Introduction: Solar Rechargeable Fire Starter

About: I am an electrical repair tech by day and an engineer by night, after work or free time.
This little fire starter can throw quite a spark! it is a hacked camera that uses the high voltage stored in the capacitor that is intended for the flash function as an imitation ignition method for starting fires! I have been stuck trying to build a fire and I know I'm not the only one. Because of past issues and the near future summer camping plans I decided to make this little guy. Watch the video for a demo and we will get started! 

DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK. there is high voltage stored inside of these capacitors that can easily pose a risk. I am not responsible for any damage or injuires. 

Step 1: Things Needed

A camera with flash
two slide switches on/off SPST 
One solar panel (4.5 volts max)
one diode
altoid tin
double A battery holder
Nickel based battery
two rca plugs
solid wire

No picture.

Step 2: Modding the Camera Circuit

First we will need a disposable camera that has a flash function. Most of them do. I picked mine up on sale for 2 bucks! it was 14 but I lucked out. 

1st- we need to take apart the camera. Most are not built to last so taking it apart will be easy. Find the plastic tabs around the case and break them away or pry it open with a flathead screw driver. 
After the camera is apart and you have the circuit out you should be able to identify a few functions. On most cheap cameras there isn't a swtich that can be moved around. On mine there were two copper pieces that were pressed together by a piece of plastic from the case. Once they are pressed together they close the circuit. The switch I am describing right now is the switch that when pushed charges the capacitor. There were two switches on my camera, one was the capacitor charge and the other was the button that snapped the pictures. The capacitor charge switch is easy to identify and easy to mod. We will be adding a slide switch to bridge the connections. This will give us the option of charging the capacitor. 

2nd- If your camera comes with an led indicator you can go ahead and extend it. so we can later mount it to the tin. 

3rd- we are going to need a new battery pack. My camera used a triple A battery but I am using a double A battery holder/pack. Since triple and double A batteries have the same voltage this won't be a problem. In order to add a new battery holder you need to identify the polarity of the previous battery connections. This is easily done by looking at the battery and how it sits in the camera, 

Step 3: The Capacitor

If you haven't figured out by now we will be shorting the capacitor to create a big spark. So we will need something heavily insulated to use as prongs that we can safely hold when shorting the capacitor and creating the spark. I chose to use RCA plugs for this. They are a good sie, nicely insulated and have copper connections that can be used to touch together to spark a fire! 

1st- We will need two male RCA plugs. Break off the copper on the outside of the plug. just bend it with some pliers and it should break off easily. after that strip the wire insulation. You will see two sets of wires. One set of wire will be insulated and the other set of wire will be woven around the insulated wire. We need the insulated wire, so cut off the woven wire. The woven wire is the ground. The copper we broke off that was around the plug is the ground. 

2nd- we will be soldering these plugs to the capacitor leads. I recommend putting a switch in between one of the plugs and one of the leads. This switch will act as a safety switch

Step 4: The Solar Panel.

The solar panel is not really needed but I thought it was a very nice feature. just remember that if you use a solar panel you will need a rechargeable battery. I recommend a nickel based battery. They are rated at 1.2 volts compared to the 1.5 volts you will see in other batteries but they work pretty good! The solar panel will help with charging off the grid. For this step you will need a solar panel 4.5 volts max and a diode. The diode is used to ensure the battery won't drain back into the panel. Some diodes might limit your voltage. My panel is a 5volt panel, but with the diode it peaks at 4.3.  

1st- tin the diode and solder it to the solar panels positive connection. Solder the diode so that the side with the line is facing out. See my picture.

Step 5: Wiring Diagram.

here is a diagram to aide in the last few steps.

Step 6: Moving to the Tin.

It is time to put everything inside of the altoids tin. This can be easy or difficult. i decided to desolder my two switches and make holes for them before anything else. insulate the tin with electrical tape.

1st- Mark the tin and cut holes for the switches, the solar panel and two holes to feed the wires through.
I ended up solderding my switches to the lid of the inside of the tin to secure them. 
2-after the holes are cut start moving in the circuitry. start by hot gluing the solar panel to the top of the lid and then solder wires from the panels positive connection to the battery holder positive connection. Same with the ground. Mount the switches howver you see fit. I mounted mine through the lid and ended up soldering the switch itself for support (see pictures)
3- hot glue all the componets in place and test it out! 

Thank you for viewing and if you have any questios just ask! :)