There are numerous ways to light a fire but you can categorize them in 6 classes.
1. Fire By Friction
Friction methods create fire rubbing linearly or rotationally a surface against another surface.
In this method a stick is rapidly rubbed against the groove of a long piece of wood to produce hot dust. Then the hot dust is transferred to the tinder, and blowed until it ignites.
The fire saw method produces friction by using a piece of wood as a saw over an other piece.
A strong piece of wood is kept in position with your foot, and a narrow thong of cane or other appropriate material is looped around it. The friction is generated by pulling the ends of the thong alternately so that it is sawn across the stick or post producing a fine hot dust.
The hand drill method requires a thin stick to be quickly rotated with the hands against a fire board. The fire board is simply a flat piece of wood with a notch. The prolonged rotation combined with downward pressure generates a black hot dust in the nick of the fire board. The dust is properly transferred on a tinder nest and blown gradually until a flame starts.
To make the hand drill method easier you can add more pressure by looping cordage between two thumbs and over the top of the fire drill
The bow drill method uses a bow to rotate a spindle against a fire board. The Bow drill requires less effort because the bow transforms the linear movement of your arm in a powerful rotation, and with the free hand you can apply much more pressure downward.
A fire pump is enhancement of the bow drill. A rope is coiled around the spindle to create friction on a fire board.
2. Fire By Compression
This methods uses the heat of compression to ignite a tinder. In modern days, the same principle has been used to develop the Diesel engine.
A fire piston is a device composed by a tube with one sealed end and a piston that can run inside the tube. The piston has a small depression where the tinder is placed. When the piston is swiftly pushed into the tube, the air is violently compressed igniting the tinder.
3. Fire By Percussion
Percussion is a kind of friction that happens in an instant.
Flint & Steel
Flint is a family of very hard rocks (8 on the Mohs hardness scale). When a flint is stricken against a piece of steel (5-6.5 hardness), it peels a tiny piece of steel off and ignite it.
Ferrocerium rod fire starters
This method is definitely the modern version of the Flint & Steel method. The flint is replaced by a hard scraper while the steel is replaced by a ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium consists of an alloy containing Cerium, Lanthanum, Iron, Magnesium, Praseodymium and Neodymium. When it’s scraped it produce very hot (1650 °C) sparks.
4. Fire By Sun
This class of methods employs a condensing reflector to focus sun’s rays to a single point, producing an intense heat. The condensing reflector can be:
- a lens (solid or liquid filled) such as magnifying lenses, a plastic bag filled with water or a very clear piece of ice.
- a concave mirror such as a pop can bottom
5. Fire By Electricity
This method employs electricity on an object with electric resistance. When the object is red hot it ignites the tinder.
Electricity is used to generate a spark to ignite a gas or a fluid.
6. Fire By Chemical Reaction
There are few ways to produce fire by chemical reaction:
- potassium permanganate and glycerin (few drops of water can accelerate the reaction)
- acetone, sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate
- sodium chlorate, sugar and sulfuric acid
- ammonium nitrate, zinc and hydrochloric acid
Modern Mixed Methods
Modern fire methods as matches o lighters fall in more than a class (friction/percussion and chemical classes). Matches are small piece of woods coated with chemicals and ignited by friction. Lighters employ ferrocerium or electricity to spark butane or gasoline fuel.