It was only through bitter experience that I learned not to rush fire starting preparations in the jungle:  if you get everything right,  your fire will light up quickly and burn without you having to coax it along; get it wrong and your fire will vanish in a dispiriting wisp of departing smoke…

If your fire fails to catch it is aggravating enough, but if you had to work hard to get an ember in the first place (using friction fire for example) ….well then it’s truly infuriating.

In the jungle, fire-lighting is almost always a challenge as the materials you are using are usually damp and you may even have to start a fire in the rain.  Dry tinder is hard to find and knowing how to make your own is a useful skill to have.  Similarly, using a good fire-lay makes an enormous difference to how well your fire will burn (and thus how well it can withstand any light rain or drizzle).

In this video I look at how to do this using bamboo (easy) and wood (harder) with the assumption that you have no good tinder (eg palm fibres, dry grass etc) to hand.

Feather sticks: The thing to remember with feather sticks is to use a sharp knife and avoid any knots in the wood.  They aren’t difficult to do and all it requires is an hour or so of practice to master them.

Don’t be put off if your feather sticks don’t look like the works of art that some people like to produce – at the end of the day it only needs to be as good as it needs to be to light your fire.  Saying that, lighting a feather stick with charcloth or a spark-rod will require one with fine/thin curls rather than thick ones….but, once you get the hang of it, they aren’t difficult to make either.

If you angle your knife to the left or right (i.e. with either the tip of the knife or the handle of the knife angled down) you will see that the curls twist off to one side or the other – this is useful when carving down the sides of the feather stick to make sure your feathers pack together well.

Also, as you carve down the stick look for the new ridges that are formed  – these are the lines to follow to produce the subsequent curl.

…but before you start, sharpen your knife!

Using the parang to make feather sticks is easiest with a two hand grip – but this means that you need to support the stick at both ends.  You can jam a long stick into the ground, rest the other end on your shoulder and carve down, but I prefer to draw the parang towards me instead.  If you are using the ‘draw-method’, jam one end of (a shorter) stick into the ground and support the other end with your stomach (I usually jam it into by belt buckle).

Time spent preparing fire materials before you try and light them will always save you a lot of time, effort and aggravation later on.