Fire: Creating the Perfect Tinder Bundle

(As featured in the February/March 2010 issue of Practically Seeking)

Perfect Tinder Bundle


Whether you are catching a spark from a metal match striker or creating an ember from a bow drill kit, a properly prepared tinder bundle can mean the difference between the warm glow of success and cold sting of failure with fire!

When making a tinder bundle all the same "fire-making" rules apply — you've got to have fuel, heat and oxygen in proper balance, and each layer of the fire should ignite the next.

With the "perfect" tinder bundle, many times it will ignite itself with you having to do little more than add the coal!

In the photos we are using Cedar bark, but this process works with virtually any tinder material. Construction is simple, and here's how to get started…


Step-by-step Instructions on How to Create a Perfect Tinder Bundle:

  1. Find a surface suitable for processing the tinder fibers over so they may be collected and saved.  This may be a table, an article of clothing, a flat rock, even a cleared area of dry ground. The material should be protected from moisture and wind.
  2. Cedar Bark Work over a prepared surface

  3. Working above your bare area, shred your tinder material into stringy fibers.
  4. Strip your cedar bark Strips of cedar bark

  5. Buff these fibers thoroughly, breaking the strings into softer strands, and allowing the smaller particles and dust to collect on your prepared surface.
  6. Buff your strips The buffed fibers soften Allow smaller bits to fall

  7. Work the largest of these buffed, softened fibers into a "bird's nest" that is about the size of your palm. This is the base layer of your tinder bundle.
  8. Pull the fibers apart so they can be re-shaped Matte fibers together Work into birds nest shape

  9. Carefully rake into a pile the finer fibers and dust bits that collected on your bare surface.
  10. Rake up the fallen bits Collect all you fibers into a pile

  11. Gather the largest of these finer fibers (allowing the even smaller bits to fall back onto your surface) and place them into the center of your "bird's nest". Don't pack down your fibers as you add them. Allow for air space and loft to your bird's nest, as proper air flow (oxygen) is crucial for ignition.
  12. Pick up the largest fibers and add to center of bundle Second layer of tinder

  13. Continue to repeat steps 5 and 6, raking up your pieces and taking the largest fibers to place into the center of your bundle. Each time the pile will get a little smaller and the fibers will become ever finer until eventually you will have nothing left but dust. This dust is the final layer of your bundle.
  14. Repeat steps 5 and 6 The fibers will get finer and finer Eventually only dust will remain

  15. You now have a layered "bulls-eye" in your bird's nest tinder bundle, with the finest dust in the very center and the fibers getting coarser with each successive layer.
  16. Your tinder bundle.

  17. Place your ember on (or strike your spark into) the very center of your bundle.
  18. Add coal or spark to very center.

  19. Using just your fingertips, hold your tinder bundle at the edges and fold it carefully so that the fibers are touching the ember without crushing it. Blow steadily onto the ember, being sure to keep the fibers touching the ember at all times. The more red you see, the harder you can blow.
  20. Use only your fingertips on the very edge When you see red, blow hard Fire!


When the bundle bursts into flame simply place it
in your fire structure and watch it burn!

Until next time, Be Well and Have Fun!

For more information on tinder bundles and making fire, check out our
Fire Making and Advanced Fire Making workshops this spring and summer.