Firestarter for scouts?!

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Cornkid

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I am a scout and I was wondering how I could start a fire with a laser that wasnt too expensive. Although I doubt this activity would be considered legal in the BSA, I would still like to try it out...
Where could I acquire a laser, preferable not too expensive that would burn paper pretty efficiently?

-tom
 

WildRice

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That might be hard to fill. I know a pot modded unit 25mW or so with a small lens will be able to get certain materials to smoke, but to start something on fire, even a match, you are looking at 75mW+. I would think you would be looking at 250-300$ to get a firestarter like the one you want.

Of course I could be wrong, that would be nothing new........

Jeff
 

IsaacHayes

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Better have safety glasses for yourself or anyone aroudn you too. And a lock box so no one can take it while your sleeping and cause trouble! A high power IR laser diode can be gotten cheap, but it's invisable making it even more dangerous...
 

EGP

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What people are saying indirectly here is that generally, the readily portable lasers would make very poor fire starters.

Like Jeff says, lasers in the 75-100mW range may pop balloons, Maybe light a match, and make dark and/or complementary colored stuff smoke.

I tried lighting a candle with a 100mW red. It had been lighted before, so the wick was black, but even with the beam focused for the distance, I couldn't do it.

Lasers in that power range would almost certainly cost at least 200-300$, and to have any hope of starting a fire, you're probably looking at lasers with output of at least 400-500mW. That power is very hard to come by with portable units - those I have heard of so far seems to be freak units, outputting much more than they were intended to. Wicked Lasers had a 400+ mW pointer style laser some time ago. It was a one-off thing and IIRC they were asking 3000$ for it... :faint:

Cheapest solution like IsaacHayes says would most likely be a high-power IR laser diode, but then you'll need driver electronics and collimating optics. Would be very dangerous due to the invisible radiation - you probably won't get any medals for seriously damaging the vision of a whole scout troop... ;)

Know it's disappointing, but best forget the idea about this..

Regards,
Erling
 

AJ_Dual

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Someone here had a project where he designed a brass "lighter" that had a high powered red diode and was threaded for adjustable focus. It's probably still not too far down in the forum. We figured out though that even at 100mW or more, it would be really hard to get a flame going. My best suggestion was to make some char cloth, (like from a flint and steel kit) and use the laser to get it glowing, then transfer to the tinder. However, it would not be very dramatic.

I haven't heard much since. The main problem is that most burnable materials like wood, tinder etc. are "light" and will not absorb significant laser energy to ignite. The best you could probably do is light a red colored match head stuck in the tinder with a high powered green laser from a few feet.

But that begs the question, why not just use the match in the first place?

A better bet would be to create a "fire lighting effect". You will need a partner for this. Your scoutmaster might just think it's cool enough to help you.

Carefully arrange your fire pit with a model rocket igniter (The little match-head things on two wire leads) with some more matches and a good supply of properly arranged tinder and kindling a in the center of the logs. Have buried wires (cheap speaker wire is good, it's already got two wires in it.) running to an accomplice with a 9V or a 6V lantern battery. Just use a camp shovel to make a slit in the dirt running away from the fire pit for the wire, then step over it to conceal it.

Shine your laser into the fire into the center where the tinder is, and then have your buddy close the circuit on the igniter a few seconds later. If you have a bit of showmanship, a sense of timing, and your accomplice can keep a low profile, it should be a pretty awesome effect.

When I was in scouts, we had some "remote start" campfires where the leaders had prepped something like this. I don't know if it was electric, or if they just hid a long timed length of fuse, or a smoldering cigarette in the fire pit and lit it before we got there. They then had all the scouts gather around the fire, and say some bogus Indian "fire chant" louder and louder, and then they lit it. Nobody was fooled, but it was fun anyway.

With your laser, they would be fooled, at least until they were let in on the secret.
 

Geologist

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Not a laser, but

NRA.com was selling some great surrvival kits including a BlastMatch - it is no laser, but it is the most awesome flint based fire starting tool I've ever seen. Seems like it would last forever!
 

Data

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AJ Dual

That was me. I never made the char cloth but after reading about it I was convinced it would work.

You would need a lens to focus the 5mW laser to a tiny point on the char cloth.

Cheers
Dave
 

WildRice

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I like the model rocket lighter idea, just to add to it... get some black powder or CAREFULLY smash up some match heads to a powder. Sprinkle this around the ignighter area so when lit, it would flare up a bit with some smoke. I think this 'trick' would be a better OHHH and AHHH than lighting it with a HIGH power LASER.

.02

Jeff
 

Robban

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Geologist said:
Not a laser, but

NRA.com was selling some great surrvival kits including a BlastMatch - it is no laser, but it is the most awesome flint based fire starting tool I've ever seen. Seems like it would last forever!
That looks like an evolved version of "fire steel" which was developed by a Swedish officer for our "army". I think I prefer the plain old original though, no springs or anything to break ;)

As others have said I think you should try to forget about the laser idea. There are other ways of creating fire with a bit of oooh though. Chemical reactions for example. I'm not going to post any info on this though as it should be handled with EXTREME care (just as powerful lasers). A common way used in survival situations is easy to find though, the method is mentioned in some survival books and of course on the net.
 

JohnGault

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A fireworks squib, couple of inches of quickmatch, 100' of wire and a 9v battery

Say "Abra_Ka_Dabra", aim your red pointer and connect the battery to the squib :)
 

Cornkid

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Thanks guys but I have somethig better: Pottasium, Magnesium, steel wool

Take a small lump of Potassium and place it in a pile of magnesium filings, place this then in a nest of steel wool and hide it near the bottom of the campfire.

All it takes is a single drop of water on the lump... fire from water :)
[ I have never done this at camp!]
-tom
 

AJ_Dual

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Do you still play jokes on the tenderfeet on their first camping trip, and give them an assignment to rub two sticks together and get the campfire started?

It was done to me, but I was already well-read at the time, and had been reading the Boy Scout manual for some time prior while still in Cub Scouts. While he went away to go swimming, I stole the bootlaces of the older scout who had "ordered" me to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. I used the laces to make the bow for a fire drill, and I eventually got the fire lit just before he and the rest of his clique came back. (It was still darn hard to do, but worth it…)

My ingenuity was rewarded by getting in beauceaup trouble for starting a fire unsupervised. I was punished by having my "Fire Chit" and my "Tote'n Chit" (Your Scout "license" to use fire, and blades, i.e. pocketknife & hatchet) cards confiscated for the duration of the campout. You see, the boy who thought he'd have some fun at my expense with the "stick trick" was the best friend of the Scoutmaster's son, and I was a nobody.

I learned a much more valuable lesson, my first introduction to "Troop Politics". :)

I suppose you could try a 21st century version of the prank, give the newbie a 5mW pointer, tell him it's a "Laser fire-starter" and see how long he'll shine it on some tinder.
 

greenLED

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Cornkid said:
Thanks guys but I have somethig better: Pottasium, Magnesium, steel wool

Uhhmmm, Tom... Do yourself a favor and do not try this at home or with fellow Scouts (or anyone for that matter). Potassium SHOULD NOT be used outside extremely controlled settings. Play all you want with Mg shavings (and be careful), but stay away from the potassium; stay safe. Even if you were talking about potassium chlorate, I'd stay away from it.
 

Geologist

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At large jamborees, we used to send the newbie scouts to other Troop campsites to borrow tent locks and smoke sifters. Since everyone was "in the know", if they COULD keep a straight face, they would explain that they had no extras and send the "victim" to the next campsite!
 

Cornkid

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Actually Potassium is significantly more reactive than Sodium.
I use 100% pure Pottassium lumps straight from mineral oil. I am fully aware of the danger in messing with such a volatile substance.

-tom
 
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