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#33734 - 10/29/04 02:59 PM First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite

I just bought Doug's Pocket Survival Pak. I fell in love with the idea of survival preparedness and learning ultra basic survival skills. Buying Doug's kit is my first move towards learning some new skills.

Right now I'm practising with all the contents in my backyard & frontyard at night. It generally takes about 20-50+ attempts to get something to light with the Spark-Lite. I'm trying not to use much of the Tinder-Quik (I've used a little) I'm more relying on cotton balls and cotton paper towels. It's with those I'm having a lot of trouble with. The paper towels aren't the Bounty or generic type towles, their really thick and feel almost cloth like. You can pull them a part and see the cotton fibers.

You guys that are used to making starting fires, how long does it usually take for you? Does it take 1-2 sparks or does it take a few minutes worth of sparks? After making 6 little micro fires (size of my fist) my thumb is really sore from using the Spark-Lite. lol.

#33735 - 10/29/04 03:07 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
rbruce Offline

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 153
Loc: California
Just a thought. Make sure the cotton balls are actually 100% cotton. There are some synthetic "cotton" balls out there that probably won't light very well.


#33736 - 10/29/04 03:11 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
M_a_x Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/16/02
Posts: 1134
Loc: Germany
When you use a cotton ball you need to get just one blast of sparks into it. I must that I usually need between 1 and 5 attempts to light that ball. When I have to use paper towels I rip them to have a maximum of small fibres. Then I roll it up gently to increase the probabilty of getting a spark on them. I usually use a ferrocerium rod to light those as they tend to require a massive shower of hot sparks.
If it isnīt broken, it doesnīt have enough features yet.

#33737 - 10/29/04 03:25 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
Burncycle Offline

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 561
Right, make sure the cotton balls are 100% cotton, and try putting some vasoline on it and kind of kneading the cotton to spread it around. You don't need much, it shouldn't get messy.

You can store it like this in a micro ziplock or other container so it doesn't get the rest of your items messy if you're worried about it. Then, when you're ready to light a fire, fluff it up. Pull the fibers apart so it forms a larger ball that's barely holding itself together. Then give her a spark <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

#33738 - 10/29/04 06:36 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
brian Offline

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 1468
Loc: Texas
Based on my experience as long as you're using real 100% cotton balls (or something really close to 100%) you should be able to almost just stand there 5 feet away with the SparkLite in your hand and just look at them funny and they should burst in to flames! <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> Check your balls and make sure they are the real thing (no comments bounty hunter:)). Also, fluff them up and get some loose fiber hanging off and aim the spark for those rather than the compressed center of the ball. With paper towels/toilet paper/paper napkins I find you have to shred a small portion (like a corner) once again for the purpose of getting some loose fibers hanging out for you to aim your sparks at. Now with 100% cotton cloth I have found it is significantly more difficult. You gotta really get a fuzz ball going. You basically have to rub or scrape the cloth to the point that you have a little ball of what looks a lot like dryer lint then light that up with a few sparks and it will ignite the rest of the cloth. In general it takes me about 1-5 flicks to light a fire with any of the above materials. I don't mean to make it seem easy though because it's not. The trick is (for me anyway) spending a lot of time preparing the tinder rather than spending a lot of time flicking away my SparkLite flint. As a side note, I have had more success to date with natural tinder than cotton t-shirt type cloth. Lots of natural tinders work real well. Almost any plant with a cotton-type fibrous inner or outer bark seems to work well. Just make sure it's dry, and once again, fluff it, shred it, do whatever to get as many loose fibers hanging off of it as possible. It's kinda hard for me to explain in words. If you're still having problem this weekend I'll make up some tinder from the above materials and take a couple pics to actually show you what I mean. It might not be till sunday though since I'm planning on going camping tonight and tomorrow. Oh and one last thing, if you get frustrated and need some quick success to boost your confidence grab a couple of small alcohol swabs like the type that commonly come in first aid kits. You can set them on fire just by looking at them funny too! <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> I actually keep alcohol swabs in my kits. They are a great dual use item. Great for cleaning wounds and for using as tinder and they take up no room at all. Good luck, don't give up. Once you get the hang of it then it?s all down hill from there. <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Learn to improvise everything.

#33739 - 10/29/04 08:57 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite

Thanks guys. I had a feeling it was mostly the tinder. I'm out of cotton balls, I'll need to take a trip to the 99 cent store to pick up some more. I'll make sure they say 100% though. I doubt I'll be able to start a fire by sparking it from 5 feet lol, the Spark-Lite doesn't spit out that many sparks. 5 centimeters I can believe. Also do any of you have tips for starting fire in the rain?

It's funny, every time I see an area with trees (park, schools, etc) I imagin myself having to look for tinder. Only problem is around here its mostly very tall pine trees. You'd have to climb them in order to reach even the lowest branches.

#33740 - 10/30/04 12:23 AM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite

Work a small dab of vaseline into a cotton ball, "fluff" it up to about 3-4 times its "normal" size, and spark it with the Spark-Lite, making sure to hold it close enough (almost touching). If it doesn't take off on the second or third try, you're doing something wrong. Get back with your success/failure, and specifically what you're doing, and feel free to ask for more coaching, I'm sure we can have you lighting up like an old hand in no time <img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />.


#33741 - 10/30/04 08:55 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite

Alright well I found some 100% cotton Q-Tips. They are the kind with extra cotton fluff made for babies. Has about 3x the amount of cotton then regular Q-Tips. I did everything except the vasaline. I fluffed it up really good and I just couldn't get it to catch fire. Evenutally I got ticked off and just got my butain lighter and light it up. It cought fire before the flame even touches it and burned nicely. I then pulled out the Tinder Quik and cut a pieace off the size of an M&M; fluffed it up really good and I couldn't get it to light either.

This time I got really upset and I got out my webcam and video recorded my second attempt - which was a semi-success. If you guys can, watch the video (only 1.6MB). Maybe you guys can notice something that I didn't. My goal is to be able to light the tinder within 5 tries.

Click here to download video

filesize: 1.6MB; filetype: WMA (*requires windows media player codec).

#33742 - 10/30/04 09:18 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
AyersTG Offline

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 1272
Loc: Upper Mississippi River Valley...
The video helped! Here, in order, are what I think I saw:

1. Sparks too far away - re-watch where it ignites - your sparks were right in it only on that attempt.

2. Not fluffed up enough

3. Need more sparks - try pressing harder against the wheel. Try thumb instead of finger.

I'll dig one of mine out and try to re-create the situation, but honestly, I never have any problems with this. I'll edit this after I try it out and tell you what my experience is.


#33743 - 10/30/04 09:24 PM Re: First time trying to make fire from Spark-Lite
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2154
Loc: NE Wisconsin
I looked at your video (nice job!!!). It looks to me like your Spark-Lite is being held too far from the cotton. Let me play a bit ...

(Fresh from the kitchen playing with my Spark-Lite and lighting little bits of cotton balls ... left hand smelling like smoke, and my wife thinking I'm nuts - as usual)

Using non-doped cotton balls (no Vaseline) I was able to light the cotton by the second or third spark.

The first try I held the orange handle with my left hand and spun the wheel with my right pointer finger. It lit on the second turn.

The second try I just used my right hand as you would a Bic lighter. This one lit on the third try, but I was so close that a fiber caught in the Spark-Lite and I had to flick a burning cotton ball off the Spark-Lite.

Moral of the story: get the working end of the Spark-Lite as close to the cotton as possible.

When making Valeline-cotton balls, make sure you don't put too much goop on the ball AND don't work it in too hard. The idea is to leave the ball with a dry, easily lightable center.

Ken K.

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