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Birch bark being used as tinder in a campfire Naver som tandmaterial 2015.jpg
Birch bark being used as tinder in a campfire

Tinder is easily combustible material used to start a fire. Tinder is a finely divided, open material which will begin to glow under a shower of sparks. Air is gently wafted over the glowing tinder until it bursts into flame. The flaming tinder is used to ignite kindling, which in turn is used to ignite the bulk material, to produce a fire. [1] [2]


Tinder can be made of any flammable substance, as long as it is finely divided and has an open structure.


Any flammable material may be used as long as it is finely divided. As the tinder gets thinner, the surface area and edges increase, making it ignite more easily.

Wood tinder can be made by carefully shaving thin slivers off a larger piece. Another method which keeps these slivers together, is to make a feather stick. The driest wood, which makes the best tinder, is that of dead branches that have not yet fallen to the ground.

If a fire is to be lit by sparks rather than matches, char cloth, punkwood, fungus or down are commonly used to catch the sparks. However, fungi should be selected with care as some release toxic fumes on combustion.[ original research? ] Char cloth can be made by placing plant-based fabric (usually cotton) in a tin box into a campfire; like charcoal, it is the product of anhydrous pyrolysis. It is very fragile, and should usually be prepared only in small quantities.

Pitchwood is the resinous wood which decays last from dead conifers. It can be found on the ground where conifer tree trunks have fallen and decayed. The parts of the deadwood that would form the knots in lumber, i.e. the places where branches entered the trunk, are impregnated with resin which has the combustibility of wood soaked in lighter fluid. Pitchwood can also be found in the stumps left in the ground when conifers die. These stumps contain spires of resin-impregnated wood, called fatwood, which can easily be lighted using only a single match or lighter. Pitchwood that has been shaved into small splinters is easy to ignite, and it does not absorb water, so it remains easy to ignite in any weather as long as the flame is sheltered from rain and wind. In the southeastern United States, pitchwood is known as "fat lighter" or "lighter'd" (a shortening of lighter-wood). [3]

Embers of burned paper, leaves and other sheetlike materials are easily carried off by air currents, where they can alight upon other objects and ignite them. In outdoor campfires, paper can be wadded up to reduce this hazard; wadded paper also burns more quickly.

Magnesium is sold in stores in shaved or bar form. Shavings burn white-hot, are impossible to smother with carbon dioxide or sand, and can ignite even wet kindling. Solid bars are impossible to ignite under normal conditions (and difficult even with a welding torch), and are thus very safe to carry. Magnesium powder and shavings are pyrophoric (they oxidise rapidly when exposed to the air). It is dangerous to carry pre-shaved magnesium at best, it loses potency, at worst, it can spontaneously ignite and is then nearly unquenchable. Magnesium bars are sometimes sold with a length of ferrocerium cast into one edge. [4]

The gathering of tinder, and perhaps more importantly, its dry storage is one of the most critical aspects of many survival situations.


Materials used as tinder around the world include: [5]

See also

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of tinder at Wiktionary

Related Research Articles

Campfire Fire lit at a campsite

A campfire is a fire at a campsite that provides light and warmth, and heat for cooking. It can also serve as a beacon, and an insect and predator deterrent. Established campgrounds often provide a stone or steel fire ring for safety. Campfires are a popular feature of camping. At summer camps, the word campfire often refers to an event at which there is a fire. Some camps refer to the fire itself as a campfire.

A substance is pyrophoric if it ignites spontaneously in air at or below 54 °C (129 °F) or within 5 minutes after coming into contact with air. Examples are organolithium compounds and triethylborane. Pyrophoric materials are often water-reactive as well and will ignite when they contact water or humid air. They can be handled safely in atmospheres of argon or nitrogen. Class D fire extinguishers are designated for use in fires involving pyrophoric materials.

Lighter Handheld device used to generate a flame

A lighter is a portable device which generates a flame, and can be used to ignite a variety of items, such as cigarettes, gas lighter, fireworks, candles or campfires. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable liquid or compressed gas, a means of ignition to produce the flame, and some provision for extinguishing the flame. Alternatively, a lighter can be powered by electricity, using an electric arc or heating element to ignite the target.

Tinderbox Container for fire-starting materials with flint, firesteel, and tinder

A tinderbox, or patch box, is a container made of wood or metal containing flint, firesteel, and tinder, used together to help kindle a fire. A tinderbox might also contain sulfur-tipped matches.

Briquette Compressed block of biomass used for fueling a fire

A briquette is a compressed block of coal dust or other combustible biomass material used for fuel and kindling to start a fire. The term derives from the French word brique, meaning brick.

Fire making Process of starting a fire artificially

Fire making, fire lighting or fire craft is the process of artificially starting a fire. It requires completing the fire triangle, usually by heating tinder above its autoignition temperature.

Steel wool Bundle of very fine and flexible sharp-edged steel filaments

Steel wool, also known as iron wool, wire wool or wire sponge, is a bundle of very fine and flexible sharp-edged steel filaments. It was described as a new product in 1896. It is used as an abrasive in finishing and repair work for polishing wood or metal objects, cleaning household cookware, cleaning windows, and sanding surfaces.

Fire striker Carbon steel for making sparks

A fire striker is a piece of carbon steel from which sparks are struck by the sharp edge of flint, chert or similar rock. It is a specific tool used in firemaking.

Fire piston Tool for kindling a fire

A fire piston, sometimes called a fire syringe or a slam rod fire starter, is a device of ancient Southeast Asian origin which is used to kindle fire. It uses the principle of the heating of a gas by rapid and adiabatic compression to ignite a piece of tinder, which is then used to set light to kindling.

Chimney starter Firemaking device

A chimney starter or charcoal chimney is a device for igniting charcoal lumps or briquettes. It consists of a metal tube with a grate to hold charcoal. A lighting cone is a similar, conical, device placed over an existing grate. The tube is typically cylindrical, but may also have other cross-sections. The tube may also be made of combustible material designed to resist burning long enough for the coals to ignite.

Char cloth Type of tinder made from natural fibres via pyrolysis

Char cloth, also called char paper, is a material with low ignition temperature, used as tinder when lighting a fire. It is the main component in a tinderbox. It is a small swatch of fabric made from a natural fibre that has been converted through pyrolysis.

A fire class is a system of categorizing fire with regard to the type of material and fuel for combustion. Class letters are often assigned to the different types of fire, but these differ between territories. There are separate standards for the United States, Europe, and Australia. This is used to determine the type of extinguishing agent that can be used for that fire class.

Feather stick

A feather stick is a length of wood which has been shaved to produce a cluster of thin curls protruding from the wood. It allows damp wood to be used to start a fire when dry tinder is hard to find.

Hiking equipment is the equipment taken on outdoor walking trips. Hiking is usually divided into day-hikes and multiple-day hikes, called backpacking, trekking, and walking tours.

Combustibility and flammability Ability to easily ignite in air at ambient temperatures

A combustible material is something that can burn in air. A combustible material is flammable if it ignites easily at ambient temperatures. In other words, a combustible material ignites with some effort and a flammable material catches fire immediately on exposure to flame.

Dust explosion Rapid combustion of fine particles suspended in the air

A dust explosion is the rapid combustion of fine particles suspended in the air within an enclosed location. Dust explosions can occur where any dispersed powdered combustible material is present in high-enough concentrations in the atmosphere or other oxidizing gaseous medium, such as pure oxygen. In cases when fuel plays the role of a combustible material, the explosion is known as a fuel-air explosion.

Spark (fire) Incandescent particle

A spark is an incandescent particle. Sparks may be produced by pyrotechnics, by metalworking or as a by-product of fires, especially when burning wood.

Glossary of firelighting

This is an alphabetized glossary of terms pertaining to lighting fires, along with their definitions. Firelighting is the process of starting a fire artificially. Fire was an essential tool in early human cultural development. The ignition of any fire, whether natural or artificial, requires completing the fire triangle, usually by initiating the combustion of a suitably flammable material.

Swedish torch

A Swedish torch is a source of heat and light from a vertically set tree trunk, incised and burning in the middle. It became known in Europe during the 1600s and is now used by forest workers, and for leisure activities. Due to its flat surface and good embers, it can also be used for cooking. Compared to a campfire, it is more compact, and therefore several small heat sources can be distributed over an area.

A fire drill is a primitive device to start a fire by friction between a rapidly rotating wooden rod and a cavity on a stationary wood piece .


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  2. Uploaded on September 30, 2008 (2008-09-30). "Test Your Fire-Building IQ | Field & Stream". Fieldandstream.com. Retrieved 2011-06-23.
  3. Ratliff, Donald E., Sr., Map, Compass and Campfire, Binford & Mort, Publishers, 1964, page 45.
  4. 1 2 Cooper, Donald C. (2005). Fundamentals of search and rescue. National Association for Search and Rescue (U.S.) (illustrated ed.). Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 341. ISBN   0-7637-4807-2 . Retrieved 14 Apr 2009.
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