Fire sticks, or feather sticks as they are also called, could be one of the most vital things when you’re out in the wilderness. In a survival situation, you want to be able to make not only a quick-starting fire, but a sustainable one to keep you warm throughout the night. Both frostbite and hypothermia can set in far more rapidly that many folks think.
A fire stick will help your bundle of tinder not only catch a flame more more quickly, but can also get the fire roaring with sustainable heat in a vastly shorter amount of time than with tinder alone – especially if dealing with damp fire starters or logs.
The tools you need to make a traditional feather stick are few – just a stick and a nice sharp knife. Getting the perfect feathered ends on a fire stick, now that takes some genuine bushcraft skill.
How Do Fire Sticks Work?
It is the body of the fire stick and not the feathers attached to it that create the fuel for a flame. The more fine the stick, the quicker an ignition point it will prompt.
The feather-like shavings on the stick should be both fine and long. You want to create as dense a grouping of feathers as possible to help grow the flame you will be starting.
Simply tossing a bunch of shavings or fire starter into a sparked flame will not help to ignite and sustain it as well as the fire stick can. Such shavings or fire starters can pile up or blow away to some degree, if you are attempting to get flames going in damp or wining conditions.
Because the shavings or curled feathers on the fire stick are still attached, they are elevated from the ground and far less prone to become damp or outright wet due to snow or rain.
Fire sticks can be moved around to “chase” a flame – neither loose shavings or fire starters can be used in this same advantageous manner. Being able to move the fire stick around so all of the tinder will catch, is yet another advantage of using this bushcraft fire-starting tool.
Because the feathers are still attached to the stick, moving them about in the young fire makes them serve as a type of bellow – putting more oxygen into the fire where it needs it and none where it does not.
Why Feathersticks Are a Valuable Survival Tool
A feather stick serves as both a fire starter and tinder.
Fire sticks are tasked with one extremely important job, quickly generating your initial heat fuel source. They are thinner than traditional kindling, and there can get flames to catch more rapidly, when used properly.
Sure, fire starters can help spark a flame quickly also, but even though they are handy to keep in a bugout bag, they simply are not as good at growing and maintaining a flame as a feather stick.
How To Make Fire Sticks
1. Sharp knife – one with a non-serrated edge seems to work best
2. Dry wood from a stick of firewood or a dead branch from a tree that is not touching the ground. Ideally, the branch should be between 12 to 14 inches long.
3. Leather work gloves
4. Hammer – optional. Some fire stick makers use the hammer to pound the angled knife so they can both scrape and chisel into the wood to create the start of the feathered ends.
1. Place the fire wood or branch onto something firm and level.
2. Put the knife at a horizontal angle at the top of the branch or fire log. Keep the handle of the knife as close to the branch or fire wood as possible, and keep the tip of the knife angled so it protrudes on the far side of the fire stick source, as possible.
3. At a downward angle, shave small strips, leaving on the curly feather type end. You must stop before reaching the very end of the strip of wood to garner the feather effect.
The knife should be turned inwards to ensure the edge is facing the branch or wood. Getting the blade to lay as flat as possible against the wood is essential – this is best achieved when using a flat beveled knife. Make sure the blade stays attached to the wood at all times.
If you ever curled a gift wrap ribbon with scissor to make it more attractive and to leave a curly end, you have practiced feather stick making, but just did not know it.
Fire Stick-Making Tips
• Any type of dry or dead wood will work, but attempt to use a soft wood like sweet chestnut, pine, birch, or willow to get the fire to take off more quickly. You will also find softwood far easier to carve or shave, than hardwood like oak, hickory, or locust.
• The curls should be as close to each other as possible, but doing this will become more difficult as the bottom of your branch or stick become full. Once the spot you are working on becomes overcrowded with feathers, turn the wood so you can start shaving it on another side and create feathers around the bulk of the branch or fire wood.
How to Use Fire Sticks
Carrying about 10 fire stocks in your bugout bag should be enough to get a solid fire going in mere moments.
1. Remove your fire sticks from their holder, and light them.
2. Use the now burning fire sticks to light the tinder you are holding in your hand.
3. Lay the burning tinder into your fire right – carefully so you do not extinguish the young flame.
4. Place several pieces of kindling on top of the tinder and fire stick resting in the fire ring.
5. As the flames on the tinder spread and ignite the kindling, cradle them carefully with your hands (keep you hands a few inches away from the flames) to prevent even a slight wind from blowing them out.
6. In just a couple of minutes, the fledgling fire should grow into steady flames that are now more wind resistant.
7. Remain tending to the fire as you carefully add more kindling to ensure you do not stifle the flames, but maintain or grow the fire to a level that makes it sustainable enough to add firewood, and stoke it so the heat begins to flow at a steady pace.
Quick And Easy Fire Stick Method
You can also create fire sticks that work nearly as well as traditional feather sticks by using some common household items.
The fire sticks shown in the video above are a step above common fire starters, and although they are highly useful to get kindling to catch and grow flames, they do fall short of the feather sticks’ ability to create fire in windy or damp conditions.
Possessing both the ability and tools to create fire in any condition or terrain is one of the most important survival skills you can (and should) master.
If you cannot rapidly start and maintain a fire, you and your loved ones will be at the mercy of the elements, and be forced to drink unpurified water to stave off dehydration.
Learn how to make feather sticks AND pack fire starters and a little bit of tinder in your bugout bag – that level of redundancy just might save your life one day.
Have some feather stick making tips or epic fail stories? Please share them in our comments section below. And do share this article, as diy fire sticks are so easy to make, yet overlooked by most preppers.