How to Make a Simple Pull-Tab Fire Starter

How to Make a Simple Pull-Tab Fire Starter


You can create a powerful and effective firestarter that may be an ideal option in windy or rainy conditions.  It combines the benefits of a match or lighter, fuel and tinder in one easy to use device that is portable.  Let’s take a look at this simple trick, because it may be the perfect compliment to your fire-starting bag of tricks.

Required Items

Roll of toilet paper

Some paint or masking tape

Matches (wooden ones)

Lighter fluid

Quality match striker from a matchbox

Scrap pieces of cardboard, paper or similar material

Preparing the Trigger


The first step is to cut away the match striker from the side of the box.  Cut it to about 2 inches long and trim the sides so there isn’t much material other than the strike pad.  Take a couple strips of tape and wrap it around the top third of one side of the strike pad.  You want to have some of the tape extend from the top to serve as the pull-tab later.  Consider adding another layer or two of tape to make it longer and stronger. 


Place two of the matches side-by-side along the strike pad just below the edge of the tape.  It’s fine if the bottom of the matchsticks extends past the edge of the striker piece.  Take one strip of tape that’s about a foot long and place it atop the matches and striker, but leave the match heads exposed.  Allow an inch of tape to hang over the matches and pad.


Next, place the strike pad assembly vertically against the side of the toilet paper roll.  Center it between the top and bottom.  Wrap the tape around the roll to secure it in place.  You should have enough tape to give you two or three passes around the roll to make a nice, tight fit.  Tape off the bottom of the roll but leave a small gap or two so that air can get in there once the fire starts.  You want to keep the bottom covered in order to hold the material that you use for tinder trapped inside.

Deploying the Starter


You should now have a canister that is covered in the bottom, matches attached to the side and the pull tab that sticks out above the top.  The next step is to load the tinder and make it nice and dense.  Use whatever material you like, but cardboard and thick paper that has not been treated works well.  Some newspaper clippings can also be used, but they will burn quickly once ignited.

All you need to do is pour some alcohol over the material and let it soak a bit when ready to deploy.  Simply place the canister against your tinder or kindling, give the tab a good pull and it should cause the matches to ignite. 

Lighter fluid may not be the most practical option out in the field.  However, you can get the same effect by gathering and using pine sap instead.  Coat the outside of the toilet paper roll and cover your fuel material with the gooey substance.  Just make sure to avoid getting sap on the strike pad or match heads.  Using the sap gives you the option to “arm” the canister beforehand since it doesn’t evaporate or release fumes.  It also burns slower.  However, it is also not as easy to ignite, which is why a good, thin coating around the toilet paper roll will help.

There’s plenty of room to modify this trick, but you get the general idea.  Feel free to tinker around until you’ve come up with something that can be beneficial to you in a survival situation.  You can never have too many fire-starters, and this one is brilliant in its simplicity. 

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