Friday, December 31, 2010

Charcloth, It Isn't a Fashion Statement (one for the weekend)

Today in the News:  Happy New Year to all.  I hope you are all have a blessed year.  I know I like to thank a lot of people in the news section and that may get old for some of you - but thanks to everyone who reads this blog - and to the folks that write it.  For those of you hiding out in the dark, make it your resolution to write a guest article this year or drop a note when one of the guest writers have an entry.  The encouragement keeps them writing.

Link of the Day: - Ross did a review on Council Tool's Hudson Bay axe.  That's my favorite pattern and I really enjoyed the post.  Give him some traffic!

Charcloth, It Isn't a Fashion Statement

I decided to try making charcloth.  I have a flint and steel on the way, plus I just bought Le Loup's book, Primitive Firelighting.  I looked through a few different resources and wondered how hard it could really be?

Alex Trebek:  Answer, Making Charcloth.

Mike Oscar Hotel:  What is easier than picking your nose?

Alex Trebek:  Correct!

Okay, maybe it isn't that easy. And don't act like you're offended by nose picking.  It is a lot less complicated than I thought it would be to make charcloth.  I even thought I screwed it up a few times, but I didn't.  I'll be honest, though.  I was trying three projects at once today and this is the only one I got right.  One outta three.....ain't bad?

So we start with my old 100% cotton T-shirt.  Does it have to be cotton?  Dunno.  I think maybe.  This one had a little paint and sweat on it, so I decided to retire it. Plus, it was a v-neck.  I can't stand v-necks.

Chop it up into little squares.  You muzzle loader guys ought to be familiar with this.

Get yourself a can.  I chose a quart paint can.  The point is to protect the cloth from the fire, but not from the heat of the flame.

I don't know if this is going to be a problem.  There is some sort of primer on the inside of this can.  I think I'll burn it off before I do the charcloth - and I'll stay clear of the fumes. 

Like I said - I'll burn it off.

Punch a hole in the lid.  This is where the gas from the cloth will escape.  The point of putting it inside the can with one hole is that the gas can escape, but the cloth inside will not actually burn.  I think.  Somebody chime in if I'm off base.

Everything is ready.

It was pretty cold today by Colorado standards.  It was down in the single digits.  I'm sure this is t-shirt weather in Finland. ;)  As you can see we got some snow.  Not a lot, but enough so I was able to have a fire today.  Here is the can - I'm burning off whatever is lining it.  And, of course, I've got my tea pot on to boil. 

The stuff burned off well, in big peeling chunks.

Load in the cloth.

Tap the lid down tight.

Fire in the hole!

Here's the cool part.  It will start to smoke out of the hole.  Remember, the stuff inside is not burning - this is flammable gas!

I wasn't able to catch it with the camera very well, but the gas caught fire, which made me a little nervous for the cloth inside.  I kept blowing it out, but it kept lighting.  Gasification?

When it stops smoking, take the can off the fire.  I stuck it in the snow.  And burnt my glove.  Oops.

Looks like charcloth. 

Nice.  Not as brittle as I thought it would be.  Pulled apart easily.

I hit it with my firesteel.  Viola.  It really is that easy.  I blew on this one a bit.  I walked away for a moment and the slightest wind kept it glowing.  This is easy to do and really adds no additional weight to your pack.  Get out there, try it and have fun!

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel.....out.


  1. Good job on the char cloth Bro.

  2. I have a video of me making a set somewhere on my computer, I did the exact same as you and got the same results. I do believe you need to use something with a very very high cotton content because it is a natural fiber that will not just melt and burn. As with the flame out the hole; you pretty much nailed it, it is causing a sort of gasification reaction because it is at its critical temp. , but I use this gas as a way to tell when its done. If it wont light anymore, there isn't much of a reaction going on and you can pull it. I use an Altoids tin for mine, which is hardly sealed but serves my purpose, plus its pretty cool when the gas burns out of the hole and around the hinges ...yes, simple things/simple minds lol. You can use just about any natural fibrous material (the inner bark of a tree for example) just so long as it is not rotten or falling apart. Great work!