Tweak a Laser Pointer for Fire Starting

Have you ever heard of a burning laser? Of course I have one. No I have half a dozen. Lasers. But one is big and throws an intense emerald green beam. I vividly remember fourth grade with Mrs. Kanopka in Fairbanks, Alaska. She was the best school teacher I ever had. Years later a high school friend mentioned his all-time best while his dad was stationed in Germany. Same Mrs. Kanopka. I suppose her husband was Air Force, too.


I borrowed this illustration from the eBay ad where I bought mine. They shouldn’t mind. A video of mine in action will soon follow.

That was back when manned space capsules looked like mushrooms and our heroes were those who orbited the earth in them. It didn’t matter how many times. Mrs. Kanopka and Weekly Reader first taught me about Lasers. Lasers were new then. Barely real from science fiction. Reserved only for the hardcore science community. Costing millions of dollars. Now I have one big one and three or five little ones. I play with the cats with the little ones. I point out stars and constellations to grand-kids with the big one. AND I start fire with it.

This big one set me back ten bucks and change which included shipping. Amazing. It will burn black plastic, strike a match. and start an ember using really good char tinder. If you know how, you can tweak a small laser pointer to do the same. You can find things like that on YouTube. Young techno-geeks call it hacking a laser pointer; the videos are often made by teens or younger who conceal their faces and whisper code like they are doing something wrong. Dunno, maybe they are. But there are easier ways to strike a match. Hacking a laser pointer is simple science, though not readily evident for consumers. Within limits, any electric light will increase in intensity with increased juice. The easiest way to do this with a laser pointer is apparently to hack the hidden potentiometer.

Easier still is to spring for the ten bucks to get a burning laser from the git-go. These things are serious and can be dangerous. Mine has a keyed lock on it. While working (or playing) with lasers, exercise extreme caution (also known as using increasingly uncommon commonsense). Although it likely doesn’t happen accidentally or in a snap, I understand that any laser pointer can permanently damage eyesight or even disrupt the navigation of aircraft if used stupidly or maliciously. The latter is highly illegal and can be pinpointed precisely and will be prosecuted by the Feds. The first is just stupid and will be prosecuted by cause and effect, parents, and prolly God. Jump off a building to test physical laws like gravity, if you must.

Wouldn’t it be nice if commonsense would just make laws unnecessary? Be-that-as-it-may, there are laws at least regarding pointing lasers at aircraft. You’ll be fine if you don’t stare directly into one or force someone or something to do so. And don’t even think about shining one at an aircraft in flight.

I will demonstrate this method of fire starting with my big $10 emerald green laser pointer just because I can. There is not much to it. Just get some good char cloth, point, hold steady for what seems like eternity, and burn. If yours doesn’t work, don’t despair, in a future post I will show how to use a homemade magnifier to boost it still yet. However, none of my antics can rival the nefarious pleasure displayed by misguided YouTube kids whispering and melting black plastic under the cover of blaring music in their locked rooms.

For crying out loud! Get those kids in the woods making fire twirling sticks and smacking rocks! They may even get badges for it.


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