How to Fire Harden Wood

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Fire-hardening wood presents a challenge, especially to a novice. The term actually is a misnomer, since the heat and not the fire hardens the wood. Heat from the fire fuses the wood grain tighter together, creating a very hard, strong surface. This helps strengthen objects, such as wooden bows and arrow tips. However, if you hold the wood too close or too long over the fire it will scorch or even burn. Scorched spots and burns weaken the wood and ruin the look of your piece. You must have patience with fire-hardening and be willing to try it several times before the wood hardens successfully.

Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal
  • Lighter
  • Fire pit
  • Fuel (more charcoal, wooden kindling)
  • Wooden object
  • Clean out your fire pit, or create one by digging a wide, shallow hole and lining it with large rocks. Place a small pyramid of charcoal in the center of the pit and light the corners of the pyramid on fire. Blow gently until the entire pyramid is aflame.

  • Add little pieces of charcoal or wood kindling to the fire until you have a steadily-burning flame. It should be at least 6 inches high with a blue center.

  • Hold your wooden object (i.e. bow, arrowhead, spear, etc.) about 3 inches above the highest flame. Move the object constantly, turning it gently in your fingers to keep the heat even and avoid scorching.

  • Check your object frequently. When the surface appears dull and dry, all the moisture is gone and the wood is hardened. For large objects, move on to the next section and harden it the same way. For small objects, lay it in a dry place to cool.

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