There are many articles on starting a fire with a magnifying glass but not many use natural materials. When I spent 180 days in the boreal forest I started many fires with a fresnel lens to conserve my lighter. Using a magnifying glass is also a great way of practising blowing a tinder bundle to flame when learning how to start a bow drill fire.
I like magnifying glasses because they can be reused for a practically unlimited amount of fires. Last week I started a fire with a card-sized fresnel lens at -13°F in just a couple of minutes, including preparation.
Step 1: Gather Fuel, Kindling, and Tinder
The first step is to gather dry fuel and kindling. It helps to follow the principles of proper preparation and proper materials to start a fire the easy way.
The tinder bundle is the most important part. I try to use three layers of different types of tinder.
My favorite tinder material is red pine needles because they work even when slightly wet. Thin sticks as wide as a pencil lead work as well.
Step 2: Tinder Bundle Middle Layer
Dry grass makes a great middle layer, but shredded inner bark, and birch bark strips work as well.
Step 3: Punk Wood
Punk wood is the most important part of the tinder bundle. Dry, fluffy punkwood can be found inside old, rotting tree stumps and logs. Grab some punkwood and touch it with your cheek to check if it is dry. If it's not dry it won't work.
Gather a lot of fluffy punk wood!
Nothing works better than punkwood for this (except Chaga fungus)
Step 4: Turn the Punkwood Into a Powder
Rub it between your hands until it is very powdery. The one in the photo is not very fluffy but it still worked. The more fluffy it is, the easier it will be to start the fire.
A ball of punkwood slightly smaller than a golf ball would be the ideal amount.
Step 5: Place the Punkwood Inside the Tinder Bundle
Punkwood is the critical layer of the tinder bundle.
Step 6: Focus the Magnifying Glass
Once you have an unobstructed view of the sun, bring the magnifying glass perpendicular to its rays.
Try moving it close and away until you can find the distance at which the focal point is the smallest.
Step 7: Maintain the Small Focal Point in the Same Area
Keep the lens steady for a few seconds or minutes until the punkwood starts smoking.
Step 8: Grow the Coal
Once you see smoke, focus the sun's rays at the edge of the smoldering punkwood to enlargen the coal.
Step 9: Bundle Up the Coal
Careful not to disrupt the smoldering punkwood, wrap the tinder bundle around the coal.
Blow up gradually and constantly so that the smoldering area grows.
You should be able to see the punkwood glowing while you blow.
Be steady and constant; I also usually move the entire bundle in the air to feed oxygen to it.
Step 10: Place the Burning Tinder Bundle Where Your Fire Will Be
Once it catches on fire you just have to gradually feed it thin kindling, then thin fuel, and then progress to bigger fuel. As you would when starting a fire in difficult conditions.
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