Rachel and I headed to the wilds of Prospect Park for a fire-building class held by organic clothes company, Loomstate. It was led by Rhett Godfrey – who chattered excitedly about his subject and to whom I could have listened to for hours.
The two-hour (free) class stretched to nearly four as we learned how to assemble a fire-making kit. We used the bow drill method, which Rhett told us had been around since at least 4,000 BC.
We scavenged for materials in the woods nearby and came up with sticks as long as our arms for the bows. We also had a forage, and Rhett tracked down some wood sorrel for us to munch on. Bizarrely, it tasted just like lemonade.
After we settled back down, Rhett taught us knife skills – how to slice pieces of wood against the grain with just a cutlery knife – and we made the parts of the kit: Spindles, a holding piece, a block on which to place the spindle and the bow.
After making holes in the block and the holding piece, we placed the spindle inside, looped it through the bow string and got to work sawing. And we saw smoke!
Eventually we were left with enough sawdust that lit into coals, which we placed inside some rope we had previously separated to create a nest of hairs. Once the coals were inside, we blew, blew, bleeewww – and after two attempts, mine lit!
And burnt my knuckles.
I was so chuffed with myself. It means that all you need to make a fire is a knife and a shoelace. Plus a fair amount of elbow grease.
I’d need a fair bit of practise, and I should probably work on my guns to be able to craft the spindles in the way Rhett did (yes, we cheated a little). But this is something that I could genuinely use in my life. A little more useful than how to play the cello or hit a ball, don’t you think?