The Natural Char Thread - (Post What's Working for You!)

Discussion in 'Fire' started by NWPrimate, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    !!! That's like...a magic trick. Oh my. That's wonderful! Any concerns with burning yourself during the snuffing process?

    No worries about the video, thanks for letting me know! That's great to hear that you can keep them closed during the char and then open them up afterwards. I was worried that the cattails would be best with a tin only, because the fluff tends to fly away if it's pulled out and exposed to the wind at all, but charring without separating them and then separating after solves that issue well!
     
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  2. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    :)

    My hands are pretty fire resistant at this point but the heat coming off of the char didn't seem bad at all.

    I was doing my best not to put skin against smoldering material, but not really for fear of being burned, but because I didn't want to compress it too much. There was one stubborn section that didn't want to go out, so I just snuffed it with my fingertips, but I think I could have waited it out in my cupped hands.

    I didn't feel any pain or see any (new) skin damage. I think a slightly smaller piece would have made this even easier.

    This also made me realize that this could probably be accomplished in a Ziploc bag if you were careful not to let the top side of the bag contact the smoldering portion. I don't think that would be an option for the Hardwoodsman challenge, but it is something that we're all likely to have somewhere in our packs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  3. bacpacjac

    bacpacjac Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    My trusty Flint & Steel kit was calling to me today while I waited for my lunch to cook.

    P1080038.JPG

    We couldn't get my tin of Mullein to go in the snow the other night, so I decided to try cattail reed in the basement today. I crushed up the dried reed, and mixed in some fluff and hit with the F&S. It took a few strikes, but the fluff finally caught flame, and then the reeds slowly started to char. I let it burn for a little bit and then closed it up.

    P1080041.JPG P1080042.JPG P1080059.JPG P1080077.JPG P1080078.JPG

    When I opened it again, it looked like this.

    P1080087.JPG

    After a few strikes, I finally got a couple of embers. YEAH!

    P1080089.JPG
     
  4. DavidJAFO

    DavidJAFO Supporter Supporter

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    hello,
    Cousin @bacpacjac attagirl. :dblthumb:
    Regards
    David
     
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  5. bacpacjac

    bacpacjac Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Thanks, Teach! More experimenting with fire is on the agenda for this afternoon. :)
     
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  6. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I'll try to remember to shoot some video soon, but the first test went great. I noticed a lot of condensation on the bag after it filled up with smoke. Some of this is likely moisture in the material, but water vapor is a byproduct of combustion so you might even see this with completely dry material.

    For that reason, it makes sense to wipe out and try to dry the interior of the bag after charring if you intend to store the char in the same bag.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Coryphene

    Coryphene Guide

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    Am I reading this right that just dried cattail fluff and reed went directly to flame with flint and steel? I've not found anything that will go direct to flame with a flint and steel spark. If this is indeed the case, tell me more!
     
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  8. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Tried snuffing punkwood out in my hands today. Slightly "spongy" source:
    [​IMG]

    The punkwood was damp, so igniting it with a lighter only charred a small portion of the overall piece. Regardless, I sealed the piece between my (gloved) hands and hung out for five minutes until I feel most of the heat go away. The result was cool enough to hold in an ungloved hand
    [​IMG]

    And happily took a firesteel spark:
    [​IMG]

    I think it's a method I would be wary of without gloves, but definitely a viable method for charring without a metal container on hand.
     
  9. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    About a week ago I grabbed some cedar embers out of the fire and snuffed them out in my tin.

    Today I pulled out a piece to see if I could get sparks to land. It took quite a few strikes, but I got there eventually.

     
  10. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    I'm quoting across threads with my question here (for anyone not following the Flint and Steel Friday thread, click on the up arrow to the right of "NWPrimate said" to jump to the original post, with video)
    @NWPrimate , that's impressive weather protection! Do you think the kelp would have protected the char against rain, too, or would that have been the limit for re-soaking the kelp?
     
  11. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I'm not sure. I think it would be a matter of duration. Being airtight, I'm pretty confident that it could stand up to a little rain as long as the opening was facing down, but I'm not sure how long it would take for the material to start soaking through and passing that on to the char. I kept the char packs tucked underneath a log which kept them safe from the fog-based drips coming down out of the trees, so they were only exposed to atmospheric moisture and whatever droplets came in horizontally.

    It might be fun to seal the ends up with some pitch for a little exposure/submersion testing on a future trip. :)
     
  12. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I had my first success with charred fungi. I have been a bit cautious in approaching fungi for fire, but have been learning more and gaining some confidence in my ID skills and decided to give it another try.

    I’m pretty sure this is Artist’s conk. (Ganoderma applanatum)

    [​IMG]

    This seemed like a good sign.

    [​IMG]


    I am looking forward to experimenting with this dried, and un-charred, but I didn’t have the patience to dry it out, so I sliced it thin and cooked it in the tin.

    [​IMG]

    I can see why @Coryphene is always raving about this stuff. The finished product was durable, took a spark with ease, and burned really hot.

    [​IMG]

    On top of that, I think this is the first time I’ve seen an ember outlive the tinder bundle. I noticed it sitting on the ground, still smoldering as the flames died down, so I picked it up and put it back into the tin for future use.

    [​IMG]

     
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  13. Primordial

    Primordial MOA #40 Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Charred fungus is the best! Try slicing some the other way so the pores look like a "honeycomb" when you look at it. Char that, then use it and see if you notice a difference. I know that when I char birch polypore the "pores" seems to hold air and have an increased total surface area, and that seems to cause the ember to really lite up when a spark takes it.
     
  14. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Thanks @Primordial . I meant to go back and read some of the great charred fungi posts in this thread first, but just got excited and jumped in. I will definitely try slicing it the other way. These are extraordinarily common, so I'm going to be playing with this stuff again in the future. I wasn't sure which layer would be best for taking sparks, so I figured I'd try to include them all in each slice to hedge my bets. It didn't catch where I expected it to. :D
     
  15. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    @NWPrimate that is great news about the artists conch. That stuff grows all over the place here. I will be giving that a try.

    I think your bull kelp containers should work well after all they are designed by nature to be waterproof.

    @bacpacjac did you get the uncharged cattail to catch a spark from flint and steel?
     
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  16. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I found a huge one this afternoon! It was too cool to harvest.

    [​IMG]



    Edit: Now I'm not entirely sure if these are Artist's Conk (G. applanatum) or Southern Bracket (G. australe) . It looks like the once I sliced up the other day might have actually been Southern Bracket.


    https://arbtalk.co.uk/articles.html/articles/southern-bracket-or-artist’s-conk-r32/
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
  17. Cedarfire

    Cedarfire Tracker Lifetime Supporter

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    Never knew they grew that big, good on you for letting it be, it's a beauty!
     
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  18. bacpacjac

    bacpacjac Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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  19. bacpacjac

    bacpacjac Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I've tried several times and I haven't been able to duplicate this, so I'm fairly certain that it's a red herring. I think hat happened is that I must have gotten a spark to an little ember in the reeds and that lit the fluff. I have yet to get cattail fluff to flame by spark. :/ Sorry for the confusion and for not circling back on this sooner.
     
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  20. Sloany

    Sloany Supporter Supporter

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    Hey Ms Jack.
    Have you ever tried dried Milk Weed Ovum with your F&S. If not, give it a try. Works great. Gather it up in the fall and store it in zip-lok`s when it`s dry. Better yet, pick it when your out and about and try it in the field. :59:
     
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  21. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I tried burying some smoldering punk wood in dry sand to extinguish it, but ten minutes of dropping sparks onto it wouldn't light it up again.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  22. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I tried slicing and charring what I believe to be red belt conk (Fomitopsis pinicola), but for unknown reasons I was unable to get any sparks to continue smoldering on it after they landed.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  23. buckfynn

    buckfynn Old Geezer Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    @NWPrimate For whatever it is worth, I tried the samething you just did over half a dozen time with no sucess. I have either been doing something wrong or it just may not work very well. :33:
     
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  24. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I saved a slice of this stuff from last month that had been drying under cover on my back porch, so I tried open flame charring it before snuffing it out in a tin.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It worked just as well as the batch that I cooked in the tin.

    [​IMG]
     
  25. Cedarfire

    Cedarfire Tracker Lifetime Supporter

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    Interesting they worked equally well, wonder if time would make a difference? That would be something if the tin was not necessary for obtaining good charred materials & a good flame is only needed. I'd miss the charring tin process though:17:
     
  26. Bushcraft-kelso

    Bushcraft-kelso Am are Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    My favorite char material by far is pulverized cedar bark. Processed as one would to use for a tinder bundle. Then add to your tin and throw in the fire. I keep my tin full in my F&S kit. As well as a ziplock bag full of charred cloth. 1530981530971-1930274679.jpg also.. for myself.. I went away from Altoids tins as my F&S kit tin. Just for size, and I can keep these small tin full while in the kit. 1530981740866-708292846.jpg I do however use the Altoids tins to contain my larger fire kits in my packs, haversack! But a small tin of processed cedar bark is my favorite!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  27. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    After several failed attempts at snuffing out smoldering material with dirt and sand, I started to wonder if it might be the compression and abrasion of the surface that was causing my issues. Even using what felt like bone-dry sand resulted in great looking char that just wouldn't take a spark.

    When I tried protecting the surface with a bark sandwich before burying it, it worked great. I did several experiments like this and time and again, the stuff that was buried directly failed to ignite, where the protected pieces readily took sparks.

    [​IMG]

    I didn't take any photos of burying it, but you can check out one of the videos below if you're interested.

    One minute version...



    Five minute version...



    One of the finished batches.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  28. rsnurkle

    rsnurkle Supporter Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    Now I'm curious--would broken open char that's been directly buried take a spark more readily on the inner surface than the outer surface? This approach to checking whether surface abrasion is hurting the sparkability is could be a bit confounded with moisture (e.g., if there's moisture in the surrounding materials, it will also seep into the outer layers of the otherwise dry char before the inner lays), but still...
     
  29. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Those darn variables sure make it challenging to be scientific with this stuff. :) I know what you're getting at but with this approach of charring and then snuffing vs. heating in an oxygen-free environment, you really only get a surface level char. Letting it smolder longer will char it further, but you lose the original surface in the process.

    Another issue is the fragility of punkwood. It almost seems like the more delicate the piece, the more readily it will take a spark, but the downside is that trying to break pieces of half-charred fragile material often results in a pile of little chunks rather than two clean pieces.

    When using wood coals that I have pulled from the fire and extinguished in a tin, I have noticed that only the surface layer seems to want to take a spark, where they just bounce off of the newly exposed material from the center.

    I am really just speculating now, but I have a hypothesis that maybe the surface texture of the charred material is a contributing factor in how readily a given piece will take a spark. A rough surface with lots of microscopic divots, bumps, crevices, etc... might be better at catching and holding the glowing balls of molten steel long enough for them to ignite the char; where they would be more likely to skip off of a smooth surface.

    If this is true, it makes sense that being buried in sand or dirt could either abrade or clog these rough surfaces enough to keep the sparks from sticking to it. It could also just be that those surfaces get clogged with finely powdered dust in the sand.

    One thing that leads me to think this might be true is that I can take a tin of charred punk wood that easily catches sparks, and shaking it violently for a moment will often ruin it. If it is really fluffy stuff, I will still end up with usable chunks, but harder pieces of char that don't break apart seem to be rendered either unusable or much less viable.

    I don't know if it is an issue of clogging, smoothing, or a combination of both, but I can't help but think that the surface texture has something to do with it.

    Then again, it really could just be moisture. :)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  30. Quinlan

    Quinlan Supporter Supporter

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    Greetings,

    I haven't tested it yet, but this is my 1st attempt, with bark shavings from a grape wood spoon I am carving:

    20180721_170834.jpg
    20180723_183748.jpg 20180723_183919.jpg 20180723_222623.jpg

    I must thank @Skeptiksks for the tin. :)

    Regards,

    Christos
     
  31. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I spotted some interesting fuzzy little bracket fungi the other day and collected a few of them for char experiments. The best guess on species so far seems to be Trametes suaveolens (thanks @Uh.its_nathan) , but I'm not certain of that.

    I charred these ones in an open tin with some smoldering punkwood.

    [​IMG]

    They felt dry before I put them in the tin, but if I were doing this again, I would have added more punk wood and let them char a bit more before closing it up. I had to do quite a bit of striking to eventually get a spark to stick but once it did it spread really quickly and burned hot.

    [​IMG]

    The biggest advantage to using fungi that I can see at this point is the fact that it burns so hot, and for so long. Punk wood seems much easier to actually ignite, but once you get these bracket fungi burning, the total heat output is significantly greater than any wood based char that I have used. I could see this being a real advantage with a damp tinder bundle.

    The ideal solution might just be keeping pieces of fungi (dried or charred) in the tin with some punk. This would give the easy ignition at first, and it should be simple to get it to transfer over to the longer burning material before using it in the bundle.

    One minute video of harvesting, charring, and firing it up.

     
  32. Quinlan

    Quinlan Supporter Supporter

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    Greetings,

    @NWPrimate what an awesome video with just the knife and cooking!

    Regards,

    Christos
     
  33. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    I have recently been playing around with charring plant piths and have been really impressed at how easily they take a spark. So far I have used mullein, salmonberry, and red elderberry piths and they all light up at least as easily as the best char cloth that I've ever used.

    I really prefer using the elderberry piths because there are lots of stalks that decay in such a way that I can just pick the hard woody portion off with my thumbnails; so it is easy to get a lot of material without much hassle.

    [​IMG]

    I have probably made a dozen batches of this stuff over the past couple of months and it seems to light on the first strike almost every time. It spreads the ember quickly and burns hot, but like anything else; it does have a few drawbacks.

    It burns quickly, so it might not be well suited to soggy tinder bundles, but could work very well when paired with a mixed tin of punk wood and/or fungi for extra burn time.

    It is also incredibly light, so even just blowing into the tin can send them flying, so I can see how that could be an issue in the wind as well.

    [​IMG]

    It chars quickly and I have only been leaving it to cook for 2-5 minutes before pulling it off, and sometimes it is all black; while other times it retains some color. It seems to catch and work equally well so I've been leaning toward under-charring to get more burn time out of it.

    Because I started experimenting with this in the summer, I don't know how it will perform long term in wet conditions, but the rains have arrived, so I should be able to find out in the coming months.

     
  34. MrFixIt

    MrFixIt Old Jarhead Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    You certainly have a knack for the natural materials.

    :35:
     
  35. DarrylM

    DarrylM Supporter Supporter

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    20180915_122219.jpg Char tin mod inspired by @NWPrimate:



    I used a dollar store spatter screen.
     
  36. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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  37. NWPrimate

    NWPrimate Supporter Supporter

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    Here's one showing a method of open tin charring punkwood. I know @Coryphene just likes to light it on fire, but allowing it to smolder like this will dry out wet punk if you need to char it in the field. I used a bow drill ember to the process started, but an ember from the coals of your fire works just as well.

     
  38. Cedarfire

    Cedarfire Tracker Lifetime Supporter

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    Open tin charring looks like a good alternative to traditional charring so tried it today with the spongiest poplar punk wood I could find. It was a no go with the Doan's bar not even with a Bic. It was down in the creek bed where humidity was 91% with a temp of +3 & a cold breeze from the north. Made me wonder if cold damp temps creates an unfriendly environment for fire starting, or is it a rookies dream to avoid the reality that it's the roo......:) In any case will be out tomorrow to give it another go.
     

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