How to Start a Fire Without Matches (3 Proofed Methods in 2021)

What starts out as being a fun party trick when camping with a group of friends, can end up saving your life in survival situations.

There are hundreds of reasons why you could end up without the ease of matches to get a fire started.

Either you went for a swim with the matches in your pocket, or you just ran out, learning how to start a fire without matches is going to turn that party trick into necessary warmth when stuck in a winter storm.

There’s a large assortment of different ways to start a fire without using matches.

The style you choose will have to do with where you are and the other resources that you have available to you. For example, if you are on a deserted island with only palm trees and sand, striking fire with quartz will not be possible.

Learning multiple different ways is going to make starting a fire without matches easy in any situation.

Method #1: Bowdrilling

What you’ll need:

  • Bow – A slightly curved piece of strong wood that measures from your armpit to the tips of your fingers
  • Spindle – Piece of wood about 6-10 inches long carved and smoothed into a hot dog shape
  • String – A piece of string, paracord, or handmade cordage long enough to tie between the two ends of the bow
  • Fireboard – A flat piece of wood about 1.5-2 inches thick
  • Top piece – A rock, bone, or hard wood with a socket that fits your spindle

How to get fire:

Bowdrilling is, in my opinion, the coolest and most fun method of starting a fire without matches.

Essentially it is a fancier way of just rubbing two sticks together.

On the fireboard, make a small divot where your spindle will be placed. From that spot, carve a small V-shaped notch to the edge of the fireboard where wood dust will collect (and eventually burn).

It’s a good idea to place a leaf or piece of leather underneath this V-notch in order to catch the wood dust you are creating when working.

Once you have tied your string to both ends of your bow, wrap the string around the spindle and place the spindle into the small divot you made on your fireboard.

Carefully place your top piece on to the spindle where you have made a socket that will fit it*.

*Extra pro-tip: Use chapstick, oil from your nose, or even your earwax in the socket on the top piece to reduce friction even more

Next, take position kneeling on one knee, like a football player in a huddle, with one foot on the fireboard just to the side of the spindle.

The key here is to make as many ninety-degree angles as possible.

Next, slowly start moving the bow back and forth, spinning the spindle, while applying slight downward pressure with the top piece.

Maintain a consistent speed and utilize the entire length of the bowstring in order to get the best results. It is easy to try to go as fast as possible while pushing down like the Hulk.

That will just end in the spindle flying ten feet away.

When a thick smoke starts forming, keep going with your bow strokes.

After singing the alphabet in your head, or out loud, slowly remove the spindle. In the V-notch will be a pile of wood dust, commonly called “punk”.

If it continues to burn, you can lift it with the leaf or leather and place it into a bundle of finely shredded bark or leaves and slowly, gently, breathe on it in order to get a flame.

Method #2: Striking

What you’ll need:

  • Hard rock such as quartz
  • A solid carbon steel knife or file
  • Optional (for easier and quicker results) – Ferro rod

How to get fire:

Striking a fire is also a great way to get out anger or frustration about the situation you have found yourself in. So, when feeling upset, take it out productively and smash some rocks together.

To get a fire, start with finely shredded tinder or pre-burnt char cloth that you may have packed out with you. This is going to be what catches the spark and ends up lighting the fire.

Holding the hard quartz rock in one hand and your knife or file in the other, bring the tinder close to where you believe the sparks will head towards.

Give it a few test runs by hitting the knife or file against the rock at a 30-degree angle. Finding the right angle and spot on the rock can be difficult and take a little bit of time, so be patient with yourself.

Once you start getting sparks, aim them towards the tinder or char cloth until you land a spark into the pile.

From there, you want to slowly blow on the spark to help it catch. When I say slowly, I mean slowly. This is a delicate baby of a spark that needs to be cared for and should be gently whispered to rather than screamed at.

Slowly, the tinder will catch and you can progress to larger material until you have a raging bonfire to signal for help then boil a nice cup of tea as you wait.

Method #3: Sunlight

What you’ll need:

  • A reflective, clear material such as plastic, glass, ice, or the classic magnifying glass
  • Finely shredded bark or tinder
  • Patience

How to get fire:

If you were ever the kid that tortured ants in the driveway with a magnifying glass, you may already know this trick. This time, there will be no ants or humans harmed in the making of fire.

This method of starting a fire is simple to do, it just takes patience and the right materials on a sunny day.

You can use the classic magnifying glass to catch and focus the light, but you can also use a plastic bag filled with water if you are short on materials. If it’s the middle of winter, a clear chunk of ice will also work.

Hold the reflective surface above your tinder until you can find the right focal point that brings all of the sun’s energy into one fine pinpoint spot.

With a steady hand, just wait.

Slowly you will see smoke rise up and then you can turn that spark into a fire by slowly breathing on the ember.


There are countless more ways to start a life-saving fire if you are ever put into the situation that you need it.

While we hope that you don’t ever find yourself in that scenario, we strongly encourage you to grab some materials and try these out in the backyard.

The best thing that can happen is you develop some new ways to impress your friends on the next camping trip or save your own life.

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