Paleo Lighter - UPDATED!




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

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.

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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.

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    90 Discussions


    3 years ago

    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!!!!!

    1 reply

    3 years ago

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

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

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


    3 years ago

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

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    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.

    3 replies

    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.


    3 years ago

    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.

    8 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    You'll like this one


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 3 years ago

    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..


    Reply 3 years ago

    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.


    Reply 3 years ago

    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'!


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 3 years ago

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