biggest problem with ice lenses so far has been the
ability to make a lens that has a tight enough focal
point to light tinder. There was always the
trade-off between the quality of the lens and the
size of the lens. To compound this problem, if
we needed to make a big lens, then we needed a big
piece of ice. As described in the first
fire-by-ice articles, getting clear ice isn't very
With this tube-polishing technique a number of new
avenues have been opened:
1) We only need a small piece of clear ice -
which is much easier to find and/or create. In
the above photos, where the smallest sphere was
made, the starting point was something that looked a
lot like an icicle. Very often, icicles are
perfectly clear - and they're easy-pickin in the
winter. The icicles are already in an almost
cylindrical shape - so much of the work is already
done! An icicle provides: clear material, a
hand-hold, is partially preformed, and is on
display. Wow, what a starting point!
2) Since this tube-polishing technique guarantees
a perfect sphere - we have removed much of the skill
element to this technique. The better the
original roughed-out sphere, the less polishing
required. A very poor original sphere will
still end up being perfect, one just needs to polish
There is still exploration that can go into
sources for the tube. A longer tube is nice,
since it is easy to hold. I also tried various
sized "rings" and they also worked well. One
could also use a sheet of material with a circular
hole in it. Other natural materials might
include: coconut shells, sea shells, nut shells etc.
The cutting edge on the tools can also be optimized.
Maybe a serrated edge for the rough polishing, and
then the hook-edge/burnish for the final polish.
In a survival situation, one could use cans, jars,
lids, pieces of pipe, rings, bracelets etc.
And now for something completely different......
While sitting and polishing the ice spheres, I
couldn't help but think about the monks and their
Sand Mandelas. Both tasks involve lots of
labour that produces something that is beautiful.
Also, in both cases, the beauty is impermanent - the
sand is brushed away - the sphere melts.
Starting a fire from a perfect ice sphere is
magical. These ice spheres are as much art as
they are survival!
On a final note - this whole fire-by-ice project
has been a great example of the power of the
internet and the sharing of ideas. Keep those
emails coming and let me know about your ideas,
experiments and results:
Addendum: The smallest ice sphere I have gotten to work is just under one inch in
diameter. I'm sure that one could still go smaller. It's all a matter of optimizing everything -
tinder, outside temperature, height of sun, clearness of ice, etc. The other factor is one of
practicality in making the sphere. When it gets too small, it gets harder to form the sphere.
Fire from Ice #4: