Last year I wrote a piece on how to season cast iron. A friend of mine is a scoutmaster and brought me a particularly rough looking cast iron pot, which I cleaned up and he was delighted with the results.
“This looks great,” he declared. “Anytime I can help you out like this, just let me know. In fact, if you want to do something on how on make char cloth, I’d be happy to help you by taking it off your hands once you’re done,” he added with a wink.
So what the heck is char cloth?
With the National Boy Scout Jamboree underway this week, it seemed like a good time to try my hand at making this handy tool for starting campfires without matches or accelerants. Heating natural cloths like cotton, jute or linen in the absence of oxygen, the flammable gases cook away. What’s left is an organic material that will easily catch a spark from a flint. Placing squares of cloth in a sealed tin and punching a small hole from which smoke can escape, the result is a boy scout’s best friend — a head start in getting a fire going without matches. The smoke is actually the release of those flammable gases through a process called pyrolysis (the same process used to make charcoal). Science!
Char cloth is a useful tool for scouts, backpackers or survivalists. Small and easy to pack, these fire starters (for use with flint and steel) can mean the difference between ghost stories around a roaring fire and a cold night in the woods.
If camping is on your schedule this summer, char cloth is surprisingly easy to make using a grill, an old t-shirt and a do-it-yourselfer’s friend — the upcycled mint tin.
Follow the simple steps below to make your own char cloth in less than 30 minutes.