The classic No. 2 wood pencil is made with a cedar casing. Cedar is a good wood for fire by friction. It heats fast, but also cools fast, but that’s another blog. The best sharpener for wood pencils is a rotary sickle model. This is the type that is cranked by hand and has a built-in basket to catch the shavings. Many electric sharpeners use sickle blades as well. The office “abo (aboriginal)” can collect this tinder by offering to clean out all the pencil sharpeners which might get some raised eyebrows but will be appreciated by all. The downside is that the graphite powder is a little annoying.
During a lunch break you can take a pair of drugstore reading glasses, 2 1/2 power or higher preferred, and head outdoors for a little solar firecraft practice. You can’t really focus on fluff, so pinch the pencil shavings into a tight clump, then focus the lens on it. When smoke appears, blow lightly and keep the focal point on the edge of the new ember to increase it’s size. To stay focused on the same place may just consume that spot and not build. I’ve also used pencil shavings with a light-bulb filament to start a fire. And of course, a ferrocerium stick works great. If you don’t have a sickle style sharpener, try visiting the local flea market or thrift store and start having some fun.
Cool idea. I have used the lint from the dryer lint trap as tinder also. It will catch and hold spark easily. A lot of it can also can be stored easily. Another bonus is it smells real good.
Interesting resource! Though I would appreciate a tip or two on ignition – is there an easy way to compress the shavings? I had little success on keeping a coal building with powdered tinder before, and I was wondering if this might help along with the movement of the focal point.
I usually just pinch the shavings between my fingers and then pack it down into a small pile. The shavings offer more surface area than powder and is more easily ignited.
Thanks! I pinched and packed the way you said, and…wow! The pile supported and spread an ember amazingly well. Thanks for the great tip.
Why couldn’t you take the pencil shavings and add a bit of melted wax with a candle string or something else?? Curious
Wax will gasify and is more suited at sustaining a flame vs. initial ignition IMHO.