Fire Making – How to Make Char Cloth

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   12.01.21

Fire Making – How to Make Char Cloth

Why should you make char cloth?

Char Cloth is basically a form of tinder, usually made out of heat-treated cloth textiles, that has a very low ignition point and a very long burn time.

There’s nothing that says you absolutely have to make it, but it’s a fun skill to learn and take with you on your adventures. This can be made at home or out in the field. All you need is a tin, like an altoids tin and some type of cotton.

I love making char cloth because it’s easy, lightweight to carry and makes a great fire starter.

Char cloth can be made from any type of cotton. I prefer 100% cotton jeans because they’re woven and the char cloth is a lot stronger. You can also use a 100% cotton bandana or other 100% cotton material.

Whatever you choose, it must be 100% cotton for this to work effectively.

Here’s how to make char cloth from old jeans:

Find an altoids tin or other type of aluminum or stainless steel tin with a closing lid.

Punch a small hole in the top of the lid, this will allow smoke to escape.

Cut up your material to the size of the tin and place it inside. Don’t pack it too tightly, as it may not all blacken evenly.

The heat source can be hot coals from a fire, or it can be a propane/butane setup like the picture below.

The heat source should be low, the goal is to slowly blacken it. It might take 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your tin, the heat source and size of your material.

Smoke will be consistently coming out of the small hole in the top of the tin.

You know it’s done when the smoke slows or even comes to a complete stop.

Use gloves to safely open the top up to examine it and make sure all the pieces are blackened. You don’t want to over do it, as that could degrade the cotton and make it harder to strike and get an ember off of it. You’re welcome to check it by popping open the lid every 5 minutes. Though it really should be done within 5-10 minutes.

Once it’s been made, you can strike it with flint and steel or just light it up with a lighter.

Once your char cloth has an ember, it’s best to place the char cloth inside of a birds nest which is either a bundle of dry grass, a bundle of dry moss or even a bundle of shredded jute twine.

I would recommend carrying char cloth in a tin because if placed in a ziploc bag, it could get crushed.

How long will char cloth last?

Unless it gets wet, there’s no reason char cloth should ever go bad. It may crumble over time, especially if it’s not kept in a hard container like the tin it was made in.

One other thing you could do is carry the tin and cotton out with you into the field and make it out there. You don’t have to do it at home before heading out, though it’s nice to have it already done. I generally make sure to carry plenty of cotton bandanas and at least one tin in my bag just in case I ever have to do it out in the field.

Have you ever made char cloth?



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