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Midwest Native Skills institute: The Rediscovering the Old Ways Series, Fire: Volumes 1&2

If you’re reading this on it is fair to say that you have an interest in the outdoors. The canopy over woodsmonkey central doesn’t get much more specific than that though. If it is something you can use in the outdoors just throw it in the reviewers pit and one monkey or another will latch onto it and check it out. Speaking only for me, this monkey is easily as eager to check something out if it is old as if it is new. I have just as much interest in learning ancient knife building methods as learning fluidized bed withdraw single crystal heat treatment.


I personally feel this way because you could not have ever invented the later without first understanding the former. Such is the case with outdoor skills. The wilderness doesn’t change much, contrary to our human efforts. You can use any method to start a fire now that worked in the eighteen hundreds. This brings us to our offering today. Two DVD’s from the Midwest Native Skills Institute. Both of these DVD’s are on the subject of fire; FIRE Volumes 1 &2 from the Rediscovering the Old Ways series. These two separate DVD volumes are both geared towards teaching a fuller understanding of, not only the methods of fire building but, the fundamentals of fire itself. From here the instructors take you through ever increasingly complex methods of fire production.

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Volume one is an extremely detailed review of the more commonly known methods of fire production. What you might consider the Stone Age and pioneer methods. Flint and steel, bow drill, and hand drill to list a few. In each instance there is also a wealth of supporting details for each various method. For example the flint and steel lessons aren’t just showing you how to use each. There is information about what tinder works the best and where it can be found. Also the production of the preferred tinder, char cloth is discussed. Lessons even delve into the theory of the steel, why it needs to be certain hardness. The sheer volume of information is surprising. Coupled with the fact that there isn’t simply discussion but demonstration as well, makes these lessons a real gem.

Having been to my fair share of primitive skills training and helping instruct others I feel that instruction in these matters is best done in the woods with hands on format, true dirt time if you will. That being said I can see a real advantage with this format. I’ve had a chance to have some truly magnificent training and when I’m there and doing it I soak up the information like a sponge. It almost feels like I am remembering something forgotten when I learn a new primitive skill. Once time gets between me and the last time I performed these tasks it never fails to draw a veil over the once practiced and honed skill. Leaving me to fumble through and reason out the how’s and what fors of how best to achieve the goal. The advantage of the DVD format is in review. There is no deviation or degradation in the lesson. You can have the instructor repeat himself endlessly if need be. If you let yourself get rusty on the proper stance for a bow drill fire or happen to forget the preferred wood to use to construct a certain fireboard. You don’t have to call the instructor, delve into your notes, or schedule a refresher. The answer you seek is just a few button clicks of the remote away. I have really enjoyed this advantage of the DVD instruction. Another simple advantage is price. You can buy these DVD’s for a fraction of the price any reputable skills instructor could give you comparable training for.

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Once you have the skill set needed to produce a fire with hand drill or bow drill there really is a figurative opening of the door to the ease of fire production. That is to say that if you can successfully make a primitive skills fire it makes it that much easier to make a fire with modern or alternative methods. This concept is represented in the “one match fire” section of the DVD. Knowing the proper tinder selection and prep. Building an understanding of the dynamics of nurturing a fire with gradually increasing sized combustibles and knowing how much material is needed. These things are all covered and serve to instill, once practiced and applied, a confidence in one’s ability to produce a fire from a single ignition.

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Once you have all that under your belt you are ready to move to Fire Volume 2, more than 40 ways to make fire without matches. This is where the training eases up and the playing begins. Not to suggest that volume one wasn’t entertaining, but in this volume some things are done just to prove it can be. The segment on making fire from Jell-O comes to mind. The instructors are practical about the presentation too. Stating that these are not the methods for getting a fire going in the Maine woods after a spill into icy water, you would use something like a road flare. The novelty of the many varied methods should not diminish their training importance. Think of this, if you make fifty bow drill or hand drill fires you will surely have it well in hand, but it might become tedious. All the various methods in this series share the core basis of fire building. You still need your one match fire set up, the means of ignition are merely different. Therefor in trying these many methods or just a few you can break up your fire building training and really hone the foundation work while still having fun doing it.

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These DVD’s run $26.95 from the Midwest Native Skills Institute’s website at or like me you can catch them at various industry shows. Their website also offers the calendar of classes and events, as well as information about their many courses.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. It helped me take another step in obtaining confidence in fire building and surely was a treat to watch. For the price you can’t beat the knowledge packed into the DVD’s and as with any knowledge we acquire, it is weightless to carry. The mental tool box is or skills tool box is a term we throw around. If you are able to truly absorb the entirety of this series you may have to add a few drawers to that tool box to hold it all but you will surely be none the worse for wear. You might even be able to toss some of those items out of your pack you’ve come to rely on with true mastery of these skills.


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