How to Start a Fire Without a Match

More Lighting Methods

Cartoon men shaking hands in vector illustration.

Fire Plow — This technique requires some determination but works well.

  • Find a pie­ce of softwood for your plow board, about 18 inches long and roughly 2 inches wide. Willow and poplar trees work well and are commonly found near streams and rivers.
  • Carve a groove 1 inch wide and 6 to 8 inches long in the center of your plow board, about two inches from either end. Use a knife or the sharp edge of a rock.
  • Find a hardwood stick for your plow. It should be about a foot long and come to a point on one end.
  • Lay the board flat on the ground and insert the plow into the groove.
  • Rub the plow back and forth with moderate pressure to create small bits of wood dust.
  • Once you have a moderate amount of dust, raise the top end of the board up and rest it on your knee. The dust will collect at the bottom.
  • Rub as fast as you can with heavy pressure until the dust smolders. Pick up the board and gently blow until you have a flame you can transfer to your tinder.

Bow and Drill — This is another friction method that takes some time to perfect. You'll need the following items:


  • Socket - flat, hand-size rock with a slight depression on one side
  • Drill - sturdy, straight hardwood stick, 1 to 2 inches in diameter and a foot long
  • Fire Board - flat, softwood board about a foot long, 6 inches wide and one inch thick
  • Bow - flexible and sturdy green stick about one inch in diameter and 18 to 24 inches long
  • Cord - hiking boot laces work well

Once you've gathered your items, it's time to make some fire:

  • Cut a slight, round depression just inside the center edge of the fire board.
  • Notch a V-shaped cut on the underside of the center edge that just meets the depression.
  • Bend your bow stick into a half moon and tie it tight with your boot lace.
  • Place the board on the ground and put a cotton ball-sized bunch of tinder under the notch.
  • Put your foot on the board for stability and loop the bowstring around the drill, resting in the round depression.
  • Place your socket on top of the drill with moderate pressure and saw the bow back and forth. This will twist the drill and create hot, black powder that falls onto your tinder. Before long, the tinder should ignite and you can transfer it to your fire pit.
Vector cartoon illustration of two men shaking hands.

Fire From Ice — this technique is a variation of the lens method using ice instead of a magnifying glass.

  • Find or make a spherical ice lens, about 2 to 3 inches thick in the center. The ice must be clear in order for it to work. If you have a cooking pan, use it to freeze water.
  • Shave away any cloudy ice and carve the block into a round sphere like a magnifying glass.
  • Use the warmth of your hands to shape the ice — the smoother the better.
  • Getting clear ice is the biggest challenge of this technique, and there's no surefire method. The ice around lakes and rivers has a better chance of being clear.
  • After you shape your lens, use the sun to concentrate a hot spot onto your tinder. If it doesn't create a good hot spot, keep shaping your lens.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Bicevskis, Rob. "Fire From Ice.", 2007.
  • " How to make a fire in the wilderness.", 2007.
  • "Fire from a Can of Coke and a Chocolate Bar.", 2007.
  • "Fire.", 2007.
  • "Fire.", 2007.
  • "How to Build a Fire.", 2007.
  • "How to Start a Fire.", 2007. 
  • "Survival, Evasion, and Recovery." U.S. Military Field Manual 21-76-1, June 1999.­