In the ever-evolving world of survival and preparedness, the wisdom of experience often provides the most valuable insights. For this reason, we've tapped into our community of avid readers as a resource for survival knowledge, and are sharing tips that stand out for their simplicity and effectiveness.  This Readers' Survival Tip comes from the great state of Texas, and will help you get that friction fire roaring.

Readers' Bio

Name/Alias: The Bearded Burton

Location: Dallas, TX

Age: 37

Photo of an ember being kindled inside of punkwood being pinched together.

The Bearded Burton's Survival Tip

Increasing Your Success with Friction Fire
This tip/trick works for any method of fire, but it truly shines when your source of heat is small and fragile. We always want to stack the deck in our favor when it comes to fire. Fire is one of the most valuable tools we have in nature and truly separates us from the wild. When we are able to freely create it with instant flame methods like lighters and matches, we often are more careless. But when we have to sweat and work for a flame, we don’t want to waste all of our hard work!

While there are many friction fire methods and resources out there now to learn how to be successful with achieving flame, this trick is one I don’t see very often.

Photo of tools used to start a friction fire.

What we choose to use as a catchment for the ember is very crucial. The ember that comes from friction fire is fragile and we need everything to work a certain way for it to grow into flame. Grabbing a quick leaf or piece of bark is usually what I see done and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, why not add to our success by using something the ember can immediately start consuming as it grows? This is where using a piece of “punkwood” as your catchment under the hearth board takes your success up a notch!

Punkwood is rotted, spongy wood that one can find on dead and decaying trees. It’s lightweight and accepts sparks very easily. It can be placed in a metal tin and placed in a fire to be turned into charred material for flint and steel fire techniques. What we want though, is the raw piece that has not been charred.

A readers survival tip, showcasing a lit ember after being started with friction fire tools.

By using it as the place mat for our ember to fall onto, it immediately allows the heat the ember creates to have fuel to grow on. The Punkwood will begin to smolder and even if the ember we worked hard for falls off or gets blown away in the wind, the Punkwood will stay burning. We have a longer window of time now to turn this smoldering material into flame by utilizing this trick and we essentially have an ember that’s doubled in size as well. Being able to move and transport the ember becomes much easier by using this method as opposed to just a leaf or piece of bark.


The pros definitely outweighs the cons here but we do need to be aware of a few things. The Punkwood we use MUST be dry. It cannot have any moisture lest it rob the ember of the precious heat it needs to continue burning. We also need a piece of Punkwood that is appropriately sized to fit under the board without creating a lot of movement and wiggle during the friction fire process. What is nice though is Punkwood squishes down to form fit into the notch of the hearth board.Photo of a smoldering ember. Submitted for the Readers Survival Tips column.

I hope this trick helps with the success of your friction fire practices! There is always more to learn and fun things to keep the hands busy. Keeping rubbing sticks together and doing the things that connect us to nature! Get Outside and Enjoy the Woods!

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