We use char cloth a lot when we’re looking at different methods of lighting a fire, such as on our 2 Day Bushcraft Course, 5 Day Bushcraft Course and IOL Bushcraft Competency course . It’s really useful stuff to have with you and comes into its own when using a traditional flint and steel, with a lens or parabolic mirror to harness the sun’s energy and in a fire piston. We also use char cloth to practice blowing an ember into a flame using a tinder bundle.
So here’s a short video we made a couple of years back showing you how to make some. All you need is a tin with a hole in the lid, some cotton and a small fire. It’s getting more difficult to find tins, but Christmas is a good time of year as some of the big sweet ‘tins’ are metal; a great excuse to buy some!
Generally we use ‘fluffy’ cotton, so from an old towel or tea towel, or sometimes from old flannelette sleeping bag liners that are past their best. Heavy duty cotton such as denim or canvas generally works well also. In the video I use some canvas from an old army issue camp bed.
To make your char cloth:
- Place the material in a clean metal tin with a lid. The lid needs to have a small hole cut in it with a bung to plug it.
- Place the tin and lid, without the bung, in the embers of a fire. As the material in the tin heats up, dense smoke will come out of the hole in the lid.
- When the volume of smoke lessens, insert the bung and leave in the embers for another 5 or 10 minutes.
- Keep adding fresh embers around the tin.
- Remove the tin from the embers and leave to cool (if you take the lid off at this stage, the char cloth will ignite).
- Remove the lid and put the char cloth in a dry, airtight container ready for future use.
Don’t try this indoors though, it produces a lot of smoke!
Take a look at our Facebook page for photos taken on our bushcraft courses.