Monday, January 21, 2013

How to Make Char Cloth (and Why)

Char Cloth Defined
Made of 100% plant material (i.e. cotton), char cloth will catch even the smallest spark, enabling you to blow fire into a tinder bundle. This is a great emergency prep item, and will extend the life of your fire starter (i.e. flint and steel) by many, many uses.

How to Make Char Cloth
My husband and I learned how to make char cloth at an emergency prep camp we went to a couple years ago, but we never tried it until last month. It was easy! Here's a step-by-step:

1) Cut some 100% cotton fabric into roughly 2'x2' squares. I used a pair of Keenan's old jeans.

2) Find a tin and poke a hole in the center of the lid. Fill (but do not stuff) with your bits of cloth.

3) Start a fire and let it get good and hot.

4) Place your tins in a hot spot (the coals work nicely). Smoke, sometimes even fire, will start spewing from the hole in the lid.

5) Rotate your tins to make sure the heat is even. The larger the tins, the longer they will take. I'd say these large ones took at least an hour. A small Altoids-type tin would be comparatively fast.

6) You know it's done when the smoke stops coming out of the hole. Set the tins aside and do not open the lids until cool to the touch. Otherwise, the sudden rush of oxygen will cause the cloth to combust.

Ta da!!

The cloth should be completely black. Spots of brown mean it wasn't quite done. Ashes in your tin mean far overdone. I think it's pretty hard to get it wrong.

How to Make a Fire Using Char Cloth
1)  Place your char cloth on your tinder nest.
2)  Using your fire starter, throw a spark at the cloth.
3)  Rub the tinder in your fingers as you gently blow.
4)  Fire!

I'm sorry I didn't make a video of this, but there are lots of them on youtube! I really liked the guy in this one, but couldn't get it to upload to this post (he makes the char cloth and starts lighting at 3:22 if you want to skip ahead). We have friends like this.

I liked the guy in this one too, probably because he says "bla bla bla."

So enjoy making your own, and feel happy knowing you have a way to warm your family and cook your food (and have fun camping!) should the needs arise.


  1. I was wondering how you made these!! I honestly thought you may have colored each individual piece of cloths with ash, or some thing... This is amazing! I need to practice using these.

    You should do a post sometime about you other cooking option, like your rocket stove. Could you use these to light that?

  2. What fun! And what a great emergency supply item.

    Love M