Fire by Magnification, fun sure, but is it really practical?

Discussion in 'Fire' started by Lassmanac, May 18, 2019.

  1. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    So, I just did the fire by magnification elective for bushclass. I used punkwood with a feather stick for one and chaga with date palm frond for the other. I also used one of those cheepo magnifier cards for one and a two inch magnifying glass for the other. I had a bit of trouble with a single piece of punk wood. Darn thing kept going out! I ended up bringing out my punk wood tin, which worked a charm.

    As a kid, i used to burn stuff all the time. In fact, a couple summers ago, a buddy and I had a contest to see who could burn through a board fasted using a magnifier.

    Of course, those brass/copper/steel hudson bay tobacco tins have a magnifier built right in. But i'm curious... they seem to have very limited potential. I mean, dark/rain/cloudy/overhead cover you can forget it. Where as a flint/steel set or ferro rod seems much more versatile.

     
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  2. halo2

    halo2 Curmudgeon in Training Supporter

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    IMO, its a tool for the toolbox.
     
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  3. CreativeRealms

    CreativeRealms Tracker

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    I'd say it depends where you live. It tends to be sunny during all the seasons by me so it's something that could be pretty useful compared to somewhere where it's more cloudy.
     
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  4. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    True. Here in the Middle East, I could certainly use this technique more than I would be able to in the Pacific Northwest, where I'm from. We don't tan, we rust.
     
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  5. CreativeRealms

    CreativeRealms Tracker

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    Can confirm as I'm also from the Middle East. We appear to be neighbors.
     
  6. SpookyPistolero

    SpookyPistolero Slow learner Lifetime Supporter Bushclass I

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    Mors said if you want to learn a knot, you have to learn all the ways to tie it. I think it's similar with fire. Sure your go-to isn't going to be fire by magnification. But if some kind of lens is all you have to work with? It would be good to understand the ins and outs. It's not to replace a lighter or firesteel, just to add to one's depth of understanding.
     
  7. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    Hidy Ho, Neighbor! :)
     
  8. arleigh

    arleigh Guide

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    Try a convex mirror.
    they are light weight and thin and about 4" in diameter. sold to women for doing make-up. cheap.
     
  9. PAcanis

    PAcanis Supporter Supporter

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    If I'm down to my last bit of punk wood or char cloth and the sun is out, I think I'd opt for the magnifying glass, just to save my consumable resources.
     
  10. halo2

    halo2 Curmudgeon in Training Supporter

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    I see a lot of value in learning how to improvise fire from a water bottle or bag filled with water. These are on my to do list, which keeps getting longer unfortunately.
     
  11. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead LB#42 Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    ^^ This.
    While fire is basically the same, the prep can be different.
     
  12. shoggoth80

    shoggoth80 Tracker

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    Tools in the toolbox. I keep a magnifier/ fresnel in my fire kit. Not very heavy, and while I don't live in the sunniest of regions, the magnifier can be used for other tasks as well.
     
  13. JeffG

    JeffG Guide

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    I have a lens out of binoculars that I keep in my wallet. It's always there, and handy.
     
  14. wvridgerunner

    wvridgerunner BCUSA Friend Bushcraft Friend

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    I usually carry the resources but should practice it more.
     
  15. Wasp

    Wasp DOWN IN DIXIE Hobbyist Supporter

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    I still have one in my psk, but it wouldn't be my first choice.

    Lenses burn dark material better, so charred punkwood might be the best choice.
     
  16. halo2

    halo2 Curmudgeon in Training Supporter

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    Someone I know kept a Fresnel lens and bit of lampwick in his wallet. Seems a sound idea.
     
  17. Bridgetdaddy

    Bridgetdaddy Supporter Supporter

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    I bought a fresnel lense (magnifying sheet) from the dollar store and tried it out yesterday. It is about 6 1/2x 9 1/2 inches. The focus point was about half the diameter of a pencil eraser.
    It burned into a 2x6 instantly. It would not light wood shavings because the surfaces were too irregular. It did light dryer lint very fast.
    As others have said, this would not be your first option, but it is good to learn. IMG_20190518_150757498.jpg
    IMG_20190518_150913848.jpg IMG_20190518_150841322.jpg
    Wind helped me light it, then blew it off my board.
     
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  18. Young Blacksmith

    Young Blacksmith Supporter Supporter

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    Good job persisting with the first punkwood/featherstick method. The second style, using chaga (ember) and a tinder bundle is much easier!

    When the sun is abundant, and materials are dry, I enjoy using solar ignition. The basic prep is the same as flint and steel or friction, you have to have a tinder bundle ready for taking the ember, which will then be blown to flame. It's a lot easier than friction, but not as on-demand as f&s. I use punkwood or pithy weed centers. If you think in terms of sustainability, your steel will eventually wear out, your lighter will run out of fuel, your ferro-rod will be used up. If you carry the lens as a backup, pull it out! Use it when the sun's out and you have time and materials. You've already prepped the materials for a fire, what harm is taking 15 more minutes to use the sun? Once you get used to it, it'll be just as easy as the other methods, and will extend your primary methods for use in marginal conditions.

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Hillbilly stalker

    Hillbilly stalker Scout

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    stripped cedar bark starts easy, along with burnt or charred wood from last fire.
     
  20. Odd-Arne Oseberg

    Odd-Arne Oseberg Tracker

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    Just a skill you should know, even if you don't carry the tool.

    Where applicable it certainly burns a lot less calories than other options.

    I always carry a fresnel lens in my wallet these days. If you're in a group of people someone is probably wearing glasses which work just fine.

    Never been in a real emergency were it was needed, but there was a barbeque on a boat trip once that would have ended quite vegan if this didn't work.

    My sister thought I should just rub two sticks together as she knew I was into that stuff. Could probably figure that out, but unlike the 5 mins she seemed to think it would take it might have taken me closer to 5 hours. :)
     
  21. Gascozark

    Gascozark Tracker

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    Using a magnifying lens to start a fire uses the free energy from the sun. No wear and tear on your ferro rod, no gas from your lighter, and most importantly in a survival scenario, no calories used to produce the ember. Like many others have said, just another tool in the toolbox.
     
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  22. Hillbilly stalker

    Hillbilly stalker Scout

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    I carry 2 in my wallet the size of a credit card. I consider it a reusable resource, save licks on the fire steel, flint, chat cloth, bow string or whatever else I have. It's worth a look see.
     
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  23. Robert Highhawk

    Robert Highhawk Scout

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    Sometimes it works too good. I gave my two step sons a small magnifying glass years ago. They set the pine woods on fire with it. Being the head Ranger for that area I had to hurry and put it out. It got up to about a half acre. Yes, I wrote both of them a ticket.
     
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  24. CSM1970

    CSM1970 Guide

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    The fresnel lens is handy but I prefer a glass lens for its light gathering capacity. And if you want a back up, buy one of those Chinese 50,000,000,000 lumen flashlights and forget about the magnifier.
     
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  25. woodsranger

    woodsranger Solitude Seeker

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    Very practical as long as the sun is out! All my other fire starting items...lighter, matches, ferro rod...will eventually get used up, but a magnifying glass, as long as you take care of it, will give you fire forever. Much easier to use than trying to start a fire by friction too. I thing a magnifying glass combined with char cloth is the best long-term fire starter available.

    And if you bank your fire, you'll be able to restart it easily on days where there is no sun.

    Just my opinion, of course. :)
     
  26. DomC

    DomC Retired Old Scrub Stomper Supporter

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    I wholeheartedly agree!;):dblthumb:
    Dominick........
     
  27. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but... now?? got a good chuckle, so thanks for that.

    My brother set our neighbors tree on fire once. He came running through the front door with that look on his face and disappeared. About 5 minutes later we hear fire trucks. Go outside to see our neighbor's tree aflame. We found him hiding under his bed, terrified. I don't remember what happened to him, but knowing my dad, it wasn't pretty.
     
  28. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    Yeah, i'll definitely be putting some magnification into my kits. I do love the hudson bay tin as well as my new little glass and leather case.
     
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  29. Robert Highhawk

    Robert Highhawk Scout

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    Something about a fire that comes from the sun.
     
  30. will62

    will62 Guide

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    If it is sunny I will use a magnifier for firestarting. I used my magnifying glass to start the charcoal for the grill the other day. A couple of slivers of lump charcoal and some shredded jute, five minutes later a nice fire was burning in the chimney.
     
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  31. Wendy Owens

    Wendy Owens Scout

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    Try it with char cloth
     
  32. will62

    will62 Guide

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    I normally use char cloth but wanted to see if I could get an ember in lump charcoal.
     
  33. jswi2374

    jswi2374 Woods Bum Supporter Bushclass I

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    This ^^^
    A lens is the most practical and least versatile, if that makes sense. It consumes no resources but conditions have to be right.
     
  34. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Works better with dark tinder, I RIT dyed some cotton balls and fire came much faster.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
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  35. Cheapeats

    Cheapeats Guide

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    Tahawk instead of dyeing them light one and extinguish it to leave the outside charred, and if nothing else the magnifier is something more of us older folks can use in our kits whether it is for pulling a splinter or starting a fire or even reading label.
     
  36. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Oh yes. Other uses. I find dying is less messy than charing, but charred cloth is the Gold Standard.
     
  37. GoodPhotos

    GoodPhotos Father, Husband, Patriot, Entrepreneur Supporter

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    Practice! When you are wandering the post apocalypse landscape being hunted by hoards driven to cannibalism, your matches, ferro rod, flint and bics are a long ago memory and you don't dare make any noise...the bottom of that broken coke bottle you find on the side of the debris strewn road may be your best fire producing method when you are desperate for some dandelion "coffee!";)
     
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  38. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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  39. Hook

    Hook Scout

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    Exactly what I was thinking.
     
  40. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Our members in Seattle must be getting a good laugh, but it worked great in Southern California.
     
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  41. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    that's a good point!
     
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  42. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    I need a lot more practice with these actual methods, but mentally I categorize fire by magnification as practical in a way that fire by iron oxidization (percussion, flint and steel) is practical: you tend to learn the technique using a very specific set of tools that you may carry just for this method of fire, but once you understand the idea you can improvise away from those specific tools.

    For example, a number of people learn flint and steel methods using a purpose-made striker, their favorite piece of chert/flint, and charred cloth. All tools that people tend to carry into the field with them when they want to make flint and steel fires. However, it is possible to strike sparks off of a knife, using a rock you found in the wild, onto fungi, punk wood or charred plant materials you made on your trip, instead of bringing the purpose-made tools from home.

    Similarly, if you have a basic sense of fire by light magnification with a Hudson bay tin magnifier, you can branch out with lenses from glasses, curved water bottles, plastic baggies, and find yourself with--as others have said--a lot more tools in the toolbox.

    The time-dependence of getting sunlight for fire might also be a good mental habit to pickup: seeing a resource like the sun and asking "how likely is it that I will want this resource in the future? " I also see less discussion on the forms about the storage of active fire (banking fires, carring smoldering fungi and plant material) than methods of ignition that are usually used right before the fire is created instead of hours before. Might be useful to have more discussion about that.
     
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  43. Lassmanac

    Lassmanac Man Enough to be a Girl Scout Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass II

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    excellent points. I've seen demonstrations of sandwich bags and water bottles being used, but never tried.

    I read an article or paper some place (here... maybe...???) describing how early native americans could "carry fire" for days. That nomadic groups had a designated fire carrier that would store embers in a grass bundles regularly checking and feeding the ember so it was never quashed. Might be interesting to practice.
     
  44. Jeremy Hess

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    I carry a bic lighter 6"x 1/2" farro rod steel striker and a few different stones and a magnifying glass all in my kit if the sun is out I use the magnifying glass before all else, why? Because the sun is the one thing I dont have to carry or replace it never truly runs out and it lights a piece of char material quicker then any other form will. To me solar fre is the most practical form of primitive fire to carry my glass is about 1.5" around and an 1/8" thick it fits anywhere I'd like to put it and is so light you'll never complain about it in your pack or on your person. IMHO I would again state it's the most practical to carry and have it's also very simple to use and get a fire started not a whole lot of fine motor skills involved in it and even on an overcast or cloudy day with the proper glass and some patience a fire can still readily be had with one. Just my 2 cents.
     
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  45. TAHAWK

    TAHAWK Guide

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    Black tinder helps - better absorption of radiant energy.
     
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  46. Barry J

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    Anything you can do to darken the material will help. The idea is to make the material obsorb the heat/light instead of reflecting it. I have darkened materials with a pencil, crayon, magic marker, and charcoal. It all worked.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
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  47. PMSteve

    PMSteve Old Timey Outdoorsman Supporter

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    As many have stated, this method works best with a dark-colored target material. I keep a credit card-sized Fresnel lens in my fire kit, along with flint & steel with char cloth.

    Using a lens as a firestarter is sometimes fickle. On one day it works like a charm, when on other days all you'll accomplish is making dark burn spots on stuff.

    going back to the time I first learned to use a lens for starting a fire, I found it much more fun to burn ants and spiders. I keep the lens with my other fire kit because it might come down to the last method you'll try to save yourself.

    Steve
     
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  48. Barry J

    Barry J Guide

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    I remember those days as a kid too!
    I think a magnifier should be the first thing you try, unless it's an emergency. Give the lens a try for a few mintues. If it works, you just saved another resource you might need later.
     
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