Char Cloth Attempt 1

So recently I tried to make some char cloth for use in fire lighting with flint, however things didn’t go exactly as planned when the entire can started to melt in front of me…

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Fig1. – The melted tin can.

At first I thought, how hard could this be? Put some cotton into a can, drill a hole and burn it a little but apparently there’s a few more complications than this, but hopefully it’ll teach you a little more about doing it successfully if you run into the same problems.

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Fig2. – Smoke coming from the tin prior to it burning through.

The first mistake was the use of an aluminium can which prior to this I didn’t know that aluminium has a low melting point of about 660.3°C (1220.54°F). Even then I’m pretty sure those cheap metal tins off eBay that often come with tinder in them isn’t even aluminium but some sort of aluminium alloy. I’m not even sure if this cheap gas burner can reach those temperatures as the highest I’ve recorded mind getting to using isobutane is about 450°C. It is quite thin walled which makes it easier for the heat to just burn straight through it, at least I will fix this on my second attempt by using a proper steel container.

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Fig3. – The orange-hot base of the tin prior to melting.

Looking at figure 3, it gave me an idea to do a photo shoot of just the smoke sometime as the patterns it creates could create some wonderful and intricate artwork if blown the right way. I’mm add this to my to do list of photographic experiments and find a way to make smoke a little more interesting to look at as an artform.

Anyway back to the topic at hand, I’m certain that the char cloth was destroyed during the melting of the tin, however I tried to light it anyway and got a glowing orange ember which randomly seemed to wander around the char cloth a little before extinguishing after a few seconds. I’m not sure if this is normal or whether char cloth is supposed to have a flame once lit instead of whatever you call that orange ember thing. (Pic below)

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Fig4. – Three glowing parts after using a flint rod on the cloth.
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Fig5. – The ruined char cloth.

I only realized after salvaging the char cloth that they shrink to about half their size, which means I have to double the cutout size to get a decent tool for firelighting which will also fit nicely in a survival kit. The cloth also crumbles more readily than a lantern mantle which is a nuisance, but that could be a sign I “overcooked” it to the point it’s useless. Overall it was a valuable learning experience and I’ve got a few more things to buy before attempting creating char cloth again such as a better can, cotton which I’m sure is cotton instead of a questionable t-shirt which “claimed” to be 100% cotton.