1/2 inch cotton rope use that first.
put the rope into the tube, fuzz up the end of it and lite it. Let it burn for 15 sec or so and then blow it out. It will continue to have a glowing red ember on the end, the part used to start you tinder on fire when practicing your fire making skills. Now pull the glowing rope back into the tube to make the ember go out. Let it stay in the tube protected from harm.
The charred end of the rope starts easily with a spark from a ferrocerium rod/sparker rod or flint and steel.""
Here are some photos of the rope char tube:
</center> These are little diy ferrocerium rods that are handy for keeping on your keychain. Lightweight backpacking size. I use one to throw a spark onto the char rope for the photos.
There is an interesting article here about fire making: http://www.bplite.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=63Sep 28, 2007 at 11:40 am #1403955
Huh… so the idea is the keep the cap around a length of rope, get the end to ember / burn smolder from a spark… use the smoldering bit to light your fire and then pull rope back over the cap and use later?Sep 28, 2007 at 11:52 am #1403957
Yes Joshua, pull rope back into the tube to snuff it out. The tube will protect the charred end of the rope. use it later, light with spark.
Over on http://www.bplite.com in the Articles forum( http://www.bplite.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=63 )
, member oops56 shows how to char cotton oil lamp wick. He says it's much more durable than cotton t shirts. He uses an alcohol stove to char it inside of an altoids tin.Sep 29, 2007 at 8:42 am #1404016Sep 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm #1404042
I replaced the mop threads with cotton Mason Line, works alot better. More dense of a weave.
Nice video Jason. I'll have to do videos someday. You are an inspiration.
Try charring some rope.
</center>Sep 30, 2007 at 5:45 pm #1404125
Thanks Dan! Yes! You should definitely do some videos. I'm sure a lot of people would love to see all of your cool designs in video.May 13, 2009 at 7:17 pm #1501138
todd harperBPL Member
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
I made a batch of char cloth tonight on my Pocket Rocket, per Jason's video. (Thanks Jason!!!)
Looks great, takes sparks just like Jason's, etc. However, I'm wondering what tinder lights quickest with it. Using dryer lint I had no problem, but if I have it with me, I don't really need the char cloth, ya know?
Tried dry grass, leaves to no avail, so I'm still wondering what will work best – and keep in mind most of my hiking is in the SE (when considering natural tinder sources).
Thank you!May 13, 2009 at 8:02 pm #1501142
D GBPL Member
@dangLocale: Pacific Northwet
By the way, a must have item to include with a fire kit using charcloth is some length of jute twine. You can carry a couple of feet rolled up.
To use, cut off a length 3 or 4 inches long and start unravelling the strands of the twine until you are down to individual fine fibers. This is actually pretty easy and only takes a few minutes. You can then bunch the fibers into a small tinder bundle. Put your char cloth (with a caught spark) inside the little bundle and blow on it. It will catch fire really easily.
I've had much difficulty getting a spark in charcloth to ignite tinder but with the jute twine bundle it's quite easy.May 13, 2009 at 9:30 pm #1501153
Patrick StarichBPL Member
@pjstarichLocale: N. Rocky Mountains
>what tinder lights quickest?
Todd, I've found oiled oakum makes great tinder but it can be hard to find. It is made by untwisting old used rope and oiling it; trust me you don't want to make it yourself. It was used in the 19th century to seal the hulls of wooden ships. Later it was used by plumbers to seal the joints on cast iron drain pipe. It can still be found at some plumbing shops. It comes both oiled and unoiled. The oil help keep it from absorbing moisture. You can oil the unoiled variety yourself. You pull it apart like the jute twine Daniel mentions, until it looks like a mass of loosely tangled hair and set your char cotton on it. Nest that in coarser tinder and ignite it with a spark. A 3-4 inch piece of oiled oakum goes along way.
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