I enjoy trying different materials and methods when practicing firecraft. On this occasion I decided to do some solar firecraft using my wallet magnifier. I wondered how well paper hand towels would work as tinder so I acquired one for practice. There are three criteria that I have learned about using materials such as this:
- materials need close proximity to transfer heat while enabling sufficient air flow
- white material is difficult to ignite while dark material lights easily
- the focus from the lens/mirror needs a flat surface to ignite vs. fuzz
So I began to prepare the paper hand towel for lighting.
These paper towels come as tri-fold sheets enabling it to be dispensed successively so after I removed a sheet I proceeded to refolded it into it’s long rectangular shape. I ripped it in the middle and then ripped each half in the middle. I stacked these parts together and rolled them into a rather tight cylinder. This combination of concentric sheets allowed airflow while providing close proximity. I needed something dark upon which to focus so I found a dark dry leaf that I broke down and placed in the core at the end. I later used a black felt-tip pen to darken the outer edge on a subsequent effort that worked great!
Once I began to focus the light from the sun onto the priming leaf, smoke appeared quickly and I have learned that it pays to “wobble” the focus around a bit in an ever-widening spiral because once the initial material is ignited and consumed by the burning light it doesn’t provide on-going ignition so this practice provides an ever-widening area of what I call a critical mass of heat. Blowing on this area while focusing the light from the sun will build and sustain this growing ember. Once the ember is established It helps to hold the tinder bundle above eye level with the ember at the bottom so that as you blow on the ember it preheats the rest of the material and accelerates the process.
These paper towel rolls can be somewhat stubborn to produce a flame in themselves but can be placed within additional surrounding sheets of paper or in a pile of tinder like dry leaves and coaxed into a successful flame that can be built into a campfire.
As always, I encourage you to practice using this method to prepare you for it’s use in an emergency situation.