6 Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches – Tips for Survivalist


Start a Fire Without Matches

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How many of you remember starting fires with magnifying glasses like Bart is doing in the picture above?

The ability to start a fire and watch the flames burn things has always been fascinating to me. Every man/woman needs to know how to start a fire, especially in survival situations. After all, this is a tips for survivalists site.

You never know when you will find yourself in a situation where a fire is essential and guess who forgot their matches? That’s right… you!

Maybe your single engine plane goes down while you’re flying over the Alaskan wilderness, or maybe your just out camping and lose your backpack. While these situations are pretty rare, other situations arrive where you can’t use matches. Extremely windy or wet conditions render matches pretty much useless. Whether or not you need to use this new skill, it’s valuable to know that you can start a fire wherever and whenever you want.

Friction-Based Fire Making

Friction-based fire making is one of the most difficult of the non-match methods and that’s why we’re starting with it. There are a variety of different techniques you can use to make a fire with friction, but the most important aspect of it all is the type of wood you use for the fire board and spindle.

What is a spindle? It’s the stick you’ll use to spin in order to create friction between it and the fireboard. When you create enough friction between the spindle and the fireboard, you create an ember that can lead to a fire.

What are the best woods for spindle sets? Cottonwood, juniper, aspen, willow, cedar, cypress, and walnut.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to dry the wood out before using it, otherwise you won’t get the spark for the ember.

  • The Hand Drill

The hand drill method is by far the most primitive, and extremely difficult to do. All you need is wood, tireless hands, and determination that you will start a fire without matches.

How do you do it?

Build a tinder nest. You’ll use the tinder nest to create the flame you get from the spark you’ll be creating. Build your tinder nest out of anything that catches fire easily such as dried grass, leaves and bark. If you’re prepared you could use vaseline soaked cotton balls, but this is assuming you aren’t prepared.

Make your notch. Cut a v-shaped notch into your fire board and make a small depression adjacent to it.

Place bark underneath the notch. The bark will be used to catch an ember from the friction between the spindle and fireboard.

Start spinning. Place the spindle into the depression on your fire board. Your spindle should be about 2 feet long for this to work properly. Maintain pressure on the board and start rolling the spindle between your hands, running them quickly down the spindle. Keep doing this until an ember is formed on the fireboard.

Start a fire! Once you see a glowing ember, tap the fire board to drop you ember onto the piece of bark. Transfer the bark to your nest of tinder. Gently blow on it to start your flame.

  • Fire Plough

Prepare your fireboard. To start off, cut a groove in the fireboard. This groove will be used as the track for your spindle.

Rub! Using the tip of your spindle, place it in the groove of your fireboard. Start rubbing the tip of the spindle up and down the groove.

Start a fire. You’ll want to have tinder at the end of the fireboard, so that you’ll plow embers into the tinder as you’re rubbing. Once one of them catches blow on the nest gently to start the fire.

  • Bow Drill

The bow drill is one of my personal favorites out of all the friction based methods for starting a fire. It’s easier to maintain the speed and pressure needed to create enough friction to start a fire. In addition to the spindle and fireboard, you’ll want to get a socket and a bow.

Get a socket. A socket just needs to be either a stone or another piece of wood. If you choose wood, find a piece harder than what you’re using for the spindle. Woods with sap and oil are good because it create a lubricant between the spindle and the socket.

Make your bow. The bow should be about as long as your arm. Use a flexible piece of wood that has a slight curve. The string of the bow can be anything. A shoelace, rope, paracord, or strip of rawhide works great. Just find something that won’t break. String up your bow and you’re ready to go.

Prepare the fireboard. Cut a v-shaped notch into the wood and create a depression next to it in the fireboard. Under this notch, you’ll want to place your tinder.

String up the spindle. Catch the spindle in a loop of the bow string. Place one end of the spindle in the fireboard and apply pressure on the other end with your socket.

Start sawing. Using your bow, start sawing back and forth. You’ve basically created a rudimentary mechanical drill. The spindle should be rotating quickly. Keep sawing until you create an ember.

Make you fire. Drop the ember into the tinder nest and blow on it gently. You got yourself a fire.

  • Flint and Steel


This is an old standby. We recommend always carrying around a good flint and steel set with you on a camping trip. Matches can get wet and be become pretty much useless, but you can still get a spark from putting steel to a good piece of flint. We recommend the Bear Grylls fire starter.

Strike! Grasp the back of the steel striker or use the back of your knife blade. Strike the steel against the flint several times. Sparks from the steel will fly off and land on the char cloth, causing a glow.

Start a fire. Fold up your char cloth into the tinder nest and gently blow on it to start a flame.

  • Lens-Based Methods

Start a Fire Without Matches

Using a lens to start a fire is an easy matchless method. Any boy who has melted green plastic army men with a magnifying glass will know how to do this. If you have by chance never melted green plastic army men, here’s how to do it.

Traditional Lenses

To create a fire, all you need is some sort of lens in order to focus sunlight on a specific spot. A magnifying glass, eyeglasses, or binocular lenses all work. If you add some water to the lens, you can intensify the beam. Angle the lens towards the sun in order to focus the beam into as small an area as possible. Put your tinder nest under this spot and you’ll soon have yourself a fire.

The only drawback to the lens based method is that it only works when you have sun. So if it’s night time or overcast, you won’t have any luck.


  • Batteries and Steel Wool

 Start a Fire Without Matches

This is one that might seem a little out of the ordinary, but it is an interesting way to start a fire. All you’ll need are a battery (any work, but ideally a 9 volt battery) and steel wool.

Stretch out the Steel Wool. You want it to be about 6 inches long and a ½ inch wide.

Rub the battery on the steel wool. Hold the steel wool in one hand and the battery in the other. The wool will begin to glow and burn. Gently blow on it.

Transfer the burning wool to your tinder nest. The wool’s flame will extinguish quickly, so don’t waste any time.

Do you have any other ways to start a fire without matches? 


  1. Russell

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