Making Fire from Flint & Steel
The Leader, June/July 1990
At B.C.'s Central Okanagan Cuboree last fall, district organizers brought in the Kelowna Black Powder
Club to give the Cubs a Mountain Man demonstration. The show, often loud and smokey, highlighted
some of the skills early explorers, hunters, trappers, and fur traders needed to survive in the harsh
wilderness. We were treated to a fascinating demonstration of firearm safety with muskets and
flintlocks, firemaking, and other early Canadian frontier skills.
The firemaking demonstration was most memorable because it was so dramatic. From a leather pouch
hung on his belt, the Mountain Man pulled a waterproof brass box containing his firemaking equipment-
-a piece of flint, a steel, some tinder, and a few pieces of blackened cloth he called "char".
He formed a bird's nest from the tinder and placed the char on it, struck the flint against his steel to
produce sparks, and captured one of the sparks on the char. Then he slowly walked around the large
circle of Cubs with bird's nest and char in his hands to show them the spark. Back at his original
position, he held out the bird's nest above his head and blew on it. The tinder exploded into flames.
To say the Cubs were wide-eyed would only begin to describe how we adults felt. The leaders of the 1st
Lakeview Pack talked about it several times after the Cuboree and agreed to use flint and steel as the
basis of an excellent activity for our winter Cub camp.
I volunteered to organize the flint and steel and agreed to provide each Cub a firemaking kit. As one of
our camp activities, we would take a wilderness hike and, under leader supervision, have Cubs lay a fire
from materials available in the bush and light it using their flint and steel kits.
Making the Kit
A project such as this is of interest to both Pack and Troop Scouters. Although we provided the
firemaking kits for our Cubs, Scouts might enjoy a project where each makes his own. A flint and steel
firemaking kit has f