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Starting a Fire with Flint and Steel

bearmiller

3 min read

Feb 5

86

0


The ability to start a fire with flint and steel, or a ferro rod and a knife, is a skill every outdoors person should know.  I learned this skill a very long time ago, and I taught my son how to do this when he was eight years old, and I am confident that he still knows how to do that twenty years later.  While it is always best practice to have at least two methods to start a fire with you at all times while in the wilderness, there may be a time when you need to start a fire with flint and steel. 

 

Char cloth is something you should carry with you in your survival gear.  Char cloth is simply cotton cloth that has been charred, will catch a spark, and will ignite a fire bundle when you blow on it.  You can easily make char cloth to keep in your survival kit, it is a very easy process.  Take an old tee shirt, cut some 2” x 4” strips, put 6 strips in a metal container, like an Altoids tin, poke a hole in the top of the tin to allow air to flow out, and put the tin on the coals of a campfire.  You could do this on a grill, or even on the burner of a stove.  You don’t want the tin container to get so hot that it burns the contents inside, but you want it to get hot enough that it chars the strips of cloth, meaning that it turns the cloth black.

 

There are several products available today that can replace char cloth, but the important aspect of these fire starters is that they need to be able to catch a spark.  And if you find yourself in a dire survival situation, there are options to find tender that will catch a spark, like taking your knife and shaving some fuzz off your socks or the inside of your sweatshirt.  You can also use pine sap or shavings of wood from sap-heavy wood of any kind to catch a spark.  If you don’t have a flint or ferro rod, rocks like quartz will create a spark when you strike your knife or hatchet against them.


 

The key to flint and steel fire starting is your technique of how you throw the sparks to your tinder pile.  If you are using an old-time flint and steel, you have no option but to strike your steel against the flint towards your fire bundle.  This can be problematic in that your striking motion towards the tinder pile can knock down the tinder pile, and sparks won’t catch the tinder. 

 

Rather than forcing a knife, or whatever form of steel, down a source that would create a spark, the method of drawing the knife backwards against the flint will still shoot the hot sparks forward without disturbing the fire bundle.  I have seen this on so many survival shows and even some Instagram survivor videos where they show people scraping a knife down a ferro rod towards a fire bundle, that is not the proper technique. 


If you have made a good receptacle for the sparks, the method of pulling your steel away from the spark source will shoot sparks into your fire nest without disturbing your nest, and you can blow on that nest once it has a spark to create the fire starter that you need to get your fire going.  A good spark nest will contain a handful-sized mix of dry, crumpled leaves, dry grass, shavings of wood with a high amount of sap in it, and some fire starters come with a magnesium rod that you can shave off particles into your fire nest that will help intensify the heat in the nest.  Once you see that the nest has caught a spark, pick the nest up and gently blow into it to turn that spark into a flame.  If the wind is blowing (but not too hard), you can hold the nest up into the wind and that can get the fireball going.

 

Once the nest has turned into flames, place it underneath some dry sticks the diameter of a pencil or smaller, and continue adding larger sticks as the fire starts to grow.  Obviously, have all of your fuel for the fire precut and easily accessible as you build the fire.  And there you have it!

bearmiller

3 min read

Feb 5

86

0

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