Using this technique, you can start a roaring campfire using just a piece of wood, a knife and a single match. At Our Chalet we use the Swiss Scout method to make kindling by carving feathering (very thin curls of wood) and smaller strips of wood.
You will need:
A section of wood (¼ of a log usually works well)
Knife (preferably sharp)
Tree stump/ other suitable cutting surface
Extra piece of wood (preferably fairly thick but still easy to hold)
Plenty of sticks/logs for burning
Bucket of water/snow (because as great as fire is, it’s good to be safe)
First thing’s first, you need to make some feathering
With the blade facing downwards, glide the knife along the corner of the wood (try not to use too much pressure)
It should start to look something like this:
Which after bit more feathering (and practice!) should look like this:
Then, dig the knife in a little to cut off the feathering (you might want to use the extra piece of wood to hit back of the knife)
You should then have a nice piece of feathering
You will need lots of these pieces, as they are the most helpful in starting the fire.
Next, you will need some thin strips of wood
Place knife at a slight angle on top of the wood. (ensure you use the section of the blade that’s nearest to the handle, as this area is the easiest to control)
With the thicker piece of wood, tap the back of the knife several times (you may need some force), to slide the knife through the wood so that the wood splits.
You should now have a thinner section of wood.
Use the same technique repeatedly to make many wood strips of different thicknesses.
Arranging the kindling
Place many pieces of feathering in the middle of your campfire circle
Arrange 3 medium sized pieces of wood over the feathering
Place the thinnest wood strips against the 3 main pieces.
Add the slightly thicker pieces of wood, so that you build a small tepee-like structure
Keep the rest of your wood close to hand so you can add it as the fire grows (it’s helpful if it’s in size order)
Now it’s time to strike your 1 match! (once lit, shelter from the wind)
Light the feathering by holding the match underneath the curls of wood, (if you can, light more than one area of the feathering)
With any luck, the feathering should smoulder and the thin pieces of wood should start to catch alight
As the first bits of kindling burn, add thicker pieces to build up the fire
Start to add thicker sticks to continue to grow the fire, until it’s large enough for cooking, warmth and of course roasting marshmallows
Putting out the fire
Spread out pieces of wood
Pour water (or snow) over the fire until all flames and embers are extinguished
Happy campfire making!
Catherine Rose, Spring Volunteer 2014