The Curiously Strong, Altoids Breath-Mint Fire Starter

I don’t care what the survival gurus of reality TV told you. It’s impossible to create flame with a couple of wet noodles, the braided hair of a Labrador, and positive thoughts. These guys care more about building ratings than building a fire.

If you’ve plenty of time, and perfect weather, you can eventually coax up embers via the polished bottom of a Coke can or any variety of fire bows, ploughs and pistons. My question is “why?” Primitive methodologies are worth knowing – fine as a back-up – but not a first option. Torch-lighters and chemically enhanced tinder are a billion times more effective than rubbing two sticks together. I suppose that’s a heretical statement, but then again I also prefer antibiotics over leeches.

Which brings us to breath mints. I’m a huge fan of Altoids, mostly because they’re packaged in a cool, metal case. An Altoid’s tin has almost as many uses as duct tape, one of which is a tinderbox. Dry tinder isn’t always available; a dry Altoids can loaded with flammable cotton is. This gizmo includes an attached ferro rod that allows you to start a fire in minutes should you lose your lighter.

Materials Needed
Altoids tin
JB Weld
60-grit sandpaper
Ferro rod (1/4-inch x 3 inches)
Cotton balls

1: Buy some Altoids. Dump the mints or save for later.

2: Rough up the hinged side of the Altoids tin, and the bottom of the ferro rod, with sandpaper.

3: Mix some JB weld (great stuff . . . my ancient Grumman canoe is 80% JB Weld) and spread it on the ferro rod’s sanded side. Attach to the Altoids tin (below the hinges). Wipe off excess, and let dry overnight.

4: Permeate numerous cotton balls with Vaseline. Cram as many as possible in the Altoids tin.

5: Build a small pyramid of sticks and such. Pinch off a small piece of Vaso-pyro cotton and set it in the pyramid. Hit it with your lighter. The ball burns hot for a minute or so, igniting the twigs.

6: If you’re lighter impaired, use a bigger chunk of petroleum-based cotton goo. Scrape your knife against the ferro rod, directing the sparks at the heart of the incendiary cotton. Cotton-flagration should occur within half a dozen strikes.

7:  Add wood as necessary. Have a mint.