How to Use a Fire Plow to Start a Fire

The easiest fire starting method for your kit would be to add a couple of good lighters into your bag but if you are caught out without your kit then you need to turn to the materials around you in order to get a fire going.

The fire plow is one method of creating fire that your ancestors probably used many years ago. It will take determination to pull it off but it is very effective and you will find that the more you practice, the wuicker you will get.

Like any other fire you will need tinder and kindling so let’s start off by creating our tinder nest.

How to Create a Tinder Nest

For your tinder nest you can use dry grass, fuzzed up tree bark, shredded paper or at a push, tiny wood shavings. Whatever you choose, it should be soft and pliable which is why you want to fuzz it up. When fuzzing, try to work over a bandana or something similar to catch all dust that falls from the tinder as this will come in very handy.

To soften the tinder you can grab it in both hands and move your fists like you are pedaling a bike with your hands making sure that you do the whole length of the tinder. Then take some of this prepared tinder and tie a loose over hand knot in it with a diameter of about four inches. Stuff some of your tinder into the knot that you have just created so that it looks almost like a bird nest.

The dust that fell from your tinder while you were preparing it can be placed into the center of the nest. The finest dust should be on the top where the coal will eventually be placed.

How to Create Your Fire Plow

Cottonwood and sotol are amazing woods for pulling this off in quick-time and work great for both the plow and the base but you need to understand that you need to have the base wood harder than the plow so that the groove doesn’t get too deep.

To make the plow:

  • Find a stick that is around a foot long and comes to a point which you can easily do with your knife or by rubbing it against a rock. The narrower the tip the more concentrated the heat, but the deeper it will dig into the log or base
  • The first inch of your stick should be between half and a quarter of an inch wide

The plow that you have just created above will be used to make a groove in the base log. This can also be a stick as long as it is around two inches wide.

How to Create Your Base

  1. Start off by holding the plow stick at right angles to the base and push back and forth to indent the groove
  2. Have one hand an inch from the tip of the plow and the other with the palm over the butt end
  3. Keep pushing back and forth making a groove in the base six inches long
  4. Once you have this groove made you are ready to lower the butt end of the plow and get to work. You need to lower the end of the plow so that the contact area between the plow and the base is greater
  5. This dries out the woods and builds up heat without gouging too deeply into the base. Once the wood is really smoking and black dust is forming, raise the butt end of the plow to focus the heat on the tip
  6. Go back and forth touching the accumulating dust at the far end of the groove every other time or so without obliterating this dust pile

How to Use Your Fire Plow

When using your fire plow, speed is key so if you start to slow down it is a good idea to have a friend take over for a while but while switching places, keep the tip of the plow buried in the dust so as not to lose heat. If the groove gets so deep that it is hard to move the plow, you may shift your pressure forty-five degrees out to the side of the groove. This widens the groove instead of continuing to make it deeper. You can still get a coal this way without having to start a new groove.

As soon as you get a coal you will be needing to transfer it straight to your tinder bundle and gently blow on it to create your flames. Fold the tinder nest around the coal and lift to mouth level, inverting the nest somewhat. As you gently blow, keep pinching the nest around the coal just enough to keep the coal in the nest while you tip the nest over and blow up into it. If you notice sparks flying when you blow, pinch the nest to surround and contain the burning tinder. You should start to see that the amount of smoke starts to increase at which point you can start to blow with more force. Keep blowing until the bundle bursts into flames.

If you prefer to watch the process being done, here are a couple of videos that will show you how to create your own fire plow:

   

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