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Chucknuck – The ultimate char cloth?

Was looking at reddit today and saw that someone made something called a chucknuck. I had never heard of it before, so the adventure began! But first, I want to explain what char cloth is. 

Char cloth has been one of the most effective ways to start a fire using flint and steel or a ferro rod. If you are unfamiliar with char cloth, you cut up an old 100% cotton t shirt and put those strips into an Altoids tin. Punch a small hole in the top of the Altoids tin and then throw the entire tin into a campfire. The heat from the fire will then convert the cotton shirt into char cloth through a process called pyrolysis. In layman’s terms it burns the shirt inside the tin, but not fully because it is slowly burned in an oxygen deprived environment. What remains looks exactly like your shirt pieces, except black. This char cloth is extremely fragile because it is just made up of carbon. The benefit of this new creation is that if a single spark of a flint and steel or ferro rod touches it, the char cloth will hold onto that spark and it will grow. You then transfer that piece of char cloth to a tinder bundle and is a fast and easy way to start a fire.

The one downside of char cloth though is how brittle it is. Even today, I tried to pull out a piece of from my zip lock baggie of char cloth in my fire kit and I couldn’t pull out the whole piece, it always breaks into a smaller piece. If you do not store it well, when you go to use your char cloth it could just be powdered ashes because it got agitated too much in your pack.

A chucknuck is supposed to be the more durable solution to a char cloth. Below is my experience making one today.

I started off with an empty .223 and .308 win casing. Any rifle casing should work. 

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I then made my first mistake and I cut through the extractor groove. I thought this would be a good place to put my saw blade and keep it from slipping all over as I started cutting.

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The issue is that it did cut off the rim, but I thought it would open me up into the inside of the casing. Instead I just opened up access to the primer well. Next time I will cut right above the extractor groove, and it should be alot less cutting and less steps.

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To fix my little mistake, I just drilled out the bottom of the casing. 

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The finished product is a casing that has a large opening at the bottom.

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I then took a roll of cotton twine that I got from the dollar store and laid out multiple strips a bit longer than a foot long. I fed the twine through the casing.

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I wanted the end product to be a foot long so that extra length helped out when I tied off the end.

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WE ARE DONE! But what is it!?

Well, you are supposed to burn/char the end of the rope sticking out of the tip of the casing. This creates a small piece of char cloth that you then can retract into the casing to protect it by pulling on the longer end of the rope. Whenever you need a piece of char cloth to catch a spark, you can push the rope back out through the tip of the casing and expose that area.

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Did it work? No, not for me. I think I have some cheap junk twine and should find a better quality cotton string. The tip wouldn’t accept a spark, and was even hard to light with a lighter. Char cloth won this round against my chucknuck. I do want to go out and buy some quality cotton rope though and give it another shot. 

I did a little research after my failure and found that this guy on YouTube was able to make a successful chucknuck. And I was right, he used some good looking rope, so I think it should work if I get some. 

What do you guys think? Are you going to give this a try? How do you like to start your fires? If you do make one, PLEASE share it here and show me up! I want to see a working model.

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  • Comments (2)

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      Thanks for sharing! When you want to protect the charred end by pulling the string back inside the casing, is there still enough friction between the rope and casing to hold everything in place during storage? Or does it feel like the casing will slip off?

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        Great question! The more rope and material you pack into the casing, the tighter and harder it is to the pull rope in and out. So if you will make one, definetly try pulling it in and out multiple times to make sure it is nice and secure in there.

        Here is a quick solution I came up with to make it even more secure though. Just fold the excess string next to the casing and secure it all together with a rubberband.

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