Making fire using just one log, an axe and a fire steel

This is a worthy challenge as it tests not only your skill with an axe but also your ability to make a fire using only natural materials in cold, damp conditions.

Joe O'Leary :: Monday 31st December 2018 :: Latest Blog Posts

Ok, so there was just a very light drizzle in the breeze on this late December afternoon but most natural tinders in the woods capable of lighting from a fire steel spark, were pretty cold and damp...(birch bark would probably still have lit with some preparation). But this was a training exercise! Train hard, fight easy as they say!! When everything in the woods is damp, your best bet is to fall back on standing dead wood – cutting and splitting down a larger log to take advantage of the dry wood inside. This takes more time and effort to process into all the fire making materials you'll need to create a warming blaze, but it's more likely to succeed than fiddling about with cold, damp bark and twigs.

The axe of choice was my hatchet made by Alex Pole. It's relatively light compared to most axes carried for general bushcrafting work. It feels light in the hand and in the pack too and the handle's short enough to sit comfortably inside a typical daypack, even with the lid cinched down as low as possible. You could almost forget you were carrying it!

My dead standing wood of choice in these Dorset woods was spruce. Straight grained (if cut between the branch knots) it would split easily, hopefully with minimal twist and would carve predictably. Not only that, it burns with a strong, bright flame due to the high amount of resin it contains. It's certainly not the best fuel wood if others are available but on a damp day, the above qualities should ensure me of a quick, hot fire. Oak, ash and beech logs, all the slower burning fuels would be added after.

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