How To Make Char Cloth

How To Make Char Cloth

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Making char cloth is a useful survival skill to have as an alternative way to help getting your fire started. Char cloth is something that needs to be prepared and therefore requires some forward planning. In this article I will explain how to make char cloth and show you how easy it is.

What is Char Cloth

First of all, what is char cloth? Char cloth is a piece of cloth, made from natural products, that has been converted via a process (explained below) into a slow burning material. This material will ignite at a low temperature, but produce a hot ember.

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The traditional method of getting a spark onto the char cloth is using a flint and steel or a fire piston. This ember produced can then be placed into a tinder bundle to ignite the tinder and make fire. The process of converting the cloth into char cloth is called pyrolysis, which is basically using heat to change a material in the absence of oxygen.

Char cloth is easy to make! The tools and material are as basic as the steps to make your own!

What Do You Need To Make Char Cloth

The ingredients for making char cloth are very basic and can usually be found readily available in most homes.

You will need:

  • A piece of cloth that you can cut into 5cm x 5cm (2 inch x 2 inch) squares. Cloth must be 100% cotton. Do not use and synthetic material.
  • 1 small tin with a tin lid that can seal and hold your pieces of cloth.
  • Fire – you can use a stove top too, but hey, we are in survival mode here!

Making the Char Cloth

The method of making the char cloth is almost as simple as the ingredients!

First of all, start your fire. While your fire is getting established, you will need to make two or 3 small holes about 3mm in diameter (1/10 inch) in the lid of your tin. A suitable sized nail punched through the lid will do the trick.

Char Cloth Tin
Drill 2 or 3 holes in the lid. I used a 2mm bit.

The next step is to cut the cloth to the size of your tin. Place the pieces of cloth into the tin. You can put several pieces of cloth in the tin at the same time, but don’t pack the tin tightly with cloth. About four or five pieces should be fine.

Cloth Cut To Size
Cotton Cloth Cut To Size

Once that is done, seal the lid of the tin securely and place the tin in the fire. You don’t have to place the tin in the centre of the fire, on the side of the fire, close to the flames will do just fine.

Char Cloth Fire
Tin In The Fire Making Char Cloth

Final Steps

Now comes the hard part! Waiting! As the tin heats up, you will see smoke starting to come out of the holes in the top of the tin. Sometimes there will even be fire coming out of the holes. This is a normal part of the process. As the cloth in the tin heats up, gasses are released and these sometimes ignite as the escape through the holes.

When the flames or smoke coming out of the holes in the tin lid stop completely, it is time to take the tin out of the fire. Caution needs to be exercised here! The tin is very hot! Using a pair of pliers or tongs for this task would be a good idea. Once you remove the tin from the fire, place the tin upside down on the ground to reduce the amount of oxygen going into the tin.

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Allow the tin to cool completely. Once the tin has cooled, you can prise the lid open. The pieces of cloth inside should have charred black. If any of the corners have not charred, you can simply cut them off.

Char Cloth
Char Cloth – The Final Product!

And there you have it! You are now and accomplished char cloth maker and have another great survival skill to add to your repertoire.

Using your char cloth to start a fire is just as easy. We will do a future post on how to use your char cloth, so stay tuned to so you don’t miss out!

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