Le 4 septembre 2002, par OldJimbo
So much for fire starters - how do you actually use one to start a fire ? Well today I had bought myself a new axe as you see in the photo’s so it was time to go to the upper Kitimat River forestry campsite to try things out. The reason for going to this campsite is that I went there for coffee yesterday and know how wet the wood is there. All the firewood in that campsite is cottonwood (Black Poplar), which is terrible to start a fire with until seasoned. You need a good fire to dry the stuff out !
The yellow stuff is the gum. Notice the cedar to the left. You can see where I stripped some cedar bark yesterday. Today I looked for drier stuff.
Here is a closer shot. Besides admiring my new "Hults Bruks" axe you will want to notice the brown wood that isn’t bark - its resin impregnated wood. The wood is required as the resin or gum itself is like oil in a lamp - a wick is required.
This is the bit we’ve been waiting for. This is exactly how much cedar bark and resin impregnated wood I used. Even I didn’t think that It would be enough. It was though. The cedar bark was shredded a lot after I got the borrowed camera out of the rain - but I didn’t break up the resin impregnated spruce wood more than is shown.
This is exactly how you DO NOT normally do things. I placed split cottonwood directly on the cedar bark tinder and spruce wood. I wanted to see if there would be enough heat to dry the cottonwood enough to start the fire. Normally you would go around the conifers ripping dead branches from the lower part of living trees. This wood is the driest available and will get things going - especially if split to match thickness. I wanted to see if the spruce would start the cottonwood - and I didn’t even split the cottonwood finely as you can see. Notice the black smoke in the centre and bright flame from the resin. The white smoke is mostly steam from the cottonwood. This isn’t a tepee fire, notice that the wood on top is mostly just stacked against a piece of charred wood in the front. I kept on piling wood on top to keep the rain off. You would think that this would smother the fire - but this doesn’t happen as long as there is an opening for air in the bottom. The wind is blowing into this opening, which is why the fire kept going. Some of the wood on top is placed in an inverted V perpendicular to the wood below - to make more of a slope for the rain to run off. This wood should be sticks not just slabs - to let the smoke out. This wood is removed to add more wood to the fire parallel to the stuff below - then replaced.
If you have questions, criticisms, or things to add - email me please.
Original article at OldJimbo’s site
I just want to mention that stripping bark from living trees in most situations is not a good idea and on public ground may be illegal.
Stripping bark from healthy trees opens them up to insect infestations and other diseases.
This may be necessary in a survival situation but for ordinary camp fires it’s a bad idea.
Smokey the Bear
My apologies, Craig. I missed your post due to being busy this summer. I just use the very outside bark because this is the only stuff useful for tinder. Taking that doesn’t harm the tree at all. The outside bark that’s flaking off in the case of cedar and birch is easily able to be removed by hand. To use cottonwood bark, you have to chop off pieces, but the bark on huge cottonwood trees here is very thick - and so no harm is done as you just take the very outside layer. While no harm is done to the tree, though, such chopping is unsightly.
Around here, we see many cedar trees with huge strips of bark (inner and outer) torn off the trunk - up to maybe twenty or more feet (6M) up the tree. One strip of 12" (30cm) per tree. This is where native people have taken bark for basket making, and the tree is now a culturally modified tree. Amazingly, I’ve seen no harm to trees so modified, but then again the removing (and preparing) of bark is a skill and since cedars are held in special regard along the coast, everything is done with care. Since cedars are so long lived here, it provides a datable history. I’ve only seen a few trees that show recent bark stripping since basket making is for the most part a dying skill. I’d love to learn the intricacies of such bark stripping - but I’d never do it, because in my case it would be vandalism.
The same philosophy applies when I’m marking trails. Blazing trees is a long lost skill for most people - as many have found out when trying to follow such a trail in poor conditions. Tape is far preferable. It’s also easier to change when the trail is changed... Probably the strangest argument against damaging trees by removing bark is as follows.. I’ve seen very few dead standing deciduous trees around here. When they’ve served their purpose to provide shade for the conifers, and are in turn shaded out and die, they become fungus ridden and fall. Recently in managed areas it’s become common to try to speed up the cycle by ring barking the alders, etc. Despite the fact that the trees are then dying over the next year, they almost never get fungus ridden. It all seemed like a fine idea until it became clear that a real fire hazard had been created !
So - while I believe from what I’ve seen that healthy trees are not going to be left open to fungus or infestations by removing some bark - it is darned unsightly to have trees with bark chopped off. With removing the outer bark from cedars, that will be pretty apparent for a few weeks, then the area will weather in and a person won’t be able to see where bark has been removed.
I just had to say . . . Smokey doesn’t have a middle name !
See ’Ya Down the Trail ! MHM