We often need specific materials to accomplish a particular survival craft. For example, we need special woods to make certain items, and we need unique materials to perform rare feats. But sometimes, you can get by with a less ideal materials for a job—if you have the right technique. Wet-weather fire building is one of these areas, and the art of making fuzz sticks, feather sticks, and wood shavings is the technique. Here’s how you can use these tools for more successful wet-weather fire building.
Wood may be wet one the outside, but it’s often dry underneath. By carving away this moist material and increasing its surface area, we can create something that will burn in very wet weather. The fuzz stick is a stick with shavings that are still attached to it. Start with the driest stick you can. It can be any size or shape, but something thumb thick, straight and a foot long should be your average choice. Hard woods sticks are more difficult to carve, yet they burn longer than soft wood sticks. Soft woods are easy to carve, but short lived. After you have made your selection, start carving thin curls near one end of the stick. Work your way backward while spiraling your cuts to create a shaggy stick. Any shavings at all will improve the stick’s flammability, but the best fuzz sticks are loaded with many curly pieces. You could also dribble some oil, wax, pitch or other flammables on your fuzz sticks for an added fuel value.
Often synonymous with fuzz sticks, I count feather sticks in a slightly different category. Feather sticks display better carving skills, as they have longer wood shavings that are often curled into rings. Not every material can be carved like this, but the ones that work usually work very well. To make one, carve long strips on a split or whole stick. Carve one right after the other. Let them stack up near each other and repeat as many times as you can.
If you just need a little help with your fire, like supplementing your tinder, you could try your luck with simple wood shavings. These are simpler to make than the other two techniques listed here, and they work well as a coarse tinder alternative. You can’t exactly build a tipi fire lay with them, but they’re still good to have.
Ever used one of these wood carving tricks? Tell us your results by leaving a comment.