Milestone Post #500! The One Stick Fire Challenge

by Todd Walker

You’ve helped us reached a milestone – today marks our 500th article here!!

Post #500: The One Stick Fire ChallengeDirt Road Girl and I want to thank each of you for supporting us on our self-reliance journey! We’re closing in on 1,000,000 visits. But the numbers aren’t what matter to us. Freely passing on knowledge, skills, and lore is our heartbeat of this site.

We express our deep appreciation for your support for our family – especially the prayers and thoughts you sent DRG’s way as she beat stage 4 cancer! We are HUMBLED and burning both ends of this second chance at LIFE!

Appropriately, our 500th post covers one of my favorite topics: Fire!

The One Stick Fire Challenge

A few months ago Justin Wolfe issued a challenge on his YouTube channel (grierwolfe). The purpose of the challenge was to make a sustainable fire with only one stick/log. An interesting concept and survival skill indeed. I love a good challenge and Doing the Stuff of self-reliance so I was in.

The guidelines (not rules) are to use one stick and one or two cutting tools to make fire. You’ll also need an ignition source. I’ve only seen ferro rods used in this challenge so that’s what I chose.


Here’s my break down on the tools I used:

  1. Knife – Condor Kephart
  2. Saw – Bacho Laplander folding saw
  3. Combustion – Ferro rod (the big one – 6″ Long x 1/2″ Diameter)


Your choice of wood is determined by available resources and the degree of difficulty you prefer in the challenge. For an easier fire, select any soft wood like cedar, pine, or poplar. Up the ante with oak or hickory.

The location of my personal space (shelter) is loaded with poplar and cedar. I chose a dead-fall limb from a poplar tree about the size of my forearm.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Using a plumber’s vise to hold the wood for sawing a one foot length of poplar

Others have used larger diameter logs for the challenge. Most of my shelter was built with dead cedar which I had available. But I went with poplar. Both cedar and poplar have bark that can be processed into fine fibrous material to form a bird’s nest. I noticed that Justin used a larger section of cottonwood but chose not to use the bark for his tinder bundle.

As I mentioned earlier, there are no rules or time frame in this friendly challenge. What matters is that we are trading theory for action by Doing the Stuff to improve our skills. Watching and doing are worlds apart.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Processing the round via the baton method

A benefit of building a personal space or base camp is furniture. I took advantage of the wood anvil and cedar rounds for my work station. Begin by splitting the wood with a your cutting tool. Batoning a knife, machete, or axe works.

You want to process three sizes of wood from your one stick:

  • Pencil-lead sized (smallest – feather stick curls and scrapings)
  • Pencil sized (small)
  • Thumb sized (largest)
Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

L to R: Thumb, pencil, pencil lead, and bird’s nest

Tinder Bundle

There are few ways to create a good tinder bundle for this challenge. Use the outer bark if it’s fibrous like poplar or cedar. Processed down, the bark makes this challenge a bit more easy. Only use the sap wood and heart wood of your stock for more of a challenge. Either way, process enough pencil-lead to feed the fire from your tinder bundle.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Twist and rub poplar bark and separate the inner bark fibers

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Time consuming but well worth the effort

Feather Sticks

On a few pencil sized pieces, I shaved curls by propping my knife-hand on the anvil and pulling the stick towards me. I’ve found this technique coupled with a very sharp knife works well for curling smalls. On thumb sized fuel, I brace the stick at an angle and carve down the stick with the length of my blade to create the desired amount of curls for the feather stick.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Creating feather sticks

Take the time to process enough curls and shavings to add to your lit tinder bundle. More time was spent on processing the bark for the tinder bundle than any other part of the challenge. This step is even more important if you choose not to use the bark fibers. In that case, use the spine of you knife to scape off fine sawdust into a pile that will catch a spark from a ferro rod.

Dang, I’ve got to start recording this stuff on video. That’s a goal of mine this summer!

 Fire Lay

There’s really no best fire lay for this challenge. I used a twig fire lay which resembles the corner of a stacked split-rail fence. This allow ample air flow to feed the fire which is started in the corner. If the ground is wet, be sure to lay your tinder bundle on top of a few pieces of thumb size wood.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Fire lay


With the tinder bundle in place and processed wood close at hand, shower sparks down on the bird’s nest. Processed into fine fibers, the poplar bark caught fire on the second pull of my ferro rod.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Ferro rod ignition

The bird’s nest won’t burn for long so be ready to feed the feather sticks and shavings on top of the blaze. Follow those with the pencil-lead and then pencil sized sticks. Make sure not to smother the flame. As the smalls ignite, place the thumb size fuel on top.

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Adding smalls

Post #500: The One Stick Fire Challenge

Burning fuel

Again, let me encourage you to practice safe procedures when using cutting tools. Cut away from your body and never in the Triangle of Death (between your thighs from knee to crotch).

Have fun practicing your bushcraft skills. We’re all at different levels of mastery. As you hone your skills, add more challenges in a controlled environment (backyard or personal space) remembering that perfect practice makes perfect.

Have you taken the One Stick Fire Challenge? Want to? If so, let us know your results.

Thanks Again!

To close, DRG and I can’t thank you enough for your continued support and willingness to share the stuff you’re doing for self-reliance and preparedness! Y’all rock!!

Keep Doing the Stuff,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, and our Facebook page… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network on PinterestGoogle +, and Facebook.

Thank you for Sharing the Stuff!

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Milestone Post #500! The One Stick Fire Challenge

  1. Congratulations!


  2. I e-mailed this to my two boys. They are both trying to improve their fire making skills this spring.


  3. Congratulations and many thanks for your sharing and teaching!


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