Offgrid Preparation Video: Feather Sticks 101
Built in Holmedal, Norway, the new Helle Nord fixed blade is inspired...
To the uninitiated, feather sticks might sound like some sort of traditional art project, and that's actually not too far from the truth. A feather stick is a piece of soft wood which has been carefully shaved into an intricate nest of paper-thin curls. While they are pleasing to the eye in an almost artistic manner, these carved sticks have a more important purpose: fire-starting tinder.
The key to a feather stick's effectiveness as fire tinder is its surface area. A tree branch won't take a spark easily, since it's a thick and dense piece of wood with low surface area. By carving that same branch into a cluster of dozens of fine shavings, it's much easier to nurse a small spark into a healthy flame. It's the same principle that applies to birch bark strips, cat tail fluff, yucca stalks, and other natural low-density tinder materials. They're thin, light, and have many crevices to catch an ember.
However, carving a feather stick isn't necessarily as simple as it may sound. It requires a precise angle, careful pressure, and a smooth piece of wood.
Your preference in knife design is also important — a thick and heavy blade with an obtuse grind will present challenges, especially if it's not razor-sharp. The following video from Black Owl Outdoors shows how to carve feather sticks, and discusses the impact of different blade grinds and cutting angles: