Nature's Secret Larder - Cramp Ball Fire - Tutorial


Bushcraft Blog

Cramp Ball Fire - Tutorial
8th May 2009

Cramp Ball

When I’m leading bushcraft and wild food courses I’m often asked what these little, hard black ‘things’ are? Well, they have several names, but the correct name is a cramp ball Daldinia concentric, or King Alfred’s Cakes.

They are called cramp balls, as it was once believed they could help to cure cramps. And the name King Alfred’s Cakes came about because they resemble cakes (burnt ones!).

The cramp ball is a fungus which is quite easy to indentify, even for the beginner, and they can be found on dead wood, especially Ash, and they range in size from about that of a marble to the size of a small plate. They have been used for centuries to carry fire, which not only saved time, but it also saves the amount of calories expended, which is exceptionally important in times of survival.

But, before you go around collecting them, please consider the environment as they are home to various insects and play an important role in their habitat. As with any natural resource, only take what you need.


Once you have located a patch of cramp balls remove one. They are quite brittle so be careful not to shatter it whilst prying it from its home. 

Now you will need to dry it out. Do this in an open environment. They will rot if kept within a container.

Cramp ball


Once dry you need to direct a spark onto the inner part of the fungus. The inside looks a little like a cut branch. To create the sparks you will need one of these FIRESTEELS, they all do the same just but some are larger than others.

Lighting a Cramp Ball with a Firesteel

King Alfreds Cakes on fire

Once a spark lands on the fungus is should begin to glow. Now you need to gently blow onto the glowing area to allow it to spread.

Cramp Ball Fire

Once glowing you can use it right away to create a fire by lighting your tinder. I like to add the tinder on top of the cramp ball and feed it with some air to allow the ember to grow.

Smouldering Cramp Ball

Glowing Ember Cramp Ball

Eventually you will be get a flame, or at least a hot enough ember to create a fire.

Cramp ball on fire

Cramp ball smoke


Have fun giving it a go!

Catch you on the trail


David Watkins on 25/04/13

Just found some lovely samples on the hill to Oddicombe Beach nr Babbacombe, Devon


Neil on 21/12/12

I was taught to do this recently and it does work. They smell quite pleasant when they smoulder too.

hiit on 14/05/12

I like your fantastic web site. Just what I was searching for!
Best regards,

Kris on 14/09/10

Steve, im pleased the article helped. Thanks for reading.

Steve Killick on 14/09/10

Excellent, now I know what to look out for, I've heard of them before and now I know how to use them I will add one to my tinderbox - keep up the good work!

James on 12/01/10

Where can i buy some cramp balls ?

Kris on 06/01/10

Hi Jeroen,

Haha, i didn't spot that until you pointed it out.

Jeroen on 06/01/10

nice tutorial, its quite easy to follow
did anyone see the smiling face in the fire in the last pic?

bushcraftboy98 on 10/09/09

i've been doing bushcraft for 3 years this is a great method i yosed it on scout surival camp

Leave Your Comments

(not displayed on the site)