“Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for a day.  Set a man on fire and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life” (Terry Pratchett)

The bamboo fire saw is an important element of junglecraft – with just a parang and a piece of bamboo it enables you to quickly start a fire.  However, if you get the technique wrong it can be both exhausting and frustrating; producing nothing but tantalizing wisps of smoke that will tempt you to keep trying until your arms develop muscle fatigue.

In this video I look at the reality of using this method in the jungle with materials collected on the spot and give you a step-by-step guide to setting up the bamboo fire saw.

I have watched demonstrations of this method on the internet where people are using bone-dry, seasoned bamboo which is perfect for the bamboo fire saw.  There is nothing wrong with this – the golden rule of demonstrations is that they should work! – but in the jungle itself bamboo in such an ideal condition can be hard to find.

My experience is that softer bamboos work better than the harder ones.  For example, Bulu Padi (which is the bamboo used – when split – for making flooring and walls by the Orang Asli) is a hard, thick-walled bamboo and I can only get it to work if it is really dry, seasoned and hasn’t begun to rot.  Softer bamboos, on the other hand, are more forgiving and can produce an ember even if they are not in perfect condition.

If you don’t live in the tropics but want to try this method for yourself, check out your local garden centre which may well sell dried bamboo stems.  My advice is to start with bamboo that is in an ideal condition (i.e. sun-dried, yellow, seasoned) and master this first.  Then, when you get to the tropics, make sure to try it out with available bamboos in the area you’re visiting; you’ll quickly discover which ones work well and what to look for in the bamboo you select.

In the jungle the high humidity makes fire lighting this way even more difficult so, again, once you master this technique at home, don’t forget to check that you can still manage to create an ember under real jungle conditions as well.