In Europe, tinder that was already being used for
the flint and steel was adopted for use with the fire
 Charcloth, Amadou and 100% cotton rags
soaked in Salt Peter
. Amadou was also soaked in
Salt Peter to provide the owner a more reliable
NOTE:  We do not recommend experimenting with salt peter
if you are not experienced as there are explosive dangers with
this material and can lead to damages to your surroundings,
injuries self and others,  and damages to your fire piston.
Chaga true tinder fungus is very reliable.  There are three parts of Chaga: the dark
crumbly exterior, a compressed interior and a corky interior
.  The corky interior
works very well.  The more compressed interior and harder outer parts are more
difficult to light.   You may grind them and pack that into the tinder hollow on your
fire piston rod or attempt to catch a spark into them with a flint and steel. You can
also cut the compact layer into this strips, which works better with the flint and
steel or even us it as a hearth board for a hand or bow drill.   In the UK, the outer
layer is less crumbly and the inner most layer remains woody in texture.
Chaga True Tinder Fungus
Chaga varies in size and
shape from very small to
massive growing in an
injury on Birch.  This is an
above average find here in
central Minnesota.
The orange spongy
marshmallow like
center is the easiest to
light part of Chaga once
dry.   In the UK, the
center is the darkest
part and it maintains a
woody texture.
Chaga True Tinder Fungus
Cut thin
strips to dry.  
These strips
can be turned
into Amadou
Shelf Fungus
Shelf Fungus
Preparing Amadou
Preparing Amadou
A tinder with many different names, it is easily distinguised by its dark color, crumbly coal
like texture and growth rings.  It can be found in Europe and North America on dead and
dying trees, especially on Ash, and grows up to 75mm.  It has a hard crumbly coal like
texture and is easily and distinguished by both its very black color and growth rings.  This
fungus works very well in the fire piston looking for tinder in Europe, as it is a mite easier to
find there an Chaga and does not need preparation.
Just a small bit of this lights very reliably.
Cramp Ball Fungus

Leaves and pith make a tea that is used to prevent or
treat infection, but be careful not to get the small fibers
in your tea.  The broad soft leaves are also often
referred to as "natures toilet paper."  Traditionally, leaf
and flower tea was used as an expectorant, an
antispasmodic, a diuretic, for chest colds, asthma,
bronchitis, coughs, and kidney infections.  The leaves
were made into a poultice for ulcers, tumors, and
hemorrhoids; the flowers were soaked in olive or
mineral oil and used as earache drops.  Asian Indians
used the stalk for cramps, fevers and migraines.
Mullein grows near disturbed soils such as by
railroad tracks.  While you want brown stalks,
the older the stalk is, the lower quality the pith
is.  The feathery bark will rub off the stalk
naturally and help determine age and quality.  
A green stalk represents
mullein in its second year
of growth.  Surrounding on
the ground are plants in
their first year.  These soft
leaves are also known as
"natures toiletpaper."
I found by
experimenting that
the feathery bark
works very well.
Mullein pith works
best if sliced off in
thin curls.
Mullein Seed Heads
Mullein By Railroad Tracks
Feathery Mullein Bark
Curls of Mullein Pith
Various species of Milkweed are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical
regions, including Africa and India.  There disribution is very widespread.  Some of
them grow in rocky environments while some in a swampy habitat.  I see them here
in Minnesota in my backyard and different species grow in Canada and Mexico.  
They like sun and moist soil.    Milkweed offers another tinder for your fire piston.  
Actually, to be honest, it offers two.  The fluff and the ovum.  While a very carefully
packed ball of the fluff will light, it burns out to quickly and does not provide a
reliable tinder option.  It does, however, make a great addition to your tinder
bundle.  The ovum on the other hand is very reliable.  Just a very small little bit of
this is needed.  It can also be used with your flint and steel to catch your spark.  
Contrary to those who say the Milkweed pod is the tinder you are looking for, the
pod itself is useless.  It is this ovum you want.  Easy to identify, no prepartion
required, easy to handle and use makes this a great tinder for every fire kit.
Dry pods can be found year
around if you keep your eyes
open.  This one was found in
June 2007.  Notice the new
growth in the background.
A close up of the dry open seed pod
with the ovum still attached.
This is a close up of the Ovum.  
Its amazing how well just a
small piece of this works in
the fire piston.  Don't be fooled
by those who tell you the seed
pod creates you a coal.  It is
this Ovum that you want.
Green pods are easy to locate
on the large leaf plants in late
summer and early fall.
Close up of Milkweed seed pod
Dried Milkweed Seed Pods
Milkweed Ovum
Wood Punk

Wood punk is another tinder that works in the fire
piston, although not as reliably as the other tinders
mentioned.  I have created a coal many times but have
had varying results.  The wood punk has to be in just the
right stage of rot and must be 100% dry.  I found that
even though the punt felt dry, it always seemed to have
hidden dampness or simply would not light.  Although I
have made wood punk work, I would recommend trying
to find one of the other tinders mentioned first.  While
wood punk is available year around, it is one to use if
there are no other tinders available.  While some swear
by it, my experience, as well as others, tells the truth.
Other Tinders

They are not easy to there may be
another out there that there may be
another out there that might just produce
a nice coal that does not burn out so
quickly.  Plant fluffs availability vary by
plant cycle and are not a year around
tinder source.  Others have made
Yucca, Sunflower stalk, scrapings
from inside bamboo
, and ground
up Cedar bark
work in their fire
pistons although these I have not yet
tried for myself.
As you can see, there are many tinders that work in the fire piston. Tinders
are still being discovered.  We suggest experimenting with different natural
materials from your environment and trying the others mentioned to see
what works best for you.  If you discover a new tinder, please let us know
and we will put the information here for all to share.  A special thanks to
those of you who have shared your knowledge for this page.
This photo is only a representation of wood punk. I
would recommend that you choose it from standing trees.
Wood Punk
Dandelion Seed Head
You can find fields with freshly
open pods such as this one
scattering the land like soft lit
In the information below, you will find nearly two dozen types of
tinder from a large range of climates and environments that can be
found and used in your fire piston and with your flint and steel
around the world.
Mel Deweese was given some very soft tinder by
the Aboriginals in the Philippine when he was
given a fire piston by one of them.  It is a tinder
that can be found under the bark of the Fish Tail
Palm in tropical areas around the world.  

We have used some of this tinder.  From what we
have found out, take the tinder directly from the
tree and rub it between your hands to make it
softer and bring up more fibers to make it easier to
light.  The main deal here is to make sure you have
the correct species of palm.  Fibers from some of
the other species and coconut husks do not light
well, if at all.  
Traditionally, Tukas Palm, Caryota Mitis (Fish Tail
Palm), Apaing Palm are three species of Palm Tree
that provide tinder.  It is reported that both fine
tinder from under the bark or from the base of the
leaf was used.  Palm heart Lulut also works very

Ashleigh Seow reports about traditional tinder in
Borneo in his article:

"The tinder is a mixture made of the sun-dried
woolly scurf found between the layers of the tukas
palm or Burmese Fish Tail Palm (Caryota mitis) and
the charred fibre of what remains of the daun ubi
when it has been scorched in a pan. This is similar
to the Iban and Dusun method of tinder preparation
in Borneo. "

He posted sometime back in the Bushcraft forums
explaining how a similar tinder was made in a post
about the Iban and Duscan method.

Amadou was also reported in the 1900's to be used
in South-East Asia.
Chaga has been prized for it's medicinal
qualities by Northern people in North
America, Siberia, Asia, and Europe which
can be made into a tea to treat a number of
diseases and ailments
, including cancer.  It
grows under the bark in an injury of a tree,
usually Birch, growing irregularly and
varying in size from the size of your fist to
very large.   In the Uk there are reports of
them on a few different tree species
including Elm.  It's large dark knobby shape
is easy to identity and grows on about
0.025% of trees.  As it grows, it cracks the
bark and its spores fall out.  It grows with
the tree until it finally dies and the conk falls
to the ground, killing the tree as well,
completing a 20 year life cycle.  
.   Cut into small strips, it can also be
There are different species of shelf fungus that work in the fire piston
and flint and steel with varying results.  There are three layers to this
tinder.  There is the outer "skin," the leathery interior and the porous
layer.  The leathery layer is the one that you will use as your tinder.  
Often you can find this tinder dried enough on the tree to use it as is in
your fire piston.  Carefully cut back the outer layer to reveal the interior,
cut out a small bit and try it.  If it is too wet, it must be dried first.  You
can scrap the leathery layer into scrapings, you can cut it into small
strips, cut it into small bits, pound it out and make it into Amadou, or you
can treat it in the traditional ways to make a softer, even more reliable
Amadou by soaking it in saltpeter.  This tinder is very reliable with the
fire piston but can also be used with the flint and steel.  We recommend
that you harvest your shelf fungus ahead of time to prepare for your trip
as to ensure you have a ready source of tinder.  Then when out in the
woods, you can continue to replenish your supply.
Shelf Fungus is easy to identify
due to its hoof shape, grows on
Birch, Beech and sometimes Ash
and is very reliable.
Cut off the outer skin.
 The darker, smoother
leathery interior is
what you want.  If it
is dry enough it will
work right off.
Fomes means "tinder"
and Fomentarius means
"used for tinder."
Tinder is not the only use for shelf fungus, it is
made into a tea to treat various diseases and
ailments, as well as used to stop bleeding.  It can
also be used to make clothing once it is treated,
pounded and shaped, most often hats.    You can
find varying species of shelf fungus all around the
world and the different species will vary in color
from very light to very dark.  They cause the tree  
condition known as white rot.  After doing
serious damage to the interior wood, a dark,
hoof-shaped knob bursts through the bark and
spreads horizontally into an inverted bracket up
to a foot across.  There is a much bigger Beech
Fungus, the largest of our Bracket Fungi, Giant
Polypore (P. giganteus), which attacks the roots
and base of the trunks, destroying the
foundations.  After doing its damage, a once tall
strong tree will snap at its base in a strong wind.
First & Second Year Mullein Growth
The common name,
mullein, comes from
the German, meaning
“king’s candle” because
of its scepter-like,
candle-straight growth.
The genus name,
Verbascum, is thought
to be a corruption of the
Latin word barbascum,
from barba (beard),
referring to the plant’s
shaggy foliage.
Mullein Lore:
therefore, an historic name for the plant was
“Candlewick Plant”.  It was believed that witches used
“Candlewick Plant”.  It was believed that witches used
the plant as a wick in their candles and lamps when they
chanted incantations, and so the common mullein was
called the “Hag’s Taper”.  In Europe and Asia, the plant
was believed to have the power of driving away evil
spirits; it was also believed to be a safeguard against
evil spirits and magic in India.  In ancient Greek classics,
this was the plant taken by Ulysses to protect himself
against the wiles of Circe.against the wiles of Circe.
Mullein is a tinder that can be found widely around the world.  It comes naturally from
Europe and Asia and grows in North America from Mexico to Canda.  It likes alkaline soil and
is found along roadsides, fields, and near seashores.  There are over 250 distinct species (and
many other sub species) that grow between 2 and 9 feet tall.  This plant can provide you with
four tinders.  You will want to find a brown stalk.  Look at the stalk close to the ground and
grade its quality by the condition of the stalk.  Choose one that still has the feathery bark on it.
 You can scrap the feathery part off for a reliable tinder.  You can scrape the broad leaves into
small pieces with as little as posssible leaf center still attatched for another great tinder.  The
pithy inside of the stalk will also work for a tinder.  Carefully curt lengthwise into thin curls.  
For your fourth tinder, cut thins slices of pith and char it much like char cloth.  These thin
slices can also be used with your flint and steel, either fresh or charred you can also use the
stalk for a hand or bow drill.
Dogbane Ovum

We received a phone call no long ago and
we were told that the ovum from Dogwood
works as well as milkweed ovum.  I must
wait til I can find suitable growth and the
opportunity to take pictures.  Expect this
to be updated throughout the following
three seasons as I get the pics.
Close up dried Milkweed Seed Pod
Milkweed Fluff
Milkweed Seed Pods in Field
Mystery mushroom.
Man-made materials not listed in this tinder article are NOT recommended in the fire piston
and fire pistons damaged by materials not recommended will not be replaced or refunded and
we will not cover any damages caused by misuse of your fire piston.  We do not recommend the
use of any accelerant  or man made materials not recommend in our "Tinder for Your Fire
Piston and Flint and Steel" article.  Testing out materials of the man-made variety in the fire
piston can be
VERY dangerous and even deadly.  Use caution and sound judgement when
using tinder in your fire piston.  Instead, test out natural, untreated materials.
I am NOT responsible for fire pistons that are broken or not
working due to abusive or careless actions.  I can look at a fire
piston and know if it's true malfunction, an accident or abuse.  

I am also
NOT responsible for injuries or damages due to improper
or careless use of the fire piston.
Learn more details HERE.
Common milkweed has been used
traditionally as a tea prepared from its
root as a diuretic for kidney stones, a
laxative, and an expectorant.  It has
been used to treat asthma and
bronchitis and it induces sweating.  
The sap has been used for chewing
gum, which is considered very
dangerous because of the presence of
cardio-active compounds in the plant.  
The sap has also been used as a topical
remedy for worts, ringworm and
moles.  Some Native Americans used
milkweed as a contraceptive.   It is also
believed to kill parasitic worms.