How To Start A Fire Without Matches (16 Methods)


What if I could tell you that there are up to 16 ways that you can start a fire without using matches or a lighter. Being able to start and build a fire forms part of our survival. Our ancestors did it and have a look where we are today

Do you wonder why?

A Fire will create heat for us during the night and will also allow us to boil infected water for cleaning it and cooking some food. When most people go out in the wild, they do not even take a something as close as a firestarter with them.

We all do it.

In this article, I am going to reveal 16 methods that you can use to start a fire without using matches. I am also going to help you prepare all of the materials that you might need to build a fire.

Getting Everything Ready

To start a fire is challenging enough, so you do not want to mess up all of the progress because you did not plan the fire thoroughly enough. Planning will involve finding and preparing the best spot to make a fire, getting tinder, kindling, and fuel. Once you have all of the resources, you can start to prepare the fire.

Preparing The Area Around Your Fire

Before you can start a fire, you need to prepare the area around you first. I recommend choosing an area that is both flat and dry. You do not want your fire to tumble because the floor was not flat.

You also want to clean the area around the fire of leaves, branches or anything that can catch fire. You want to create a safe environment for the fire as you do not want it to escalate into a forest fire.


Tinder is the starting point for almost any fire. This material requires very little heat to burn and will also create a flame with ease. Sometimes you only need a spark to get tinder to ignite. There are many types of materials that you can use for tinder.

– Dried grass or leaves

You can use dried grass or leaves which is very abundant during the winter months. It is essential to get tinder that is dry because if it has moisture in it, it will not burn. Grab a handful get ready to build your birds nest.

-Use Cattail fluff

Cattail fluff is another excellent source of tinder if you live close to a river. It is a fluffy white appearance and is found on Cattails. You can also use the Cattails as kindling to get the fire going. Cotton balls will also have a similar effect.

– Make tinder from wood

If you already have dried pieces of wood lying around, then you can also make tinder from them. This method is especially useful during the summer months when dried grass and leaves are not available. All you need is your trusty knife and a large piece of dried wood. You then need to use the knife to scrape off some thunder from the piece of wood.

It is important to remember that tinder alone will not be useful to sustain a fire, so you need larger and thicker pieces of wood to act as fuel.


Kindling is thin twigs and sticks that are as thick as your index finger. If it is thicker than your index finger, then it will not be considered kindling. Kindling is used to provide extra fuel to the tinder.

Kindling will create more heat than tinder but will not but as rapidly. It will also last longer than tinder and will provide enough heat for the larger pieces of food that will act as fuel.

So how do you know if kindling is dry enough?

The best way to test the dryness of kindling is by breaking it in half. Dry wood will never bend and will snap like a twig when enough force is applied. If you try to break kindling and it bends even a little, then it is not dry enough.

If you do not have access to sticks and twigs, you can prepare to kindle by splitting firewood until it is as thick as your index finger. You will start the fire with tinder to a flame going and then add kindling to create a more solid fire.

Adding Fuel

If the fire is already burning well along with the tinder and kindling, then you need to add more fuel otherwise the fire will not last long. Searching for fuel, you will need to use logs that you need to split into half or four quarters.

Personally, I do not like to use very thick logs as they take too much time to burn through thoroughly. However, you can collect thick logs and split them into sizable chunks. You should also be patient and wait for a lovely open fire before you add more fuel. If there are no flames, the fuel will not burn.

16 Methods To Start A Fire

 In this section, I am going to share with you 16 methods that you can use to start a fire without the help of matches or a lighter. These methods will include friction, solar rays, air pressure, flint, chemicals and power sources such as batteries.

1. Hand Drill

This hand drill method is probably the method that uses the simplest to build but requires the most skill and determination. If you can master this method, then you will never need to worry about starting a fire again.

It is the most primitive and requires the most basic resources. All you need is a flat piece of fireboard and a spindle. Let’s go over each of the components that you will for this to work.

The spindle

The spindle should be at least 2-3 feet long and should be as straight as possible. There should not be any twigs coming from the spindle otherwise you will hurt yourself.

The spindle should also be as thick as your pinky. The best type of trees to use are the willow and poplar. Make sure you use a type of wood that is hard which will be more durable and create more friction.

The fireboard

The best item to use for this would be a plank that is nice and flat. It should also be half an inch thick. If it is too thin, you will drill right through it. It is critical for the fireboard to be as dry as possible.

Once you have a candidate for the fireboard, you then need to take your knife or any sharp object and make a small dent close to the edge of the fireboard to create a starting point.

You then want to take your knife and cut a small “V” shaped cut right next to the hole. This will create an opening for air to move through as fire needs oxygen to start.

The drilling process

Once you have the spindle and fireboard ready, you now need to place a thin piece of bark below the notch creating on the fireboard to catch the burning coal that will provide the fire.

Sit next to the fireboard with your one foot resting on the board to make it stable. Place the spindle on top of the indentation that you created next to the notch and start drilling.

You should drill by rolling the spindle between your hands starting from the top working your way down. The first minute or two you want to warm up the board with the spindle. Never pick the spindle up otherwise you will lose all of the heat.

Continue drilling until you see some smoke coming from the fireboard. Once you see the smoke, you should speed up your drilling to create even more friction and heat. After a while, you will notice a small red glowing coal to appear.

Take the spindle and tap the board so that the coal will fall onto the piece of bark that you placed under the fireboard. Take the small bit of coal and drop it inside the tinder nest. Cover the nest and slowly blow air into it until you see more smoke and flames coming from the nest.

2. Use a Flashlight

Yes, you heard right. Some flashlights are so powerful that they can light a piece of paper with its projected light beam. The flashlight needs to be set on its highest setting which will enable it to light up almost any dry material.

If you do not have such a powerful flashlight, then you can take your current flashlight apart and use the silver reflecting cup inside. This cup is used to focus the light coming from the bulb so that you have more light being projected.

Once the silver cup is removed, you can place some tinder inside and hold the cup so that it faces the sun. Turn the cup in such a way so that all of the light is focused on the tinder. You will soon start to notice smoke coming out of the tinder which is a good sign.

3. Fire Plough

This method is also one of the simplest ways that you can use and also requires minimal resources. You will only need two pieces of wood which will include a board and a plow stick.

The plow stick

The plow stick will be the one used to rub against the board to create friction. Make sure that the plow stick is straight and dry. Take your knife and cut one of the edges so that you have a 45-degree angle which will have a smaller surface area on the one point of the stick.

The board

This board will be used along with the stick to create friction and then heat as a result. Take your knife and groove a small line along the board until it is 8 inches long. This line will act as a track for the plow stick to move in a straight line. Make sure to put some weight on the board so that it is stable.

Let’s start plowing

Put the plow stick on the line that you have created with your knife and move it backward and forwards with little pressure. Move it up and down until you notice some smoke to appear.

The smoke is an indicator that the wood is warm enough and ready to produce some embers. Apply more pressure and continue rubbing the stick on the board. If you stop and it keeps smoking, then you have a beautiful piece of ember to work with.

Drop the ember into a timber nest, blow slowly into the nest until you have a fire.

4. Fire Piston

This device makes use of pressure built-up to create enough heat to light a small piece of timber. This tool consists out of a hollow tube with a cylinder. The cylinder will have a small hole in the end that is used to place your tinder.

You then need to rapidly compress the cylinder into the tube to increase the pressure inside the tube. The increase the pressure will also increase the temperature. This temperature increase will create enough heat to light up the piece of timber at the end.

5. Make Use of Ice

Who would have thought that you can start a fire with ice? All you need is a large piece of ice that is clear. You also need to turn the ice into a spherical shape before you can use it.

Once it is in this form, it will have the same effect as that of a magnifying glass where it will focus the light rays into a small area. You can make the ice round by using your chipping it with your knife or a small piece of rock. You should also rub it with your hands until it becomes smooth and clear.

Place it above a piece of tinder and make sure that the light is focused as a small little dot which will amplify the focus of the light rays and produce heat as a result.

6. Bow Drill

When it comes to friction-based fire making, then the bow drill is the most efficient and easiest to use. It does require more material to use, but once everything is in place, you will have an easier time starting fires. Here is what you will need.

The fireboard

I am not going to go into depth here as I have already discussed the part in the hand drill section. It is the basically the board that is nice and flat. You then need to make a dent into the board with a knife close to one of the edges.

You then need to make a “V” shaped cut next to the dent in order to collect the ember.

A spindle

This item is already discussed in the hand drill section. All it is is a 3 feet long stick that is also as thick as your pinky. It should also be as straight as possible.

You then need to place this stick on the dent and start rolling your hands through it to start drilling.

The bow

This item is new and it is why it is called the bow drill. In order to make the bow, you will need a stick as long as your arm which is also flexible. Remove one of your shoelaces or take a piece of rope if you have one.

Tie each end of the rope or shoelace to each end of the stick. Make sure to tie it tightly so that the rope does not fall off.

Find a handhold

This item is used to put pressure on the other side of the spindle while you are drilling. You can use another piece of wood for this. Make sure the handhold is flat and that you make a hole big enough for the spindle.

The hole should not go through the wood because you want some resistance.

7. Use a Soda Can

Using a soda can is a great way to start a fire. The only then you need to do is to polish the bottom side of the soda can so that it can reflect the light better. You might need a substance such as toothpaste, chocolate or clay to polish the can.

The bottom side of the can is also dish-shaped which means it will automatically focus the light rays enough to make fire. Once you are finished, you can take the can, turn it upside down so that the bottom side is facing the sun.

Place the timber in front of the can to catch the sun rays that are reflected. Just make sure that you do not block out the sun with your hand when positioning the timber.

8. The 2-Man Friction Drill

This method is using the friction created by two people to generate enough heat to light a fire. One person needs to put downward pressure on the fire board, and spindle and the other is using a rope to rotate the spindle.

I have already discussed what you should look for when trying to find the perfect fire board and spindle. You can find this information in method one on how to use a hand drill.

You can have a look at the video above to learn how it is done.

9. Fire Thong

This method initially comes from Southeast Asia. It also makes use of friction to generate the heat required for fire. If you have access to rattan, then this technique will work wonders. Rattan is a type of tree that looks like bamboo but is much more flexible.

You will find a lot of furniture that is made from rattan such as chairs and baskets. The first step is to take a piece of ratan that is about one meter long. Take a knife and split the rattan into four long strands.

You will need to thin out the ends of the strands so that you can make handles with them. The ends will then bend easier and will not break. You can use a stick to form part of the handle.

The next step is to take a baseboard or fireboard which will help generate the friction and will also retain the ember. You should also make a small hole which will allow the ember to breathe.

Place the one point of the fireboard on a rock and place the ratan strand under the board. You can then pull the rattan back and forth to create friction which will eventually generate heat for your fire.

10. Use a Firekable

I do not know if I should call it a device because it is more like jewelry. The Firekable is a type of armband that you can wear that also has a flint in the form of a Ferro rod, and a striker installed.

The Ferro rod is installed inside the buckle which can be revealed when opened. There will also be a striker on the other end of the armband that you can use to create a spark. Some Firekables also has a built-in compass which is an excellent addition for navigation purposes.

11. Magnifying Glass

The easiest way to start a fire with a lens is that with the help of a magnifying glass. The lens will focus all of the light that comes from the sun into a small area.

You need to focus the light from the magnifying glass onto a burnable such as a tinder nest. You need to concentrate the light until the light beam becomes as small as possible. The only drawback about this method is that it will not work on a cloudy day.

12. Flint With Steel

This is an old strategy that was used by our forefathers to start a fire. You can also buy a flint kit which also comes with a striker. To purchase your kit is usually the best option out there as it can be hard to find flint in the wilderness.

If you do manage to find flint somewhere in the woods, then you can use your knife as a striker because it is also made out of metal. Flint will mostly be located near rivers. To produce a spark, you need to strike the flint with a piece of metal at an angle.

What happens is the flint will shave off some small pieces of steel which will also start to turn red because of the friction. Keep the flint close to the tinder so that the spark can light it up.

13. Steel Wool With a Battery

Most of us will have an iPhone with us almost everywhere we go. This phone also comes with a battery that can be used to light steel wool. If you have these two items with you, then you can use them together to start a fire.

What will happen is that the steel wool will become a conductor for the power that comes from the battery. The energy from the battery will be too much on the steel wool which will cause it to turn red and melt away.

Have you ever seen what happens to a light bulb when electricity is passed through it? It will start to create heat and light. It is the same principle.

All you need to do is to spread the steel wool open inside a tinder nest and then rub the two terminals of the battery against the wool. It will start to burn which is what you want.

14. Pump Fire Drill

This method is the easiest to use but is also the hardest to build when it comes to friction-based fire starting. All I can say is that once you have one of these devices your life will become a lot easier.

It is very easy to build one of these at home but can be challenging to create in the wilderness. I am going to go through all of the items that make up this tool.


The spindle should be long enough to create enough distance between it and the fire board. I would recommend a spindle that is at least 1 meter long. It also needs to be straight with no twigs that come out from it.

The handle

The handle will be 3/4 the length of the spindle and will have a hole in the middle for the spindle to fit in. There will also be a rope attached to both ends of the handle.

The counterweight

It is a branch split in half that has two rocks tied in the middle with rope. The further the rocks are from the center, the weight will also be moved away from the center.

By doing this, you will increase the centripetal force which will then increase its power and torque which will make it better at drilling through the fire board.

15. Use a Lemon With Steel Wool

If life gives you lemons create a fire. Did you know that you can use the same principle as mentioned in section 13 when using a battery with steel wool with lemon as well?

It is because lemon can generate a little bit of power with the help of copper and zinc nails along with two wires. You can use 6 pins or nails of each type as described in the video.

Start by pushing six copper nails in a row into the lemon with a space of 1 cm. You can do the same with the zinc nails. Then you should connect the first copper nail with the second zinc nail in a diagonal fashion. Do this with all the nails.

You will be left with one open copper nail and another zinc nail. You will then attach a wire to each one which will be positive and negative. Press these two wires against the steel wool which will generate a fire.

16. Bleach with Brake Fluid

If you are a mad scientist and you have access to chemicals, then you already know that you can create fire by combining some of them. In this section, I will reveal a combination that you can use which is bleach mixed with brake fluid.

Please be careful when using these chemicals as you might burn yourself.

Also known as calcium hypochlorite and automotive brake fluid in the world of science. This combination works when you pour the brake fluid into the bleach powder.

When You Are Done

Now after reading this article, you can use 16 different methods to light a fire without the use of matches. I also showed you how to properly prepare all of the materials of the fire before you start with one of these methods.

Have you ever used one of the mentioned methods? Please leave a comment below and share with us your favorite method.

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