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Used a Firesteel For the First Time - A Few Questions

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by cm_bushman, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. cm_bushman


    Oct 22, 2012
    My wife bought me a LMF Army model with a striker as a small pre-Father's Day gift, and I used it for the first time yesterday.

    I estimate that I used 50-100 strikes to light a ripped up paper towel on my concrete porch (great test of my abilities, right?), on a very mild, nearly windless day. I tried it after to see if I could hit on a better strategy, but after 150+ attempts, I simply gave up, as my hands were starting to stiffen up.

    The LMF did its part, after a few strikes, it was throwing nice beefy sparks right onto the paper towel pieces, so I'm left wondering about the viability of a ferro rod in a survival situation. If it takes 100+ strikes on a mild June day on my porch to strike bone dry paper, how will I fair when I am cold, wet, and lost using damp grass and wood shavings?

    So my question now is: Is this typical for you guys when using a Firesteel? Is there a special technique it sounds like I'm missing? (I hold the striker stationary and draw back with the ferro rod, adding a little flick of the wrist, which seemed to give large sparks that hit the tinder more often then not) Are there other methods, like a fire piston, that you guys like better as a reliable, long term firestarting technique? I'll be carrying storm matches and a lighter in any case, but I like the idea of having a tool that will work on a longer timescale if I need it to.

    I don't mean to detract from ferro rods as a survival tool, and I really like the idea of them, a perfect blend of modern and primitive technique. I just want to put my experience out there for anyone else who is interested in trying this technique. I'm sure the fault lies with me and not the product.
  2. roadkill7205


    Apr 6, 2013
    I have a hard time making ferro rods work for me, as well. It's frustrating.
  3. Dave Behrens

    Dave Behrens

    Feb 25, 2011
    Sounds like a few possibilities...

    1. Striking to far from material, need to be as close as possible
    2. Try to get the sparks to hit the "edge" of the material not the flat
    3. I tend to pull the ferro rod back while pushing the striker forward, gets larger sparks and better direction, IME
  4. willseeyalater


    Jan 7, 2012
    Get a lot of different materials to try. Paper, cotton balls, dryer lint, cedar bark, dry grass. Each of these can work but things like paper really need to be worked into a fibery bundle. Same with cedar bark, put it through a process pounding it with a rock to loosen the fibers. Try dryer lint and it should touch off as soon as a good spark hits it. You just have to get familiar with how different flammable tinders react.
  5. PitchAndMoment


    Feb 22, 2013
    I was once coached to " think that you're trying to remove material" from the rod. You can get sparks off a fairly gentle scrape, but if you really dig in like you're trying to scrape a layer off the rod, the size and quality of the spark is much better. Dry cotton balls, shredded paper towels, or dryer lint should light with minimal effort.

    If all else fails, check out the BlastMatch or Sparkie (my personal preference) from Ultimate Survival Technologies. Damn near idiot proof.
  6. wildwilly2


    Apr 13, 2007
    Try something other than a paper towel.I don't know if some are treated to be fire resistant or not but some brands are hard to get to burn with a match.
  7. cm_bushman


    Oct 22, 2012
    I'll try dryer lint. I was thinking of using Vaseline soaked cotton balls, but my logic was if I was going to go through the trouble of making and carrying prepared tinder, I wouldn't use a ferro rod. I'll be using a lighter or matches primarily, and would carry the ferro rod in case all else failed or was lost. I suppose I could carry my Firesteel and tinder together though. I suppose practice is the best medicine.

    I got as close as I could to the tinder on my first two attempts, but ended up scattering it a few times. I'll try some alternate tinders, I've been itching to try Fatwood.
  8. Goose_52


    Feb 8, 2009
    Get the tip of the rod right into your tinder bundle. Even better if you can brace the tip into the bundle to hold it steady. Scrape the rod with firm but steady pressure.
  9. HSC ///

    HSC /// KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 7, 2012
    This is totally correct, I just came from a 7 day primitive skills course where I made fire with a bow drill, The preparation of the tinder bundle is very important.
    Understanding fire the fire management process seems simple but there is some learning to it. Learning how to build up the fire gradually was huge for me. Think of the opposite extreme - like trying to light a house on fire with a Bic lighter.

  10. KuRUpTD


    Aug 5, 2008
    Firesteels are great fire-starting tools, but there is definitely a learning curve also paper towels isn't the greatest choice of tinder either.

    Try placing the tip (end) of the firesteel into your tinder pile and then give it a good hard downward scrape with some pressure ... it should give plenty of sparks.
  11. pilgrimuk


    Apr 18, 2006
    we use these all the time on our courses, agree with a lot that has been said above; kitchen towel is definitely not the best tinder.

    Also it takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the knack they're pretty much the best way to get a fire going; I've used them in jungle and arctic environments and they would always be my first choice, particularly with petroleum jelly and cotton wool.

    As with everything; practice makes perfect and experiment with different tinders and have fun!
  12. Quirt


    Oct 10, 2005
    I literally went thru one entire steel before I truly mastered it. Now I'm consistent 1-3 strikes to get a fire started with 7 on the upper end side in all weather conditions. I also light my wood stove with one every night thru-out the winter to keep my skills current.

    Start with ideal materials in your garage or patio. Build up your confidence.

    Keep in mind the sparks are advertised as really high BTU which is all well and good but the heat source is extremely short duration. Therefore memorize this: the shorter the duration of your heat source the finer and dryer the tinder. Grass is too course as a primary tinder as are feather sticks until you've really mastered the technique and truly understand the science. You need to line the inside of your tinder bundle with super fine cedar dust as was suggested or learn how to make resin duff/dust. Dry sagebark dust is my personal favorite. Line your tinder bundle with super fine highly ignitable materials and aerate or fluff the fine materials up (they tend to compress down tight) Make some super fine sawdust with a jigsaw and try that as a starter.

    Another hint especially if your striker is disturbing the tinder bundle is to hold the striker static and pull the steel toward you. If you hold the steel static and push the striker toward the bundle novices tend to make contact with the bundle disturbing it or knocking it over - do ask me how I know this!!!
  13. Tixx


    Mar 19, 2011
    Give me one strike and I can hit that thing and light it immediately using the back of my F1. Maybe the striker is dull? Change angles. Try Toilet paper. Are you getting it to shower sparks 150 times onto the papertowel prior to starting it on fire? I love a bic lighter and firesteel.com gobspark. Greatest combo of starters in my opinion. But LMF is good as well. Never had a problem with them.
  14. sideways


    Feb 19, 2013
    A firesteel is probably one of the most difficult ways to get a fire going out of the commercially available methods. Primitive methods where you rub a few sticks together are more difficult. Lighters, matches, fire starters and flares are easier. On the other hand firesteels are not very prone to failure. I'd only really bring the firesteel as a backup to less fiddly methods. Especially if you are still getting a handle on how to use it.

    Look up videos from ray mears or cody lundin and look at the tinder bundles they use. Also here is some discussion on the more surefire ways of starting fires. http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/1059604-Why-no-love-for-flares
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
  15. JV3

    JV3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 17, 2010
    that lmf army model uses a ferrocerium rod which works well with cottonballs and other really fluffy materials. for anything more difficult to work with i much prefer a misch metal rod - it'll easily light wood shavings and feathersticks. goinggear.com and firesteel.com sells the misch metal type to name a few sites.
  16. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    Try holding the tinder with the scraper on top -- edge up -- between your thumb and first finger. ___|____

    Scrape the ferro rod across the edge of the scraper at right angles to the scraper.

    = ====>

    This method tends to concentrate the sparks in the space formed by the side of the scraper and the more-or-less horizontal surface of the tinder.

    It also allows the work to be done at chest level so it is closer to your mouth for blowing to accelerate the sparks to flame.
  17. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    All ferrocerium rods contain Mischmetall.

    There are different formulas that give different results, just as some "magnesium bars" (famously the "Doan Tool") are better than other (typically cheaper) ones that often have more aluminum and less magnesium in the alloy.
  18. KuRUpTD


    Aug 5, 2008
    Here's a video that tonym made a few years back using 2 different types of firesteels to light feathersticks.

  19. JV3

    JV3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 17, 2010
    you're splitting hair. everyone who worked with both calls them "ferro" and "misch"...so what should the "ferro" rod be called then to differentiate that formula with misch metal?

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