On September 4th, our class attempted to make fire the “human survival” way: using only a simple wooden stick and board. During the first 20 minutes or so of class, we watched an expert fire maker build a fire using only these resources. He built the fire rather easily and my first thought was: seems easy enough, let’s go. Once we started this process, however, it turned out to be a whole different story. And in the end, every one of us failed to get a fire going.

As for the process, we first had to make a small place on the board for the stick to rotate and create friction in. Luckily, one of the members in our team had a pocket knife set, which we took advantage of in order to create that little hole for our dowel to rotate in. Then we sharpened the end of the dowel, also using the pocket knife, and started to rotate it with our hands as fast and consistently as possible in order to create the friction and start to build up some heat. As easy as rubbing your hands together sounds, it was really hard to go for long stretches of time. One reason is that we just didn’t have the stamina to keep doing this simple task. Another reason is that it hurt, and it hurt pretty badly. By the time class was over, many of the students had to get bandages for their hands because they were starting to blister from all the friction. In the end, our group got some smoke going, but that was pretty much it.

In today’s world, making fire is such an easy task. All you need is a match or a lighter. Through this activity, I realized just how much we take these small things for granted. Building a fire from scratch is super hard. That man on YouTube has my respect.


-Stephen Kim