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Briar Patch Outdoors

Ice Fire Field Test - Page 2

by David McIntyre

At the time I found the ice I only had my Victorinox Huntsman Swiss Army Knife.  It was already late afternoon and there was no way I could attempt to make fire, could I even harvest the ice?  Unless you come across a large icicle, harvesting a block of ice four inches thick is no small task without the proper tools for the job.  A hatchet would be ideal as would a folding pruning saw but I didnít have either.  I finally resorted to prying up a pointed rock from the frozen creek bed with a stick.  Using the rock as a hammer I was able to smash out one platter sized slab of ice, and a smaller one the size of a cereal bowl.  I propped these up in a shady spot to preserve them for the next day.

In the morning the sun was shining through a slight, high haze in the sky but I judged the sun conditions to be acceptable for an attempt.  I returned to the forest dressed the same way as before and with the SAK as my only tool.  I decided to attempt the ice lens with my smaller piece of ice.  I was still far down the learning curve and didnít want to work out my techniques on the best of my raw material.

I already knew from the excellent article "Fire From Ice" by Rob Bicevskis, that I needed to make a sphere.  The refractive properties of ice are such that it needs an aggressive lens to focus a narrow beam.  Using the saw of the Huntsman I removed a rectangular block of ice about two inches thick and three inches long.  The small blade on the Huntsman was the perfect tool to square off the sides.   Ice shaves very easily, almost too easy, you cannot rush this process.  I quickly learned that being too enthusiastic while shaving off the corners and ridges can easily remove too much material.  It is essential to hold the ice in a gloved hand to prevent it from melting and becoming too slippery to hold.  If you drop the ice ball on a hard surface it will shatter and put you back to start.  Work over deep snow  or soft leaves if possible.

I first shaved the long sides of the rectangle until I formed a cylinder, and then rounded the ends.  Once it was down to a rough sphere I wrapped the wrist strap from my camera around the center so I could hold the lens and adjust its optical defects.  At first I did this with heat from my fingers but this made them numb.  I quickly discovered that my tongue was a much better tool, enabling me to feel every bump and ridge on the lens and reduce them with much greater control.  Blowing gently on the surface of the lens melted it slightly and greatly increased the clarity.

It took me about an hour and half to create my very first ice sphere.  It is difficult to measure the exact time it took because I was also making a video of the process.  Iím sure my next one will go much quicker.  By then, however, the sky was totally overcast and it was beginning to snow.  This put an end to any thoughts of testing the lens.


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Briar Patch Outdoors
219 Holmes Street
Durand MI 48429
(989) 288-0168

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