Instructables
Picture of How To Make Char Cloth With A Tuna Can
I sacrificed my kids clothes and a can of tuna to make some high quality fire starter!  Here's how to make a great batch of Char-Cloth to add to your emergency kit.

www.thekingofrandom.com
 
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Step 1: Watch The Video!



WARNING: This project should not be attempted without adult supervision and adequate training.  Misuse, or careless use of fire and flammable materials may result in serious injury, property damage, and/or death.  Use of this video content is at your own risk.

Step 2: What Is Char Cloth?

Picture of What Is Char Cloth?
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Char-Cloth is a fire starting tinder that has the ability to capture and hold a spark amazingly well, and for a considerable amount of time.

According to Wikipedia;

"Char cloth (also called charpaper) is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature.

It is capable of being ignited by a single spark that can in turn be used to ignite a tinder bundle to start a fire.

It is sometimes manufactured at home for use as the initial tinder when cooking or camping and historically usually provided the "tinder" component of a tinderbox. It is often made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slows and the cloth is properly charred.

Charcloth ignites with even the smallest spark, and is therefore commonly used with a flint and steel."

I use it as my tinder of choice my acrylic fire piston.

Step 3: Materials You'll Need

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This project can be done with items you probably already have around the house!

  • 1. Tuna Can
  • 2. "Lid lifter" style can-opener
  • 3. Nail, punch, or small screwdriver
  • 4. Cotton fabric
For cotton fabric, old T-shirts work very well if they're 100% cotton.  You can find this information on the tag inside the shirt.

I also found that cotton balls work extremely well, and have become my new favorite!

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KraftyKrew9 months ago
My dad would love this
if they get wet will it affect the durability or effectivness of a char cloth in any way? (in other words is it waterproof)?
It won't work if it is wet. It is not waterproof.
can we do it over the bbq?!?
Yep.
mikaleda1 year ago
The nice thing about army surpluses gun cleaning patches is they are per cut to one inch peices
mikaleda1 year ago
I have found that an Altoids can and the army surplus gun patches (100% cotton) work great. I don't let the smoke catch on fire I usually make mine over embers and I take it off and let it cool after the smoke stops. I cover the hole when cooling, it doesn't hurt ;)
wpcodename1 year ago
My personal recommendations, I've done it a few times before,
First, I would recommend just using a fire, and watch the smoke. I've never noticed flames out of the hole, just watch when the smoke turns from gray to white. Then take out of the fire and let it cool.
I've also never covered the hole and have never had a Flashback with it, And I don't believe it would be a problem so long as you keep it away from the fire.
The King of Random (author)  wpcodename1 year ago
Thanks for your ideas!
Exocetid1 year ago
Use a wooden kebob stick, sharpened stick or pencil to seal your hole after charring--the AL foil is too complicated and wasteful.
The King of Random (author)  Exocetid1 year ago
Sounds like an idea that could work
How was it done in history; i.e., when they actually had to use it during daily life?
dig a hole, fill it with wood or whatever, then cover it with dirt to keep air out and heat until it stops smoking. there would be more to it of course, like how do you heat it (probably by building a fire on top of it), but that's the general idea. as a matter of fact, the idea probably came from char left over in just a regular fire. they noticed that some of the larger pieces at the heart of the pit (where oxygen was harder to come by) didn't fully consume and were really easy to re-light. just speculation.
This is actually a fascinating piece of history that is not well documented. What you are implied making is char wood, not far off from char cloth, the subject of this Instructable. I did some Googling and found all sorts of speculation and very good guesses as to how this came about. What one must ask is: why hasn't some history graduate student written a dissertation on this given the amount of uncertainty.

Apparently, what we are talking about in general is tinder, and there are a significant number of artifacts out there in regards to it. One of the more interesting is the notion of a tinder stick, which is a metal tube that has a cotton (or linen, or jute) cord in it. You light one end of the cord, let it burn and then pull it back into the tube, which extinguishes it and makes it into tinder. Then, when you need a bit you push the charred end out and go to it. Isn't technology wonderful?

The thing that must be remembered is that in the days before electricity, the primary energy source for heating and cooking, and to some extent light, was wood fires. Making them was a daily thing and technologies evolved to support the process. 
The King of Random (author)  Exocetid1 year ago
I don't know, I wasn't around and don't know anyone who was, but you can probably get away without even sealing the hole. It's just that sometimes if the conditions are right, if air sucks back inside, the tinder can burn and become useless so covering the hole helps prevent that.
tbor621 year ago
I just use an Altoid can. Just put in some denim and throw it on the fire.
NIce and useful. But that scorcher is what I really want now.
Haha nice. I have a video on how to get it for free.
dougbyte1 year ago
Great job of presentataion. I know an old mountain man in my area that searches out the river bottoms, for cottonwood punk from the dead trunks. Swears that it's the best for charing. Something to keep in your back pocket if you ever find yourself in a posistion where you can give up the cloth.
The King of Random (author)  dougbyte1 year ago
Awesome, thanks for your comment!
jnatt1 year ago
wow good easy way of making Char cloth thank you
The King of Random (author)  jnatt1 year ago
You're welcome, and thank you!
MT11 year ago
Got an idea from your vids. Use acrylic or other plastic melted into lenticular canteen.

Boyscouts used to sell a metal canteen of this shape. Why plastic? Take cover off and use as fire starter lens. Even half empty.

Being currently under employed, I can't do this myself.
The King of Random (author)  MT11 year ago
Sounds great! It's the same idea as using a water bottle to start a fire so I think it would work great!. Thanks for sharing your idea!
I made these right after your video came out. This is really easy and I used an Altoids can. I punched a hole in it and I noticed that gas also comes out of the hinges. I used a tye-dye shirt that was too small for me and it was super easy.
Perfect! Thanks for the follow up!
BlueWeasel1 year ago
We went camping last week and I learned about char cloth for the first time.
I don't know how I managed to go almost 30 years of camping without ever learning
about this stuff, but I digress. I'll be making some char cloth soon and certainly
like the idea of using cotton balls. These will go great with the flint strikers I had
a blacksmith make for me yesterday.
The King of Random (author)  BlueWeasel1 year ago
Perfect! Thanks for your feedback and best of luck with your project!
That is awesome! Way better than shelling out real money ( the kind folds neatly ) on fire starters. Keep up the good work! On a side note your video is well done too!
Thank you very much!
kirkb1501 year ago
Good stuff!
The King of Random (author)  kirkb1501 year ago
Thanks!
MR..1 year ago
I'm so stoked you put this up!!
The King of Random (author)  MR..1 year ago
Thank you! What did you like about it?
I make char cloth often for my survival kits. I'm just so happy that there's a awesome Instructable out now showing folks how easy it is. I love your photographs as well!!
The King of Random (author)  MR..1 year ago
Perfect, thanks for your feedback!
Just as good to char rotten wood for an ignite material for fire steel. Charring cloth for rich people. Strike char on sharpened flint and not in a nest of grass. When lit, place char wood in grass. Otherwise wind will make effort too difficult.
Something about cotton balls, you need to examine the contents of them, as many are cotton / polyester blends.

I think you could char polyester and hence polyester blend cotton balls, but I think the straight cotton balls are the best bet.

Plastic tends to not be that good.
snworks1 year ago
Thanks! I sometimes do fire by friction with a bow drill, and it can be hard to move from ember to fire if the tinder isn't right. One thing about your instructable - you say "If possible, use a "lid-lifter" style can-opener," but it seems like this type would be not optional, but necessary. A regular can opener would leave a smaller lid piece, so how would you close it airtight? (except for the small hole)
Yes, anything other than a lid-lifter can opener will not work. That's why I used an Altoids can.
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