With their axe they split a pine log (Fig. 42), then cut it into sticks about a foot long and about the thickness of their own knotted thumbs, or maybe a trifle thicker (Fig. 40); after that they proceed to whittle these sticks, cutting deep shavings (Fig. 37), but using care to leave one end of the shavings adhering to the wood; they go round and round the stick with their knife blade making curled shavings until the piece of kindling looks like one of those toy wooden trees one used to find in his Noah's Ark on Christmas morning (Fig. 37).
When a backwoodsman finishes three or moresticks he sets them up wigwam form (Fig. 38). The three sticks having been cut from the centre of a pine log, are dry and maybe resinous, so all that is necessary to start the flame is to touch a match to the bottom of the curled shavings (Fig. 38).
Before they do this, however, they are careful to have a supply of small slivers of pitch pine, white pine or split pine knots handy (Fig. 36). These they set up around the shaved sticks, maybe adding some hemlock bark, and by the time it is all ablaze they are already putting on larger sticks of ash, black birch, yellow birch, sugar maple or oak.
For be it known that however handy pitch pine is for starting a fire, it is not the material used as fuel in the fire itself, because the heavy smoke from the pitch blackens up the cooking utensils, gives a disagreeable taste to the food, spoils the coffee and is not a pleasant accompaniment even for a bonfire.
In the North woods, in the land of the birch trees, green birch bark is universally used as kindling with which to start a fire; green birch bark burns like tar paper. But whether one starts the fire with birch bark, shaved pine sticks or miscellaneous dry wood, one must remember that