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Here is a little secret that is the often used due to it's ability to easily catch a spark. Making char cloth is easy. Simply put come cotton material (or any natural fibers or wood chunks or even saw dust) into a metal container with a non-sealing lid (you can actually use aluminum foil for the lid or even the whole container as long as your campfire coals aren't too hot) and put it on some hot coals. Make sure the metal container isn't completely sealed because the smoke needs to have a way to escape. It will start smoking in a few minutes. When it stops smoking, remove the can from the fire and make sure you don't open it until it cools down enough to handle with your bare hands.
Most cookie tins or metal breath mint containers work well but you need to pre-cook the can or you will get a bunch of gunk on your char cloth from the coating on the can. If you use a paint can (must be very clean or new and unused) that seals very well, you will need to poke a hole in the top of it to allow the smoke to come out. If this is the type of can you use, put a stick in the hole after you remove it from the coals to prevent oxygen from getting to the char cloth or it will ignite by itself and it will burn up leaving you with a pile of junk char cloth that is good for nothing. If you leave the can on the fire too long, the char cloth will cook too much and be good for nothing so keep a close eye on it and when the smoke stops, the char cloth is ready. If you use a very large can, you might need to turn it over a couple of times in order to cook the char cloth evenly. Also, don't pack the cloth in the can too tightly. However, don't leave too much air space in the can either. You want to have the material comfortably fill the can to the rim without forcing the lid on.
Making char cloth takes very little practice and very little time but will reward you with a very dependable tinder for use in your fire piston or other primitive fire starting methods. One final point to remember is that freshly washed and thoroughly rinsed cotton material works best for making char cloth. Other materials may work but cotton seems to give the best results. If you want a piece of tinder you can really count on, char cloth is the best.
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