Sometimes it’s hard to know how to start a fire. Perhaps you’re out of matches, or maybe the weather is horrendous. Sure, there are plenty of smart, easy ways to start fires, but why be conventional? Over the years, generations of fire starters have figured out some pretty weird ways to start fires. Are they all practical? No. Are they all awesome? Yes. Below is a list of unconventional fire building techniques you may never know possible.
If you’re looking for more traditional ways to get a fire going, check out this article. Or, check out this article to learn how to make the perfect campfire every time.
How to Start a Fire | Odd Ways to Start Fires
1. Fresnel Lens
Fresnel lenses are all around you, but you might not know it. It is a kind of glass used to magnify light and can be found in some rear-view mirrors. However, the most common place you’ll find one is in any old, large television. Modern LCD and plasma TVs of the last few decades are more advanced in their technology, but older projection sets commonly include a Fresnel lens. Simply remove the lens, and use it as a magnifying glass to create a death ray of fire-starting awesomeness.
2. Condom Fire Starter
Condoms can literally be used to make fires. In fact, this is merely a bizarre variation on the aqua lens. For anyone unfamiliar with this group of improvised fire starters, any clear container filled with water can be used as a magnifying glass, focusing the sun’s rays on your tinder. Condoms (balloons as well) happen to be surprisingly good at this. Just fill the condom with water, and hold it at an angle to best concentrate sunlight. With any luck, you’ll have a fire going in no time.
3. A Light Bulb
Another unexpectedly effective aqua lens for fire starting is the humble light bulb. Snap off the end of the bulb and remove the contents. Then, fill it with water and use it just like the condom above. That’s another awesome way how to start a fire without a lighter.
In one final twist to the aqua lens method, try using a large chunk of ice. As with the previous two ideas, angle the ice in a way that concentrates light on your tinder. This method is pretty hard to pull off though, so you’ll need some patience. You’ll also need gloves. Otherwise, your fingers will freeze long before the fire gets going. To see this fire starting method in action, check out the video below.
5. Dead Lighter and Paper
Think that old Bic has reached the end of its life? Not so fast! First, you’ll need a smooth surface to work with. Place a piece of paper flat on the surface, and remove the safety lock from a dead lighter. Then, roll the lighter slowly but firmly over the paper. As you do this, the flint rod inside the lighter will get ground down by the wheel, creating little shavings that you can collect and use.
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Perhaps more practical than most of the ways to start fires on this list, a flashlight can be an excellent choice. This method relies on the same reflective cone used inside the flashlight to magnify its light. Remove the front of the flashlight, and pull out the shiny cone behind the globe. Then, pack the hole at the end of the cone with tinder, and point it towards the sun. On a sunny day, it’s not too hard to get the tinder to light. To see how, watch the video below.
7. Guitar Pick
This method really rocks, if you’re not too picky (please excuse the puns). A guitar pick can be shredded into tinder, and easily ignited with a flint. To see how in detail, check out this article.
8. Clothes Dryer Lint
This method is inadvertently used by thousands of unlucky households each year. In fact, around 20,000 house fires are started across the country annually due to clothes dryers. In most cases, the cause is lint, which is surprisingly combustible. Lint is especially flammable when it comes into contact with metal, such as the wire in bras. So if you need to start a fire and only have laundry to work with, just pack the dryer full of lint and bras, turn it to full heat and watch. You’ll have a fire going in no time, but good luck controlling it.
9. Brake Fluid and Chlorine
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This method is somewhat dangerous, but it works ridiculously well. Powdered chlorine will ignite almost immediately if doused in brake fluid; so if you want to know how to start a fire quickly, then this is it. Just make a small pile of chlorine powder, squirt it with brake fluid, and keep your distance. Once you’ve got some smoke going, add kindling and watch your chemical fire burn. I wouldn’t use this for cooking, as the chemicals aren’t recommended for consumption. Also, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves because both brake fluid and chlorine are pretty toxic. See this method in action in the video below.
10. Car Battery and Pencil
Car batteries are obviously packed with energy, and thus make for a simple – albeit dangerous – way to get a fire going. In this unorthodox method, you’ll just need a pencil, a car battery, and some jumper cables. Cut the pencil in half to expose the graphite within, and attach the jumper cables to either end. Then, connect the cables to the car battery, and watch as the graphite glows red hot. The pencil’s outer wooden jacket should quickly catch fire and can be supplemented with tinder and kindling. Be extremely careful of the heat generated by this method, and be sure to wear protective equipment.
11. Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone
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Yes, this one is just a joke; after all, who would want a Galaxy Note?
In all seriousness though, Samsung’s recall of the Galaxy Note 7 illustrated the power of lithium phone batteries to start fires. To try for yourself, simply remove the battery from a cellphone, and touch the battery’s positive and negative contact points with steel wool. This will create sparks that can be used to get tinder smoldering. It’s another awesome way how to make fire with battery. See for yourself in the video below.
Check out this video by Thomas Kim on starting a fire with a credit card size fresnel lens:
So there you have it! You can start a fire with just about any object available. Of course, having a match or a lighter on hand is the best way to be ready, but knowledge of several tools that help create flame is very useful in a lot of situations. You can use these other methods to save your available lighter fuel or in the absence of common fire-starting devices.
Do you know of any other crazy fire-starting techniques? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note – This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.