Fire By Toothbrush!

Hey Friends!  This is a guest blog from my good friend Brian Smith.  When he sent me over his initial images, I knew I had to share it!


It is common with surthrivalists to steer clear of items that have only one use when putting together their go-bags (aka bug-out-bags) and EDCs (every day carries). Usually a toothbrush makes it in as an exception. This no longer has to be the case.

Recently Daniel Vitalis, a friend and mentor of mine, released an all natural, 100% biodegradable toothbrush, constructed of bamboo, available through his company, Surthrival, provider of some of the highest quality products available in the health industry today.

Being of similar mind to Daniel in many ways, one being our shared enthusiasm for Earth skills, aka primitive survival skills, I knew that bamboo is a commonly used material for a friction fire starting method called the fire saw.  This knowledge, coupled with noticing the dimensions of the new toothbrushes when I received my own, I immediately suspected another potential use for them, as hand drill hearths.  The hand drill (spinning a "stick" between one's hands on a stationary "stick", called the hearth) is the most common friction fire method used by indigenous humans worldwide, and my personal favorite.  When I decided to retire my current toothbrush, I proved my theory true, giving these awesome toothbrushes yet another use before tossing them into the compost pile.

Here's what my process looks like:

Using the hand drill spindle (the stick that's being spun, which is usually about pinky thickness & arms length), in this example the dry flower stalk of prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola), I press the end of the spindle into the toothbrush in the spot where I'm going to attempt to spin an ember from, just hard enough to make an impression. I then take the tip of my knife and make a "dot to dot" pattern around the impression, like so:


Then, I use my knife to pop out the center of this circle:


I then use my spindle to do a little bit of preliminary drilling in this hole, just enough to "burn in" the hearth, seating the drill:


Next, I carve a notch in the side of the toothbrush, who’s purpose is to collect the dust created from the friction of the spindle being spun on the hearth (toothbrush).  The notch looks like this.  Notice it is just shy of the center of the circle and squared off:


Now, I'm ready to go for an ember.  When the dust in the notch reaches ~800 degrees F from the friction created via speed of rotation & downward pressure on the spindle, given that it is getting enough oxygen (and is dry!), it should spontaneously ignite, becoming an ember:


Here's a video demonstration:

For those interested in learning more about the floating technique mentioned in this video, here is a recent video of me giving a more detailed explanation and demonstration.

Here is an article Daniel wrote on friction fire a while back.

Thank you for reading!  If you use Google+, please add me to your circles if you'd like to be updated on future blog posts & Youtube videos.