View Full Version : Starting Fires

05-16-2013, 02:07 PM
Google has not been my friend, so I'm hoping someone here can answer my question.

Can you create enough of a spark to start a fire by striking the faces of two watches together?

The character needing to start the fire doesn't have anything else he can use.

05-16-2013, 03:35 PM
You should try looking up some scouting websites/resources. I know you can start fires with all sorts of things - I remember doing it with wire wool and a battery in school.

Anything that will create a spark has the potential to start a fire, but you'll need to ensure that whatever the spark needs to ignite is dry and extremely flammable - for instance, trying to start a fire in a pile of green leaves is going to be very tough.

King Neptune
05-16-2013, 05:00 PM
What are the watches made from? A spark can start a fire, but there has to be something that will produce a spark. You might consider using static electricity to create a spark; it would be different.

Russell Secord
05-16-2013, 06:33 PM
Going a little outside the box here. Could your character remove the glass covers and use them like magnifying glasses? One by itself probably wouldn't work, but two might. And of course he'd need sunlight.

05-16-2013, 07:00 PM
I've done a lot of fire-lighting, including without matches. However, you've missed some details here. What environment is the character in? What items are they trying to burn? What are they wearing? Are they literally naked apart from a couple of watches? What is the weather like?

If it's a fairly average temperate forest, your best bet would be a bow drill. Firelighting bow and bow drill are the Google searches for that. The stuff to make it will either be around or worn (clothing often has cords).

Everything needs to be as dry as possible. If it's even a bit damp, you'll be lucky to light it. I stuff things like dead leaves and very thin twigs in my pockets, so my body heat dries it. Also stops it getting damp from dew in the mornings.

If everything is soaked through, they won't be lighting a fire any time soon. Not without some source of dry stuff to start the fire.

Spark lighting by striking things is not as easy as people assume. I had a proper flint and steel, and found it the hardest method. That's with huge sparks coming off the thing. You have to get it just right. The idea of managing that with a couple of watches is unlikely.

05-16-2013, 08:29 PM
Note that a bow drill takes use of materials that can be pretty easily gathered in most forests. As long as you have some sort of string (shoestring will do) or wire from a car you should be good. Yes this method takes a bit of expertise and time.

You can also start a fire with a 9v battery (possibly any battery) and a bit of steel wool.

There are plenty of books/websites out there regarding this basic survival item. Should be rather easy to figure out.

05-17-2013, 04:28 AM
Sorry about the lack of details.

My character is indoors, but he doesn't have access to matches, a lighter, or any other traditional way to start a fire. He's hiding from the bad guys in a room with a bunch of boxes filled with paper, nick knacks, and some watches. It's also getting dark outside. (The bad guys are evil, dead creatures and he's trying to use the fire as a weapon.)

He's also nine years old. And while his dad has taught him some survival skills, he's still just a scared kid.

05-17-2013, 05:24 AM
Take a cord and unplug it from the wall. Use scissors and cut the cord near what it operates. Use scissors and split the two wires apart for the distance of about a foot. Take end of the separated wires and clear about an inch of wire at each end.

Now take a paper clip and stretch it out. Wrap a wire around each end. Take a bunch of paper and shred it into small pieces and pile around the paper clip. Plug in and hope the paper clip heats up before you blow a fuse. No guarantees which will happen first.

Nine is a bit iffy for this, but if he plays with stuff like model railroads, slot car racing, model rockets, or other stuff that involves some electrical knowledge, it's reasonable for him to figure this out. I definitely could have done this by twelve. It's just taking some of the stuff you'd do screwing around as a boy. You'd just usually use 12 volts instead of 110.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

05-17-2013, 02:40 PM
I'm 29, and cleanly stripping wires with scissors is still beyond me :p

05-17-2013, 07:50 PM
I've played with FireSteel (aka Swedish Fire Lighter to some people) and while making sparks is easy, making anything burn with them is actually pretty hard. You have to get the sparks to fall in the right place, and you need to have a reasonable understanding of how to make a fire in the first place. My experience of Scouts/Girl Guides are that most kids don't have that ;-) it's not how they make it look on TV.

Related to that, making a useful fire out of paper is going to be very hard. Yes, a sheet is easy to light, but it's consumed pretty quickly and then what. You can't hold a match to a phone book/ream of paper and ta-da, you have a burning torch to wave in the face of the enemy. Yes, you can get a nice fire going in a paper bin say, with a little patience, but is burning down the room the intention here? Making a cook-fire is different to making the sort of flaming brand they wave around on tv.

Also be wary of "lenses make fire!" it's not always true. Piggy's glasses in Lord of the Flies were divergent lenses (he was nearsighted), they wouldn't have worked.

If you want self-defence, is your nine-year-old the sort that might be stupid/clued-up-enough to use a lighter and aerosol (http://youtu.be/nhTDt5IeSNI)? Sounds like they're in a store room, lots of plausible aerosols to choose from (spray polish, air freshener, air-dusters for IT, etc). Of course, this relies on the kid having a cigarette lighter, thereby negating your original question. (PS, be sure to stop spraying before the flame reaches the can, or Bad Things happen...)

05-17-2013, 08:52 PM
My suggestion would be to pack a lot more stuff in the boxes. Have him rip them open in a panic. And have one of them contain disposable lighters. Otherwise, the zombies will find him and eat his brains before he sets fire to anything.

I'm not sure how he's planning to turn the fire into a weapon. He can't fling pieces of burning paper at the undead and burning down his hiding place wouldn't help very much. He could make a torch, which could be done with stuff that might be in a storeroom. This page has a design made with toilet roll, vegetable oil and a stick. Stuff that could easily be in the boxes, and you could try at home to make sure it worked and how long it'd burn.


(This plan also has the advantage that if it's a children's book, and someone tries this it home, it won't explode.)

05-20-2013, 12:48 PM
Thank you for all the help. :)

I think I'll take Polenth's suggestion and have him find a lighter in one of the boxes.