How-to make Char Cloth ⚒️

Posted by Samuel Harvington on

What is Char Cloth? 

Char Cloth Is a term used to refer to 100% natural cotton cloth that has been charred (cooked inside a metal contain without direct contact from the fire) Creating charred material requires you to have had a fire prior, so isn’t suitable as a first time option. Char cloth is incredibly combustible, even from a weak spark. It only works when completely dry so should be stored in a waterproof container. Char cloth is very lightweight, easy to produce and effective. Punk wood can be processed in the same way to produce charred punk wood, making it even more effective than unprocessed punk wood, allowing it to take weaker sparks from a carbon steel striker.

Charred materials require a pre-existing fire in order to create them. These are handy resources to prepare for future use. Char cloth is cotton cloth that has been combusted in the absence of oxygen, this process is known as pyrolysis. You are left with blackened (yet flexible) charred cotton cloth, this cloth will take a fairly dull spark with ease.

Tools and Materials:

You will need several, easily obtainable items in order to make char cloth, these are;

A tin with a tight fitting lid, such as an empty, clean, shoe polish or empty travel sweets tin (remove any labeling prior to use if possible)
100% Cotton cloth
  Scissors to cut your cotton cloth
  An implement to poke a hole in the top of the tin to allow the gasses to escape.
  A small, established fire or hot coals to place and char your tins contents.

Making Char-Cloth Before and After

The image above shows the before and after of creating char cloth.

Making Char Cloth (& other charred materials)

 Char Cloth - HOW-TO: 

  1. Start by cutting your 100% cotton cloth into appropriate size pieces and place them inside your tin; 3-5 cm square patches work well. Poke a hole in your tin lid, to allow the gasses to escape. 
  1. Put the lid on securely and place the tin on your fire. This works best at the edge or after the initial intensity of your fire has died down a little. 
  1. Your tin should produce smoke from the hole. Flames may also appear to be coming out of the hole, but do not worry, this is normal. 
  1. When the smoking has ceased, the process should be complete. At this point you can safely remove the tin from the fire (it will be very hot, so be careful) 
  1. Wait until the tin has completely cooled down before opening (if you open the tin before it has cooled you risk igniting the char cloth and you will have to start the process all over again) 
  1. Once you have opened the tin, examine the char-cloth to ensure the process has worked. It should have the following appearance & properties;

Completely black and have a semi-rigid but soft-ish texture. If it is brown, the process needs more time to complete, place it back in the fire.
If the cloth is brittle or crumbles when flexed it has been ‘overcooked’ and will be of little use.
Test a piece of your char-cloth to ensure it takes a spark.

 

Flint and steel striking char-cloth to create an ember

A piece of char-cloth with an ember after having carbon steel sparks thrown onto it.

You can also try charring other, similar natural materials, such as jute rope, punk wood etc. Let us know how you on get in the comments and feel free to ask any questions!
 

Bushcraft Char-cloth Craft How-to Learning Skills

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