I have seen a few videos of people using an interesting friction-fire technique, and a couple of them called it a "fire roll." To do this, they fluffed up a cotton ball, put something in it such as ashes, rolled it up in their hands into a worm-like strand, then they very vigorously rolled it back and forth between two wood boards. It did not take long at all, looked fairly easy, and they got a fire started.

While this is cool, it was done with household items (2x4, cotton balls). Is it possible to transfer this technique to wild foraged resources? Obviously, use split wood that you collect instead of 2x4s, and use the smoothest wood you can split so it doesn't catch. But what about a cotton ball substitute? And the ashes that were put into the cotton ball to provide increased friction?

Yes, ashes we can grab from a previous fire if we have had one, but it would be nice if we can find a substitute for that too in case you have not had a previous fire.

Are there any natural resources that can be foraged that can be used in a "fire roll" friction-fire technique?

The cotton ball replacement is the most important part of this question. And yes, I know that cotton comes from a plant, but I am not sure if this will work with raw cotton, and cotton does not grow in the north. Also, it would be preferable, though not necessary, if we could get an affirmative answer that lists a general way to process many plants to do this.

  • I wonder if some fluffy seed heads would do. After all, that's what cotton is. You'd need a lot though, in dry weather, and at the right time of year. The actual seeds might provide the friction-increasing lumps. Unfortunately while my garden is very good at producing dandelions in summer, even if I had any now they'd be soaking wet. Hence this speculative comment rather than an answer
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 12:45

3 Answers 3


Seed fluff: wild clematis, milkweed, dandelion, thistle, salsify...

Birch bark: Shred into narrow pieces (1/16 wide

Cedar bark: shred.

Nettle fibers.

In general google anything that could make rope or twine.

  • Whoever down-voted this, could you please let us know if you think these things will not work for the purpose intended?
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 16:02
  • 1
    And dried. All of this dried really well. It costs so much energy to heat even the slightest amount of water. Mushrooms are another option to try, but again shredded and dried. The tricky part is going to make the roll you describe and making it hold its shape.
    – Monster
    Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 6:14
  • Please note that I am not ignoring this Q&A, nor do I believe this answer is wrong. I merely have not marked it as the correct answer since I have not been able to verify it yet, though I have tried. People on youtube videos make this technique look easy, so I was hoping it would be, but I have not yet been successful at it. I will keep trying.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 20:11

When it looks easy and it's not secretly "helped" it usually means every condition and material must be just right.For example I tried to make fire with bow-drill but the type of wood generated no sawdust to catch the spark,and it only got hot.Pay close attention to everthing that's described in a method,and you will have more success.


I bet most folks have a piece of cotton based clothing on them personally...or hair...hair is extremely flammable...it kills me on the survival shows where they try to make a fire and one of the persons has long hair and they never cut some of it to use as tinder.🤣

  • It might work ok as tinder in general, but a couple issues: 1) even if I had long hair I wouldn't bother to use it unless there were no other tinder sources - usually there is something as long as you are patient... but yeah, if there's nothing then try hair, good call, 2) I'm not sure how well it would work for this specific technique, as you need materials that stay wadded up together while rolling well between other objects and it needs to produce the friction... I'm guessing hair wouldn't produce enough heat from friction, but we can try it out at some point anyway just to see.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 17:08

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