How to Start a Fire With a 2X4 and Cotton Ball (Friction Fire)




I have personally learned several methods of starting a fire using friction such as bow and drill. I recently came across a method using a 2X4 and a cotton ball that I had to try.

This was one of the easiest methods for starting a fire by friction and think it is best place to start for beginners. The reason for this is not as many things to go wrong. For example, bow and drill there are often a learning curve on how much pressure to apply, how tight to make the bow string, how to make the notch, building a tinder bundle..etc.

This method you take a lot trouble areas out of the picture and can focus on learning the bare bone basics.

Step 1: Supplies Needed:

  • 2 X 4
  • (100% Cotton) Cotton Ball
  • Wood Ash
  • Tinder Bundle (Jute Twine works great)

Note: Taking a little extra time to build a nice dry tinder bundle goes a long ways

Step 2: Setup:

Unroll you cotton ball and split in half.

Sprinkle some wood ash or rust particles on it.

Roll it up the cotton ball into a cylinder shape.

Gently roll your 2X4 across the cotton ball to help make is a consistent girth.

Step 3: Building the Ember

Start to roll your 2X4 across the cotton ball being careful to keep a smooth roll while still applying pressure.

When you start to smell smoke try and push it a little longer.

You should notice a dark area on the cotton ball. Fluff that area by lightly pulling on both ends of the cotton. You can also lightly blow on it. It is a little bit of a balancing act to apply enough material to burn as well as enough oxygen to keep going.

Step 4: Place Ember Into Tinder Bundle and Blow Into Flame.

If things went well in the last step you should have a nice ember. Take you time and gently place this into your tinder bundle and loosely wrap it around you ember. Slowly blow on it Slowly the coal spreads and if done properly the tinder will ignite. Vary your speed until you figure out what best works for you. The conditions and tinder material will vary and so will your technique.

if you don't succeed try again. Every time you do it you will get more and more efficient at it.



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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    cool video


    3 years ago

    So... Let's say you were in the wild. Will it work with any cotton clothing? Or just ANY basic clothes in general? If so, then all I need next is to find a branch and scape some wood shavings into the clothes (small chunk ripped off), and then find 2 wide rocks or like anything flat, and then just roll em? Great method!


    3 years ago

    ok... nice with pre-cut, pre-flattened wood. NOW let's go to the woods, find a log of some thickness and with ONLY your knife and the clothes you're wearing do it!! Prove it works under the MOST difficult conditions. Make THAT work!!!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I think you missed the main point of this. This is a great method to learn friction fire. It takes a lot of the learning curve out of the picture and makes you focus on the imporatnt basics. I have seen many guys get pretty creative using this method as well. Using a handkerchief, pocket lint, tampon, split log, rock..ect. It can be done, but you need the right mindset.


    3 years ago

    If you want to see the evolution of this method then go check out the boggycreekbeast channel on youtube. He even does this out in nature with ALL NATURAL materials.

    Just4Fun Media

    3 years ago

    Interesting method. I remember guilting and using fire bows and fire saws back in Boy Scouts. They sure kept you warm when you were trying to start a fire! How difficult would you say this method is compared to those two?

    Have a great day! :-)