Introduction: Make Char Cloth

Picture of Make Char Cloth

In this entry I will show you how to make char cloth which will aid you in fire starting the primitive way.

Step 1: Make the Char Tin

Picture of Make the Char Tin

You need a tin of some sort it just hast to be a closeable tin that is kinda air tight like a tin of mints or maby a altoid can. When you get your tin you need to punch a small hole in the top with a small nail or 4-5 cm, but dont make it to big no bigger that 1cm . this must be done or you risk the chance that the gases presurize the tin and it will explode.
after that you are ready to char some cloth.

Step 2: Put the Cloth in the Can

Picture of Put the Cloth in the Can

Now you must gently put the cloth in the can after you cut the cloth in squares. you must not pack them in tight or by just throwing them in you should place them in gently like I did in the picture. Then put the cap on. also you must use 100% cotton for the cloth this is readlly avaliable by using a old tee shirt which I use and it works fine, but remember 100% cotton!

Step 3: Put It on the Fire

Picture of Put It on the Fire

now just start a fire not a blazing inferno just a calm fire or you can use the embers (lots of embers, this usaly works much better) set it some where in the fire where it will not fall over and watch it you will eventualy see smoke billowing out or it might start on fire. dont freak out just let it burn itself out and when there is no more smoke coming out take it out. what ever you do DONT! take the lid off right away just wait a little while for two reasons. one it is probaly really hot! and two if you open it before it cools, the oxygen will rush in and might start the whole thing on fire. then you run the risk of getting burnt and you will have to start over because the cloth is all burnt away.

Step 4: Remove the Lid

Picture of Remove the Lid

Remove the lid :] if your cloth looks like the picture where it is brown then dont worry just cover the tin back up and put it back on. if it is very starchy or crumbles when you tuch it you over cooked it and will have to start over. but if is knida soft completly black and is not very fragile then it is perfect. then you should take it out of the can and seprate each piece gently like I have done

Step 5: Light It Up

Picture of Light It Up

now all you have to do is let anykind of spark fall on it and it will glow red with a hot ember but no flame or for all those teck freaks you can just use a lighter but it burns it up fast. for all you primitive and medieval people like me this is the exact way the people back then made char cloth


archertom (author)2014-04-24

WOW! I had no idea that there could be such a long discussion on one of the most basic and simple survival and just all around preparedness topics as making char cloth. I always just do mine on the stove top in my kitchen and like someone suggested, always carry extra "cotton" or for the purists in the crow "linen" for making extra or additional or replacement while in the field.

crmanina (author)archertom2017-08-22

I am a newbie at all things outdoor, such as starting fires. I didn't even know what char cloth was until today!! So what is old hat to you is new knowledge to me and I sure do appreciate this instructable that shows me step by step what to do. I'm sure there are others viewing this lesson who are in the same boat!! If you are knowledgeable in this kind of stuff, I'd sure like to see your instructables too.

kyuuei (author)archertom2014-12-29

What is simple and basic to you may not be to others. I found it really helpful but not detailed enough.

yoiyok (author)2016-10-25

good job

Gadget93 (author)2016-02-12

How does this differ from just any other cloth...whether burned or unburned.

1ScoutDad (author)Gadget932016-09-03

charring the clot leaves you with a sooty material that is easily flammable with a small spark.

donald.stockton made it! (author)2016-05-24

LittleMonkeyMojo (author)2016-02-22

Step 1: "1 cm hole".

Do you maybe mean "1 mm hole"?

bperry11 made it! (author)2016-02-20

making fire with flint and steel like a boss now

InstinctsKill made it! (author)2015-09-09

First batch made. I was surprised how well it worked, actually. We don't start too many fires at my place, unless it's in the burn barrel. I figured it would take at least two times over the barrel because I didn't put the container in the embers, and it was only in the top of the flame. After about 20-30 minutes of burning, though, it was good to go.

DennisH2 (author)2014-12-18

I think there is a mistake at the beginning of your steps. When you are talking about the size of the hole in the tin, you say it should be about 1cm. I think you ment 1 mm. 1 cm is about 3/8 of an inch and I think that is a little big for the vent hole.

Noobsmurf (author)DennisH22015-02-02

Nice and good turtorial.

One question I can't find anywhere and no I haven't had the time to make my own, but do they work wet ?

rTimewarrior (author)Noobsmurf2015-03-29

No. Keep your fire making gear safe and dry.

explocivo12 (author)2014-12-06

hey can you use like an old lighter with no fluid in it?

Yes any spark will do. If it's one of those cheap transparent lighters then i would recommend removing the metal cover from the flint and striker wheel first though to get more sparks, or just hold it as close as possible to the cloth

ok thanks.

No problem

davidspassage (author)2015-01-02

Here's my attempt at making char cloth:

vladivastok (author)2014-12-27


DieCastoms (author)2008-07-02

This comment is a little long, I apologize. Hopefully some will find it useful. I was a member of the Wachussett Mountain Men, the Leominster Sportsmans' Association, the N.M.L.R.A. and am a continuing reenactor and supporter of Living History. My Mountain Man name is Little Coon because as a child I was "always chattering and always getting into things". My father is a Rev.War period correct blacksmith and has made many fire starter kits. if you are interested in a kit, feel free to contact me. When making your charcloth, again, I must stress, ONLY 100% cotton will work. Anything synthetic will MELT instead! If you play with the size of the hole in the top of the tin, and get it small enough that you have a good steady flow of smoke, you can actually light the smoke itself. The can will not explode, because there is no oxygen in it, that's the whole point of doing it in a tin can. If you light the smoke you will get basically a candle flame. 9 out of 10 times, when the smoke finally burns out and will not re-light, the cloth is done. If you keep your char cloth, flint and striker and some rope fibers or DRY grass and a thin piece of leather in a TIGHTLY SEALING tin, you will always have what you need. Half bury a piece of charcloth in a 'bird's nest' of the grass or fibers and lay that on the piece of leather. Either hold the striker in one hand and hit with a GLANCING BLOW of a sharp edge of the flint, or hold the flint and swing the striker. One way will most likely work better then the other for you. Try to get AS MANY of the sparks to land on the charcloth as possible. Once you have embers burning in the cloth, pick the entire pile up using the leather like a pot holder and blow through the fibers gently like if you were cooling off a spoonful of soup. Once the fibers catch flame, place them into your kindling to get it lit, and retrieve your leather. Once your fire is going good, why not replenish your charcloth? Remember 100% cotton will dry if it gets wet, but charcloth will DISSOLVE if it gets wet. Carry cotton and make charcloth as you need it! As a random extra story: A demonstrator came to my school when I was in 2nd grade to show us about "Primitive living". While there, he showed how to start a flint and steel fire and although I do not remember what he did wrong, many people remember what happened. I corrected him, and of course since he was the teacher and I was the student, he was infallible and I was certainly wrong. When he made the comment "If you're so smart, come up and show us how it's done." I set the teachers desk on fire. Had he ASKED me, I at the time held my group's record for flint and steel fire in under 7 seconds! Remember, I was 7 years old! My parents were called and when told exactly what happened, dad told the PRINCIPLE to bugger off because of the demonstrator's attitude to me. In the following years, DAD was the demonstrator!!!! I hope my post is helpful and has not stepped on any toes. DC

peapeam (author)DieCastoms2010-09-15

As I've understood it, this is not correct (check Wikipedia article). The point is that it has to be a vegetable fiber. So not only 100% cotton will work, e.g. linen will also work or e.g. a mix of linen and cotton. Synthetics are of course excluded.

waykno (author)peapeam2012-01-15

Wikipedia? I can change that. Wiki would not be my "go to" source.

DieCastoms (author)peapeam2010-09-15

You are correct, thank you for pointing that out. Any 100% natural cloth will work. Anything synthetic will melt and smoke and not ignite. I have never tried to use anything other than 100% cotton, mostly from old t-shirts.

Sir Crapton (author)DieCastoms2010-05-04

I had a medieval-era style blacksmith teach me how to start fires and make char cloth last time I was at a Renaissance Faire. Its a lot of fun.

 One can use linen as a substitute for cotton (why one would have linen but not cotton I don't know) but both wil work fine.

Lithium Rain (author)DieCastoms2010-01-29

Holy massive paragraph Batman.

 wow the instructor. He could always try yours, see it works, then aplogise and say hes human and wrong sometimes. But he bes a looser and stuff. 

askeladden (author)2011-10-10

You can also do this on the BBQ.

kInstructor (author)2011-10-09

This also works fine with aluminum foil as can and kitchen paper as cloth.

Eleniel (author)2011-01-16

umm.. is the can just in/on the fire. or is the fire IN the can ?

gearskin (author)Eleniel2011-09-28

The principle at work here is pyrolysis, in which you separate an organic substance into a solid and a gas (or multiple gases) by high temperature in an environment free of oxygen. You'll want the fire on the outside of the tin - what you want inside the tin is a whole lot of heat, and a way for the gaseous byproduct of pyrolysis to escape. This is also why you can "overcook" in this recipe - once the gaseous byproduct is driven off, oxygen can reenter the tin through the hole in the top.

Graywolf (author)2006-10-16

i hope yall enjoyed this and it worked for yall please give me feed back and tell me if ther is any thing i can do to improve, also i will eventualy show yall how to make fire with a spark and eventualy with sticks

Top feeder (author)Graywolf2011-08-07

That's is very similar to making charcoal for BP and fireworks which also happens to be fun.

Shilloh777 (author)Graywolf2011-05-21

Spell check would help. No offense meant. Some comic slang is okay, but it helps me if I understand you. I hope you didn't mean to make fun of southerners or the way they speak.

thank you graywolf. I am teaching this at a boy scout camporee this weekend

tcasarella (author)2011-05-06

i make my char cloth in a altoid tin on the charcoal after i am done cooking.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-07-16

weird question: could you use cotton balls?

charred balls? sounds awfully wrong

Eleniel (author)beehard442011-01-16


lol. To other iblers out there: DO NOT use newspapers. I repeat, DO NOT use newspapers. If you attempt to turn it into charcoal, the end result is some pretty flammable paper, but it would be extremely smelly (I mean potent to the point of irritating and causing a sort-of burning sensation to your nose).

LOOPDOP (author)2010-07-19

I think you mean 4 to 5 mm (millimetre). Am i correct?

peapeam (author)LOOPDOP2010-09-15

Yes, looks like a typo. It must be 4-5mm, since it is to be no bigger than 1cm. A 4-5cm (appr. 2") hole of course would be way too big.

minime12358 (author)2010-08-02

Fun and useful thing to do- light the smoke on fire. it will stop burning once it is done. the smoke is flammable.

StickStoneBone (author)2010-06-07

Char cloth, excellent... do know what works nearly as well? Raman Noodles.

technodude92 (author)2008-01-30

do you need to use a fire? can you char cloth on a hotplate/gas stove? and aprox. how long does it take to char cloth?

 a grill will work great

sharlston (author)technodude922009-06-13

no it wont get hot enough

dscroll (author)technodude922008-03-15

yes you can use any heat source(not sure about hot plate) but do it out side.

technodude92 (author)dscroll2008-03-16

thanks i just might do this

pyro13 (author)technodude922008-07-08

hot plate will most likely work, just turn it up on high

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