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Muddy Faces

How to make char cloth

Make your own char cloth to use with flint and steel fire lighting – it is super quick and easy to do.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts


Char cloth (or charcloth) is used for making fires. It is a piece of fabric made from vegetable fibres (cotton, jute or linen). The material is converted via pyrolysis. It creates a slow-burning fuel which requires a relatively low temperature for ignition.

If the char cloth has been produced correctly it can be ignited by a single spark and is commonly used with a flint and steel or fire pistons. By blowing on the hot ember on the char cloth it can be used to ignite tinder to start a fire.

What you'll need

  • fire burnt down to embers (see fires: building a cooking fire)
  • cut pieces of fabric made from vegetable fibres such as cotton, jute or linen
  • airtight lid and tin (a travel sweet tin is a good size)
  • fire gloves and tongs

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Item available from our shop

Environmental Considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing, carrying out & completing this activity. Could this impact be reduced? Specific considerations for this activity could include:

  • re-use old cotton items
  • fire pit considerations

Health & Safety Considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments.
Some considerations particular to this activity include:

  • fire safety (this activity needs to be done in a well ventilated space)
  • handling hot objects
  • char cloth has a low ignition point and is light so take care in in windy conditions that it doesn’t blow away (fire risk)
Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #1

Light your campfire and let it burn down to embers.

Prepare a tin that is big enough to fit your pieces of green wood in (a used travel sweet tin is a good size). Make a hole in the tin by hammering a nail through the lid.

Tip: to make the hole place the lid on a small block of wood. Hammer the nail through the lid into the wood then pull apart; this will stop the lid deforming.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #2

Cut up small pieces of cloth (needs to be 100% cotton). We used an old cardigan but pieces of jean material work well too.

Loosely fold then place the pieces of fabric into the tin.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #3

Put the lid on the tin.

Place the tin into the embers of the fire.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #4

White smoke will begin to come out of the hole in the lid; this will change to a vapour which will then be seen as a flame.

When the flaming has stopped remove the tin from the fire using fire gloves or tongs.

Plug the hole with a nail or similar to prevent oxygen entering the tin (optional).

Leave the tin to cool.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #5

Remove the lid and check out your char cloth. This can be kept in the tin ready for some fire lighting.

Take it further:

traditional flint and steel

Disclaimer: Muddy Faces cannot take any responsibility for accidents or damage that occurs as a result of following this activity.You are responsible for making sure the activity is conducted safely.

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