Even the Tiniest Magnifier Can Make Fire

Part Two Solar Fire

Every now and again we hear news stories or reality TV accounts of someone who takes a wrong turn in an unfamiliar area and winds up lost overnight or worse.

A friend once poetically said many years ago, If you are cool the sun always shines. It’s a good thought, but in reality, it is not always sufficiently available to make a solar fire. But when it is, it remains one of the most reliable and effective ways to get a quick fire. As the clip shows–even a tiny magnifier can ignite good tinder.

Solar Fire Starting


This tiny magnifying glass is a fraction of the size of the projector lens I had in Kotzebue. Will it work as a fire starter? You bet!

Don’t you just hate litter. I sure do. Fortunately we don’t see as much of it stateside as we did fifty or so years ago, thanks in part to recycling glass and aluminum. I recall walking six miles from our country home in Central Arkansas to the nearest little store in the heat of summer, just banking on the likelihood of picking up glass pop bottles for which I could get enough money to buy a pop for myself and a little candy. It usually worked out. I have some funny stories about that, but they can wait.

Regarding litter, I wonder how many raging forest fires have been started by such litter? On the flip side, the same litter could possibly come to stranded motorists aid at times. Even on the most far away deserted Island on the planet, one might likely find glass bottles and aluminum cans.

Another summer, thousands of miles north, above the Arctic Circle, this same kid learned life lessons of starting fire with a big projector lens salvaged from slide projector. Lots of lessons were learned that summer including several that pertain to fire making. Tundra, peat lichen makes good tinder. Canvas and dry driftwood kindle quickly. AND ALWAYS EXERCISE SAFETY AND CARE WHILE DEALING WITH FIRE. IT CAN GET AWAY FROM YOU BEFORE YOU KNOW IT.

And of course I learned decisively that a properly shaped piece of glass will quickly start a fire when the sun is out. The magic of a convex piece of glass. A common magnifying glass scrounged from most any old optical device will start a fire. Binoculars, cameras, glasses, projectors are all good sources. I recommend that you start a fire-starting kit. A magnifying glass should be among the first items to go in this kit.

Even if you have no such glass available to you in the moment while on the spot, don’t despair. Take a moment to take inventory of your  surroundings.

Even if you have no such glass available to you in the moment while on the spot, don’t despair. Take a moment to take inventory of your  surroundings. I’ll tell you what to look for. There are few places in the world today devoid of a variety of objects that could be used to start a fire from the concentrated heat of the sun. Even more if you are at a planned camp-out or within the throes of civilization.

You will probably be surprised as we explore some of these. Not all of them involve glass nor do they all involve the magical equations of convex surfaces, although the mathematics is similar. Parabolas are also magical. Some of them include common objects and stuff that we generally take for granted. Some of them are available virtually anywhere. All you need to use them, is knowledge, ingenuity, patience, and the sun. I can hardly wait to tell you the Ones I know.

The ease of using the parabolic bottom of a pop soda can to start fire is often exaggerated, but it can be done with the right approach. Using the oft-cited chocolate bar is not the way I do it, because it wastes the chocolate, takes a lot of personal time and energy, and often just doesn’t result in anything other than frustration–with no fire. You’d do better to polish the can with very fine steel wool as shown in a previous post, or lacking that, any number of natural abrasives. If you DO happen to have a chocolate bar, you’d do better to use the shiny reflective silver Mylar wrapper to line the can’s parabola to get fire. I’ll show that in a near future post.



More video clips and detailed instructions are available at my other blog link, One Hundred Ways to Make Fire without MatchesClick


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