A piece of screen in your char tin makes it windproof and virtually idiot-proof. If you have ever flipped over a char tin, or had the wind pick up and blow all of your embers away; you know how frustrating that can be. A few years ago I got a great tip from a guy named Carl suggesting that I add a piece of metal window screen to the tin to contain the embers.
I thought that sounded like an interesting idea and filed it away thinking that I might stop at a hardware store to buy some eventually. Then, less than a week later my eyes spotted some garbage sticking out from the forest floor that just happened to fit the bill perfectly. This was a unique set of circumstances as a major flood happened here about fifteen years ago, and the river took some houses from upstream, smashed them up, and distributed them through the woods.
While you might not be lucky enough to run into this material in the woods, it is a cheap and very worthwhile upgrade to your char tin. I opted to cut the corners for easy folding and set mine up as a cover that sits over the top of the char. I imagine that you could cook the char with the screen, but that may put undue wear and tear on it, so I like the idea of adding after the charring process.
I didn’t have the luxury of a windy day for testing, so I recreated some seriously stormy conditions by fanning it with a kneeling pad. Without the screen, the tin would have been empty by the second gust.
The real surprise was how well it protected and held the char during some simulated tin flips. This might not be a traditional method, but it sure would be an asset if you were every counting on your char tin for fire.
I used a combination of western red cedar punk wood and black cottonwood punk wood. The cottonwood tends to be more willing to take a spark, and the cedar is prone to flaming up, so this was a great combo to use to get flames up to ignite the tinder through the screen. Of course you could always remove the screen, and put a piece of smoldering material into your bundle if you needed to be efficient with the material.