Introduction: Paleo Lighter - UPDATED!

Picture of Paleo Lighter - UPDATED!

Friction Fire aka making fire using friction. Wood to wood, rope to wood, rope to rope, wood to car, car to dog, whatever.

Am I the only one who seems to have enough of it?

In every fire-related Instructable, in every survival video, in every schoolbook and in every edition of the SAS-bible you'll get the same ol' story that hasn't changed a word since, let's say, the last 20.000 years - the start of the last Ice-Age, more or less.

In order to take our species a Big Step Forward I decided to revisit our classic views on fire-making.

If we really want to survive the next Icy Apocalypse we need to be a lot smarter than we were untill now.

Proudly presenting: the first friction fire lighter ever - aka the lighter that'll keep you running (literally).

Cheap, refillable, reliable, waterproof & pocketsized - that's what they say about latest I-phone, also. About pocket-sized, I mean. Not about the cheapness, the refillable-ness, the reliable-ness & the waterproofness.

Winter Is Coming.

But we shall know no fear. Not anymore.

Wanna see it in action?

Step 1: Gather & Hunt. and Drink.

Picture of Gather & Hunt. and Drink.

To make this crazy device you will need:

- two beared wheels (can be from a skateboard)

- a wooden dowel

- a piece of hardwood

- a piece of steel tube

- a 50mm pvc 'T'

- a few 50mm pvc covers

- 10m paracord.

And a beer. A really good beer.

Step 2: The Concept

Picture of The Concept

In fact, the key-feature of Paleo 3.0 is just a wooden rod that turns on a wooden support, causing friction, heat & thus fire.

Put all that in a waterproof housing & you're done.

In a nutshell:

- in the 'T' is a wooden rod that turns freely in its 2 wheels (upside of device)

- to the rod is winded a lot of paracord (middle)

- a socket is pushed to the rod - which will collect the coal once the rod has gone crazy (downside)

Once you have a coal you can make a fire.

Easy peasy!

And humanity waited 20.000 years for that.

Step 3: Building the Socket Aka Fireboard

Picture of Building the Socket Aka Fireboard

Get a clock drill and drill it halfway into a thick piece of softwood.

Get a paddle drill half the size of the clock drill and go halfway through the board.

Use the clock again to drill all the way though the board.

Result: the weirdest piece of wood ever.

Push it in a piece of steel tube which has miraculously the right size.

Screw both to one of the pvc-covers.

Step 4: Carving the Spindle

Picture of Carving the Spindle

Make a pen, push it into the two (for better stability) wheels, wind some tape around both and smash it in the T.

Glue the cover & done you are.

Step 5: Winding You Will

Picture of Winding You Will

To get the spindle winded you can insert a screw into the cover-side of the rod & then you go HILTI.

If you want to do it less 21th.-century-ish: go manual, your choice.

Whatever. Wind some (10m should be fine) paracord to the rod, glue the last cover and start admiring the most unattended pvc-construction ever made.

Or start wondering what exactly you've just been making.

Step 6: Fayah!

Picture of Fayah!

Honestly, the first 3 times I tested this thing I failed gloriously, snapping the cord every time.

Fourth time was the good one. A nice piece of coal appeared - the cutest I've ever seen - and whether or not I managed to turn it into a fire hasn't the slightest importance.

Attach the loose end of the cord to a fix point, push the socket firmly to the pen, get the whole 90° and start running in a straight line.

Smoke will appear and fire you will make.

Next Ice-Age will be fun.

Step 7: Useful Knowledge

Picture of Useful Knowledge

As in classic 'manual' friction fire, the choice of the wood species is extremely important.

The old school says that 'it's good to use a hard(er) wood for the spindle and a soft(er) wood for the socket aka fireboard'.

Commercially sold rods are mostly beech - which is a hard(er) wood.

I tried pine, epicea, elderberry, poplar & willow for the socket to see which species gave me the best results. And oak, also, because I'm just a contrary person.

Oak was definitely bad, and so were pine & epicea.

Elderberry was nice, but willow & poplar went just crazy: nice & a lot blackish sawdust and only a couple of runs needed to set the birds nest on fire.

Beech for the spindle, willow for the fireboard. My experience.

Step 8: PALEO 4.0

It's been announced and you were waiting for it: the famous upgrade to 4.0!

Inspired by the pullstart of a lawnmower - thanx jobar007 - I wanted the device being steady while I tried to get that coal - instead of me running like a fool.

So I added a spring to a rope and attached it to the spindle. Next I winded a second rope a few times to the same spindle and fixed the end to a handle (well).

Yes it's a lot less compact, but who cares? It's awesome!!!

The concept is simple: while you're pulling the handle its rope will unwind and wind the spring-rope, putting the last one on tension.

Graphics are on their way - unless you're already getting the picture.

Since I really didn't have time to change the fireboard (they burn fast, you know) and show you a more realistic video I made a small shortcut, sorry.

Match heads in the socket, some elbow-grease and LOOK AT THAT FLAME!!!

With a new fireboard it's almost the same, but longer.

And without those flames.

But almost the same, anyway.


headache (author)2016-04-28

This makes absolute sense to my mechanical mind. The same concept of a bow drill without the hassle of trying to hold the spindle with one hand. Added to my favorites!!!!!

bricobart (author)headache2016-04-28

Thank you, who's using these bows yet?!

MurS1 (author)2016-03-09

mmm Red Chimay... Love fire and love Belgium monks... thx!

bricobart (author)MurS12016-04-28

I see it as a duty to like them every day. And I'm a very serious person.

mnatanagara (author)2016-02-15

You are a genius. This could become one of the top 5 Scout go-to pieces of equipment.

bricobart (author)mnatanagara2016-04-28

Well thank you!

JeffD51 (author)2016-02-29

I too really like the lawn mower recoil-r idea, but it's too large imo for this. Try a recoil spring from a weedeater or gas powered rc car, they are exact miniatures of the lawn mower. I'm currently trying to envision using a flange adapter to the top of the plastic tube so you could mount the actual coil housing to the spindle/lighter housing. I think I have a weedeater that's beyond cost effective repair, I'll tear it apart if/when I get a chance. I think that would just put this1 over the top.

I'll let you know what I find, please keep us posted if you beat me to it.

Thanks, JD

You need to do a wind up or coil spring one, like the wind up radios. Maybe a battery drill gearbox in reverse.. With a clockwork spring, pull the chord to twist the stick and wind up, release the chord to twist the stick and recoil the chord. Repeat till you have a fire. I found that the metal strapping used for packing pallets could make such a spring.

This is actually what I had in mind. A recoil spring from a mower is typically a coil spring (to keep it compact). That's a neat idea about using metal strapping. I wonder if you have to heat treat it to make it "spring" instead of bend?

The strapping we have looks like spring steel, it high tenstile for the intended usage and seems hard to bend. I pick the stuff up on my peddle bike and coil it for transit, got to be carefull as it tends to kick back.. The recoil spring from the mower sounds great, there shouldnt be much load on but will need lots of turns to get the fire going. The Spring in you cars electric window is the opposite, load but not many turns. Good work.

Awesome, your idea. The 5.0 will be dedicated to you!

Jobar007 (author)2015-12-28

The shot of the smoke rising from the tube is beautiful.

As always, a good read and a neat idea. It reminds me of the pull start on a small combustion engine. Maybe a recoil spring can be used to "reset" the spindle? Then you would just have to yank it like starting a stubborn lawn mower.

bricobart (author)Jobar0072016-01-15

You'll like this one

Jobar007 (author)bricobart2016-01-20

That's awesome. The burst of fire from the match heads is a good touch.

bricobart (author)Jobar0072015-12-28

Thank you my friend. If there were prizes to win for most constructive comment you would be a winner.

Your idea to use a lawn mower is just awesome! Guess what? I got one!

Paleo 4.0 is in the making..

Nice idea. Maybe try using a 4-way fitting so you don't ever have to rewind the pull cord? Then you could just tie both ends to trees or whatever's handy and move the device back and forth. Threaded fittings on the cord openings to keep it all dry, and can just stuff the cord into the openings to store. Perhaps could also seat a spring below the fire board piece to ensure perfect friction and preserve the spindle.

or you could just wrap the cord around it once, with both ends coming out so you could pull from one end or the other or even a continuous loop - with no need for rewinding.

Very ingenious, thanx for this one. It all started with the idea of leaving those beaten tracks on wild fire making. Seems that creativity is not dead. Keep that fire burnin'!

Krienert (author)bricobart2016-01-07

What about the rotary complication spring from an old timey clock?

Krienert (author)Krienert2016-01-07

... or the winding mech. from a cheapo tape measurer?

Ussmillerco (author)2016-01-07

or you could have a magnifying glass, or use heat from compression, or reactive chemicals, or a self made shorted battery, or flint and magnesium, spark and char cloth or....I could go on.

SeanB10 (author)Ussmillerco2016-01-07

You could use your mind powers too. It's where the word "focus" comes from.

bricobart (author)SeanB102016-01-15


qdogg (author)2016-01-12

Ok, I think what's lacking is a clear view of the internal parts in their operating positions. A short video of it working would also help. I'm always into different fire making methods so I'm glad you did this. I think a method that would use the legs (not as in running)while in a sitting position would make for good success since a lot more strength is available without as much fatigue.

LisaC127 (author)2016-01-11

I'm sorry, I'd really like to leave a nice comment but, honestly, I couldn't make sense of anything you wrote. Perhaps a video, or more photos would have helped. It looks interesting. I couldn't understand how it worked. I would have liked to.

bricobart (author)LisaC1272016-01-11

So let's call it the 'Magic Paleo Lighter'!

That sounds even more awesome, no?

TimoR3 (author)2016-01-11

It took me a lot of time to understand what the heck you're trying to do... you must have had a lot of fun proving yourself that "I can, I can, I can..." However, as other readers are also giving you tips, I got an idea to share: How about routing the cord around the spindle approximately 4-5 times and getting the other end out from the opposite side, thus letting the cord be horizontal all the time? The you tie the ends of the cord apart of each other tightly and pull your "thing" tight side-wards, and then run with the block in your hand, letting the spindle be rotate by the cord line. This way you can have one hand free to feed the dry moss into the friction-pot.

TraeS1 (author)2016-01-10

Instead of winding up the string and running off to get the friction going, wouldn't it be easier to loop the string around the spindle, like the classic firebow method, and pull on either end of the string, back and forth,to make it turn? It may require something more for the rope to really grab onto, but winding 30 feet of rope for every attempt to use the thing sounds like more of a hassle.

bricobart (author)TraeS12016-01-11

You are completely right. If it doesn't work after 2 or 3 times, the only thing that'll be on fire will be your nerves. And your legs, also.

That's why I'm working on a lawnmower-inspired upgrade. It'll make the device less compact, but reliable.

Like I said before, paleo 4.0 is going to make me a very, very, rich man.

Laral (author)2016-01-07

Interesting idea but I'd hardly call it 'paleo'. I mean even the Flintstones didn't have sealed bearings. LOL!

bricobart (author)Laral2016-01-07

But they had a dinosaur!

Laral (author)bricobart2016-01-09

Yes and they had lighters too. :)

bricobart (author)Laral2016-01-10

Excellent! ;)

Laral (author)bricobart2016-01-10

Maybe you could figure out how to make one!

Laral (author)Laral2016-01-10

This video gives an idea of how it works ;) :

VendicarD (author)2016-01-10

Excellent list of options. Perhaps you could put together an Instructable entry that will illustrated some of the methods.

bricobart (author)VendicarD2016-01-10

Actually, it'll probably be one of my next I'bles. I'm seasoning a lot of wood species and I'll set them on fire soon, just awesome!

VendicarD (author)2016-01-07

I tried to set my neighbours on fire using this method by they wouldn't sit still long enough.

Any suggestions?

bricobart (author)VendicarD2016-01-10


White-tail (author)VendicarD2016-01-09

Flamethrowers in my expierence tend to do the trick, but if your neighbors are wearing flameproof clothing theres your problem. I recommend stripping them before attempting to burn. You could always burn them in a glorious explosion. Put a candle in their house upstairs an light it then turn on a few propane tanks on the bottom floor. This seems to get the job done. Also a good way to put a stop to noisy toddlers.

nofunclub (author)2016-01-08

non resinous wood should always be used for wood friction fire making
resinous wood shavings and birch bark is easily lit with your tinder bundle, even in wet conditions.


wimton (author)nofunclub2016-01-09

"Feuer" from Andy Müller, ISBN 3-00-013031-4 contains a large table of how well combinations of wood are performing in file making. (Only in German AFAIK :-(

goldenskyhook (author)2016-01-07

OK, you got me on this one. HILTY?? WTF is HILTY?

aebe (author)goldenskyhook2016-01-07

The Hilti van never came around your job sites ? All the carpenters would go and line up in front of it .

bricobart (author)goldenskyhook2016-01-07

Sorry, it should have been HILTI. Like DEWALT, but red. And German. Haha.

aebe (author)2016-01-07

A neat idea , not at all over complicated like needing a knife and ax to make a beer mug ...... . :)

VendicarD (author)2016-01-07

I am concerned that in the coming zombie apocalypse this method of fire generation won't be rapid enough.

How well do zombies burn by the way? Anyone have some up to date information on this?

ashervivi88 (author)2016-01-07

Wow. Super impressed. You have my vote!

White-tail (author)2015-12-23

Thank god im not the only one that needs a beer to do these things! Nice design Im gunna build this soon.

sounds more like, a two beer project.

About This Instructable




Bio: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.
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