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I have found that the dried top of the cattail that has been broken up and fluffed up will catch a spark from flint and steel very easily. In fact, if you do not watch out, the explosion of the initial flame will burn your hands before you can get out of the way. I was using a simple flint striker that fit into the side of a knife handle that I had ordered from the Sportsmans Guide Magazine. I just raked the knife blade along the length of the flint piece (about 2.5in. long X 1/8in wide), and got a large swoosh of sparks that when done close to the little pile of cattail fluff, resulted in an explosion of flame. The fluff burns out rather quickly, but with some dry leaves or other tinder next to it, results in a nice warm camp fire.
John Wither
Some people will actually place cattail fluff beneath the notch and between the fireboard and ember transfer plate for the purpose of 'holding' an ember and allowing it to grow a little bigger. I, for one, do not like cattail fluff. I have had too many embers smother out doing this.
Benjamin Pressley
I tried different tinders to no avail, until tonight. I remembered an old post about metal matches and cattail down. Which I use also for my metal match. But I couldn't do it with flint and steel. Just not a hot enough spark. However, tonight I got it, and will never lack for tinder again! Cattail does light with flint and steel, just need a little preparation. Char your cattail head in the fire for about 1 - 2 minutes, then bury it in the dirt or in a closed can. It then catches much faster than even charcloth, and burns with a hotter coal.
David Wendell