My wife Cathy is familiar with this phrase, because whenever we get something new that has assembly required, or is complicated (like a can opener or something), she tells me I should read the instructions after I get frustrated with it. Cue the quote…

“Destructions? We don’t need no stinking destructions!”

Today’s “destructions” are a simple tutorial (AKA Destructible) to make your own char cloth. What is char cloth, you ask? From Wikipedia:

Char cloth (or charcloth) – also called charpaper – is a material that is used in fire making. It is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature.

Basically it makes it easier to start a fire, especially when using methods involving flint and steel, ferrocerium (ferro) rods, and friction methods that rely on making an “ember” to get your fire started. Luckily, it’s very simple and inexpensive to make. I got the ideas for my particular method (there are many!) from a YouTube video and a post on the Bushcraft USA forums, and will leave the links below.

What you will need:

Some good scissors, a tin container for “cooking” your char cloth, and some material. Denim makes good char cloth, as does terry cloth, but practically any material made from plant fibers will work. I also use a template to make it easier to cut uniform sized pieces that will fit in my cooker (an Altoids tin, in my case). Finally, a sharp implement (I used scissors) to cut your fabric.

Begin by using your template (or just eyeball it, it really isn’t rocket science) to cut out some of your fabric.

Here’s where I get fancy. Now, I roll the fabric like you would a cigar (or something) and place it in my cooker. IMPORTANT: Make sure to punch or drill a small hole in the lid of your cooker. This allows the gases created during the process of pyrolysis to escape during the cooking process. A hazardous explosion could occur if you don’t do this. 

Next, simply continue cutting out your pieces of fabric until your cooker is full.

Now you’re ready to cook your char cloth. There are multiple ways to do this as well. The simplest for me is simply to place my tin on my Coleman 508a camp stove on medium flame.

(If your Altoid tin is new, you will notice some flame from the paint burning off.) After a minute or two you will see a small flame emitting from the hole you drilled into the top of your tin. Once that flame goes out and you can no longer see any smoke coming out, your char cloth is complete. Make sure to let it cool before handling with your bare hands. You now have some reliable means of fire starting to add to your kit!

Companion Video

Inspiration for this article found in fellow ‘Tuber Krizakoni’s Video (click for video)

And this forum post on Bushcraft USA (click for post) describing how to make “Char Cigars”

Thanks for checking us out! You can see our Bushcrat(ish) articles HERE and HERE!

For a Destructible on how to make your own pot lid, click HERE!