Question about 'Fire Steel' material [Archive] - Glock Talk

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MikeGoob
08-29-2011, 12:41
The steel that you use to make sparks. Fire steel or High Carbon Steel that can be scraped to create sufficient sparks to make a fire:

Does this material exist manufactured in an urban environment?

What I mean is, can this stuff only be made by an iron worker or bought for this specific task or can it be salvaged from some common parts in common use? Say a cast iron skillet, saw blades etc.

Sam Spade
08-29-2011, 12:49
Hacksaw blades work well for me.

MikeGoob
08-29-2011, 12:50
Like two hacksaw blades scraping together?

ghr1142
08-29-2011, 12:54
You can buy this fire started at your local Harbor Freight Store. think they cost around $ 3.00.

MikeGoob
08-29-2011, 12:57
I have a firesteel keychain I bought online. I was just kind of wondering hypothetical and a 'what if' scenario in a hurricane ravaged town, could someone make fire with a steel they could find?

ghr1142
08-29-2011, 13:23
To the best of my knowledge ! just plain steel wont work ! If it dose let me know. been in survival stuff for 25 + yrs. but you learn new stuff everyday..

fourdeuce2
08-29-2011, 14:23
Flint and steel will make sparks pretty easily. The ground where I live is full of a type of flint rock called chert. I make sparks often when I accidentally strike a rock with any of the steel tools I use around the yard(cutting weeds, digging, etc.).

Sam Spade
08-29-2011, 16:44
Like two hacksaw blades scraping together?

No, like hacksaw scraping a flint-like rod.

Sorry, I misunderstood what you were asking.

jdavionic
08-29-2011, 17:01
I might be mistaken (that's my caveat in case I'm wrong)...

Firesteel is mix of elements including magnesium. By scraping the firesteel, you are igniting bits of the firesteel...this is what you see in the shower of sparks. The item used to scrape it should be metal and harder than the firesteel...generally some type of steel will work. The composition of the metal item used to scrape is only important in that it should be harder than the firesteel.

quake
08-29-2011, 18:45
Short anser - no commonly-available substitute is likely to be encountered in a normal setting, not that I'm aware of.

Most of the "firesteel" fire starters are actually two-part - a larger magnesium section that you scrape shavings off of to use as tinder, and a smaller sparking section of either natural flint, or more often {and preferable imo} mischmetal. The flint/mischmetal section, you scrape quickly with something semi-sharp to create sparks onto the tinder. I just use the backside of the blade to do the scraping. Some think that's sacrilege; to each his own, but my knives are tools and meant to serve me, not the other way around.

This is the typical "air force" fire starter that's so often seen. Big (light-colored) magnesium section, and much smaller flint or mischmetal section:
http://ts1.mm.bing.net/images/thumbnail.aspx?q=1035620125256&id=d13fb03a48007673325e272965c6a272

The advantage to that style is that you have your tinder and fire (sparks) in one unit. Disadvantage is that the flint section tends to get used up well before the magnesium section. Great thing to have, but it's limited in how many fires it can be counted on to start for you since most have very small sparker segments.

If you are comfortable in being able to find (or otherwise provide) a source of tinder, a stick of mischmetal without the magnesium can go a lot longer as a sparker source, simply because there's no magnesium mass in the equation, which means for the same bulk, you've go so much more of the sparker material. I carried that two-part type, but different-shaped version for quite a while - in this pic just below the knife, with the lanyard on it {this one is almost unused - I try to keep an almost-new one actually with the knife}:
http://i51.photobucket.com/albums/f360/quake316/Cold%20Steel/TM-BSL-contents-edited.jpg

I recently swapped it for a solid mischmetal rod from www.firesteel.com; half-inch by 4 inches. Again with lanyard hole - the lanyard really makes it easier (for me at least) to actually use:
http://firesteel.com/product_images/r/firesteel_bunker_jr1__76702.jpg

Gives up the built-in tinder, but I can live with that for the increased sparking material. Compared to the (probably) 1/8" by 3" sparking stick, the 1/2" x 4" gives more than 20 times as much actual firesteel, meaning that as long as I can scrounge some tinder (relatively easy in my particular area; may not be for everybody), I've got 20 times as many fires represented in the same-size package. If you're wanting to be able to start a half-dozen or dozen fires, the more commonly-found ones are great, and work very well. If you can somehow else provide tinder and don't mind the added expense ($25-$30 or so), the solid mischmetal rod has a lifespan and the capacity of a substantially larger number of fires.

BORNGEARHEAD
08-29-2011, 18:55
I bought a lighter and put it on my keychain. :)

CitizenOfDreams
08-29-2011, 21:10
Stupid question - what is wrong with using a gas lighter? Why do survivalists prefer exotic fire starting methods?

branned
08-29-2011, 21:33
Stupid question - what is wrong with using a gas lighter? Why do survivalists prefer exotic fire starting methods?

Fire steel is often good for 8,000 to 12,000 strikes. Its safe to store for a lifetime.

How many fires will a BIC light? Safe? Shelf-life?

CitizenOfDreams
08-29-2011, 21:57
Fire steel is often good for 8,000 to 12,000 strikes. Its safe to store for a lifetime.

How many fires will a BIC light? Safe? Shelf-life?

How often are you planning to start a fire?

branned
08-29-2011, 22:00
How often are you planning to start a fire?

survivalists and preppers think LONG-TERM:supergrin:

RichJ
08-29-2011, 22:09
Fire steel isn't some kind of mystery metal; it has been around for a thousand years and in fact are relatively common artifacts that are found on archeological sites dating back to the 1500 - 1600's. French trappers always had one or two on them as it was the preferred method for starting fires during the Colonial period. How else do you think people started fires back before Bic lighters? I'm sure most folks knew how to do it with more primitive methods, but a steel was the go-to way it was done.

Instead of a stick-like thing that we are familiar with today, "antique" fire steels usually took the form of something that looked more like a "C" that you put around your knuckles and and scrapped downward on a flint or chert rock. People would tie it to a string and wear it around their neck so they would always have it on them. Many of them were really fancy and stylized but most were just plain and were commonly used as trade goods by the trappers.

For reference, here is a link for a guy who makes reproduction antique steels based on examples found at archeological sites, just to let you see what I'm talking about. Sure, the ones you can buy now are made with an alloy that make better sparks than the old ones ever did, but the concept is the same. Here's the link:

http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/firefromsteel/

OP: This is the relevant info you were looking for. *ripped from the link*

**files - excellent for knives and strikers - but be careful, some new files are low carbon inside with case hardened teeth

**car springs - usually 1095 or W1 tool steel - excellent also garage door springs, torsion bars, hay rake teeth - 1095

**lawn mower blades - yes, very good tool steel especially older ones 1095, W1, or 5160 - a very good material for strikers, and most people can get them or already have them.

MikeGoob
08-29-2011, 22:16
Stupid question - what is wrong with using a gas lighter? Why do survivalists prefer exotic fire starting methods?

Partially why I was asking was because I was wondering if there was this kind of metal in an urban environment where someone was without any lighters or dry matches. Say after a hurricane alone in an abandoned building with steel and maybe garbage but not much else.

I was playing with a firesteel I have (one with the magnesium) and it's a great tool.

CitizenOfDreams
08-29-2011, 22:20
survivalists and preppers think LONG-TERM:supergrin:

Long-term firekeeping can be a problem only for a very primitive society. If our civilization is destroyed to the point where it's unable to produce something as basic as matches, I seriously doubt that canned food and flints will help preppers survive it.

branned
08-29-2011, 22:35
Long-term firekeeping can be a problem only for a very primitive society. If our civilization is destroyed to the point where it's unable to produce something as basic as matches, I seriously doubt that canned food and flints will help preppers survive it.

You maybe making a lot of short-term assuptions? Long-term is gardening and LTS Foods like the Mormons food programs (PS, i am not LDS). Silver, Gold, PM's, Stainless Steel guns, quality and quanity US made hand knives, etc., are for long-term minded folks not short-term Americans. I buy as long-term investments (I think multi-generational in investments) in most everything that I now buy. No cheap China junk or 48-hour supplies as per FEMA:crying:

I spent a week at outdoor school teaching 6th graders how to start fires and purify water etc. They loved the Swedish Army Fire Steel:cool: Primative fire starting is using sticks and bows and is not easy to do. BYW, The U.S.G.I Magnesium and Flint Fire Starting Tool and Swedish Army Fire Steel is not the same.

branned
08-29-2011, 22:54
Inexpensive Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Mini
http://www.rei.com/product/762946/light-my-fire-swedish-firesteel-mini

I saw these lifetime warrantry:whistling: at the Reno gun show and it is excellent. Works wet even.:supergrin:

http://allweatherfirestarters.com/

http://www.allweatherfirestarters.com/?page_id=4&category=1&product_id=5

CitizenOfDreams
08-29-2011, 23:11
Partially why I was asking was because I was wondering if there was this kind of metal in an urban environment where someone was without any lighters or dry matches.

That's a perfectly good question. My sarcasm was directed towards the "survival" firestarting tools (if you going to carry something with you, why not choose a much more convenient gas lighter).

As for the urban environment... Well, I took your question as a challenge. It took me half an hour to look around, try different things and finally start a fire using a 9-volt battery, a broken lightbulb and a Q-tip.

TangoFoxtrot
08-30-2011, 02:51
Fire steel is often good for 8,000 to 12,000 strikes. Its safe to store for a lifetime.

How many fires will a BIC light? Safe? Shelf-life?


Ditto! Lighthers run dry, their not too great in cold or wet weather.

RatDrall
08-30-2011, 05:23
Partially why I was asking was because I was wondering if there was this kind of metal in an urban environment where someone was without any lighters or dry matches. Say after a hurricane alone in an abandoned building with steel and maybe garbage but not much else.


You are looking for a ferro rod, as shown above. Some are sold as the "Swedish Fire Steel" others are just the rod like in the picture. The only ones you'll find are those someone bought before the disaster, if there ever is one.

So go place an order now, if you want easy fire building for your family.

The best one, in my experience, is the ESEE Fire Tool. It has a compartment/handle to store a few tinder tabs, or lint, or whatever else you like to use to start a fire:

http://www.eseeknives.com/fire_kit.htm

There are thinner rods that fit perfectly on a keychain.

Flint and steel will make sparks pretty easily.

Those sparks aren't enough to start a fire, at least for 99.99% of people. You need char cloth, or some other ultra flammable material to catch the spark, and then once you get it smouldering you have to have your tinder bundle perfectly made and ready, along with the rest of your fire.

Building a primitive fire is EXTREMELY difficult, definately not something you can do RELIABLY without a TON of practice. Buying a rock and a nail then expecting to be able to start fires is rediculous.

The best bet, for those with little to no primitive skills, is a ferro rod as shown above. They make a good shower of sparks that burn for a second or so, much more likely to catch on whatever halfassed tinder pile an unskilled survivor wannabe might have assembled.

Seriously, get training if you're interested in this stuff. Where I lived last year, they had FREE PRIMITIVE SKILLS weekends at one of the state parks, it was a freaking blast, and it was FREE. If you can't take a class, buy a book and start working your ass off to master skills like shelter building and fire making. Then, while you're at it, get your First Responder license, or EMT-B even. It's something like a 6 month class, at nights.

CitizenOfDreams
08-30-2011, 06:28
Ditto! Lighthers run dry, their not too great in cold or wet weather.

Well, I just took a Scripto lighter I bought 2-3 years ago. I filled my bathroom sink with water and drowned the lighter. I soaked it for 5 minutes. Then I shook the water out and produced a flame after 3 presses of the button.

So years of shelf life and ability to light a flame while soaking wet is not enough for you? What exactly are you preparing for?

quake
08-30-2011, 06:43
...Instead of a stick-like thing that we are familiar with today, "antique" fire steels usually took the form of something that looked more like a "C" that you put around your knuckles and and scrapped downward on a flint or chert rock...

Mischmetal isn't a miracle material, but it's just a lot more efficient than a generic piece of carbon steel against a rock. I used mine this past weekend to start a fire using pulled-apart cardboard as tinder; no other tinder, the cardboard was the tinder. That'd be much harder (if even possible) to do with normal steel against a rock.

Not saying it wouldn't work, because it has for centuries, probably millenia. And in the spirit of the thread, then yes, chunks of steel & chunks of rock can be found & scrounged locally. But much like a flint knife; even though they worked for millenia just as rock & steel sparkers did (and do), I wouldn't recommend a flint flint knife as a genuine substitute for a modern knife.

This is one of firesteel.com's advertising videos. Personally, I wouldn't do what he does here, using it in a wood-framed hallway, and I'm not typically impressed by the inevitable claims like "used by survival experts the world over"; but the video does demonstrate the degree of sparks that this kind of metal puts out - well beyond the magnesium/flint ones I used for a long time (and the magnesium/flint ones are a substantial improvement over plain steel-&-rock sparking). I was surprised when I first discovered these; this kind of metal is a whole different animal than I'd used before. (Again, not some miracle stuff; it's just tailored to a specific task and so is better at it.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XQQLt9lzlw&feature=player_embedded

This isn't from the same guy, but it's using the same type of steel and shows the amount of sparks one of these can put out. Demonstrating using a foot & one hand to start a fire; something worth considering being able to do in case of injury, frozen fingers, etc.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l10DV95HA1I&feature=player_embedded

Unistat
08-30-2011, 06:52
Well, I just took a Scripto lighter I bought 2-3 years ago. I filled my bathroom sink with water and drowned the lighter. I soaked it for 5 minutes. Then I shook the water out and produced a flame after 3 presses of the button.

So years of shelf life and ability to light a flame while soaking wet is not enough for you? What exactly are you preparing for?

I have a large package of Bics that I will probably have sitting around for 20-25 years (not a smoker) so I definately see what you are saying.

But it's not an either/or question. It's about multiples and diversity. In my gear, I generally keep a Bic, a magnesium starter, and waterproof matches. If one is broken or doesn't work for some reason, I can be assured another will.

BTW, I carry a regular lighter around in my pocket. It's not like I'm rocking the fire steel light my backyard bonfire. I use the MAPP torch for that :)

quake
08-30-2011, 07:52
Stupid question - what is wrong with using a gas lighter? Why do survivalists prefer exotic fire starting methods?

Not a thing wrong with butane lighters; they're vastly under-rated, especially if bought in bulk packs at Sam's & such. My favorite firestarter actually - lit the burn pile and my cigar both with one last night. :supergrin: But they have weaknesses - leaks (sometimes, not usually), temporarily disabled when wet to one degree or another, limited fuel capacity, requires fine motor skills, etc. They work great and are my favorite firestarter; but like anything, they have their limitations. (The limitations of the ferrocerium/mischmetal rods is that they have no inherent tinder.)

When it's all said & done, butane lighters are actually just another version of the flint & steel approach really; they just have their own built-in reservoir of fuel (liquid tinder, basically). Thumb wheel turns a steel wheel against a tiny piece of flint to create sparks which light the fuel.

For a one- or two-day campout, give my a butane lighter, with a ferro rod as a backup. For emergency use, give me a butane lighter, with a ferro rod as a backup. :)

Bolster
08-30-2011, 11:02
This thread got me curious about mischmetal. A few excerpts I found:

"misch metal, alloy consisting of about 50 percent cerium, 25 percent lanthanum, 15 percent neodymium, and 10 percent other rare-earth metals and iron. Misch metal has been produced on a relatively large scale since the early 1900s as the primary commercial form of mixed rare-earth metals. Misch metal alloyed with iron is the flint (spark-producing agent) in cigarette lighters and similar devices."

"Mischmetal is an alloy of rare earth metals primarily containing the elements
Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium and Praseodymium."

"...their very chemical similarity also means that in many cases it's really not necessary to separate them in the first place. If cerium will do, then so will lanthanum, or half a dozen others. A case in point is lighter "flints" which are actually made of a mixture of rare earths, primarily cerium and lanthanum, alloyed with iron. The exact ratio of rare earths in a given lighter flint isn't determined by some formula, it's determined by whatever came out of the mine that day...This [base] mischmetal has not been alloyed with iron, as it would be in a flint..."

"Mischmetal is a rare earth alloy that is exactly what its German name sounds like: a mix of metals. There is no exact formulation for mischmetal, but a common composition is approximately 50% cerium and 25% lanthanum with smaller amounts of neodymium, praseodymium and other trace rare earths making up the balance. With the creation of the first mischmetal from monazite ore, the rare earth metals industry was born, paving the way for isolation and purification of many rare earths...Mischmetal is not traded as a commodity on major exchanges, but is consumed through multiple channels of industry. China is the largest producer in the world, and Molycorp in California sits on the only other known commercially viable bastanite mine in the world, from which mischmetal can be obtained."

Mischmetal has a facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Misch-metal/115469101797580

MikeGoob
08-30-2011, 11:05
Another question, especially for you guys who have 1/2" rods laying around...

Does this stuff rust? Do you have to coat it with oil or would that mess with the sparking ability?

quake
08-30-2011, 14:25
Another question, especially for you guys who have 1/2" rods...
Well, I'm not that old yet, but I'll try to answer anyway... :fred:

Does this stuff rust? Do you have to coat it with oil or would that mess with the sparking ability?
It can, but I stick to mostly carbon steel knife blades, and I've never seen it react worse than a carbon steel blade does. Wouldn't recommend covering it with any flammable oil; I suspect it'd be a bugger to hold onto once struck...

If I were putting them up for longterm storage in a non-climate-controlled environment, I'd be concerned about rust; much I would with a carbon steel knife, or any carbon steel items for that matter. In normal use or temperate conditions I wouldn't worry so much. I'd say treat them like you would a non-stainless knife and they 'should' be fine.

RatDrall
08-31-2011, 06:01
Another question, especially for you guys who have 1/2" rods laying around...

Does this stuff rust? Do you have to coat it with oil or would that mess with the sparking ability?

I have one on a keychain that goes in my pocket. It doesn't really rust, but there is a buildup of somekind that forms very lightly on the bare surface. Once you scrape it with the back of a knife, or other striker, it comes clean and starts sparking immediately.

Nothing to worry about.

Bolster
08-31-2011, 19:19
It may not be "rust" per se, as mischmetal may not (or may, if so formulated) have iron in it, but Cerium does oxidize.

Good ol' hard working Cerium. Not only is it making your lighter spark, it also is in your gas to reduce emissions, and in your fluorescent bulbs.

Looks like mineral oil is appropriate for keeping praseodymium from oxidizing, so perhaps it's indicated for your mischmetal rod, too.

Kaceyx73
09-23-2011, 00:34
Not the exact answer the OP was looking for, but related. If you ever happen upon an old lawn boy mower, those decks aren't aluminum. They are magnesium. There's a lot of firestarting material in one deck...

WolfNotSheep
09-23-2011, 10:20
As far as anything I've ever read/seen/heard ferro rods are not reproduced in nature. This is where learning a fire by friction technique with natural materials comes in handy. I'd recommend keepin a lighter in your pocket at all times as well as a small firesteel on your keychain. In your pack I would recommend a large firesteel, another lighter, andsome strike anywhere matches in a waterproof match case. For your prep shelf I'd recommend a stack of firesteels, a little box of lighters, a couple zippos with spare flints, wicks, and fluids, and several boxes of strike anywhere matches. Cotton balls, dryer lint, tea candles, trioxane, and old newspapers all make for good firestarters.

Its always best to slightly over prepare. Lighters work great but, as anyone who is a non smoker but carries a lighter religiously can tell you, even just rattling around in your pocket they still run out of butane after a few months. And, lighters don't work when its COLD outside. They still produce a spark, whether they have fuel or not, but the sparks don't burn hot enough to create fire from anything but the finest, driest tinder. A firesteel will create fire from coarser, "damper" tinder and even if broken in half will still work. Matches I use as a last resort.

Go camping and use these fire starting items. See what works for YOU and what doesn't. Practice starting a fire every few days, at a minimum. It can be as simple as knocking a few dry branches off a dead and standing pine, grabbing a few pine cones and pine tags, and set it off with a fluffed up cotton ball or a handful of really dry grass.

Go, and do.

Edmund0804
09-23-2011, 15:18
Take a look at this website: www.allweatherfirestarters.com (http://www.allweatherfirestarters.com)

Edmund0804
09-23-2011, 15:20
Take a look at this website: www.allweatherfirestarters.com (http://www.allweatherfirestarters.com)

TangoFoxtrot
09-25-2011, 07:16
Take a look at this website: www.allweatherfirestarters.com (http://www.allweatherfirestarters.com)

Seems like a decent product for the price.

miamiglock19
09-25-2011, 08:59
Inexpensive Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Mini
http://www.rei.com/product/762946/light-my-fire-swedish-firesteel-mini

I saw these lifetime warrantry:whistling: at the Reno gun show and it is excellent. Works wet even.:supergrin:

http://allweatherfirestarters.com/

http://www.allweatherfirestarters.com/?page_id=4&category=1&product_id=5

Those all weather firestarters look a whole lot like kodiak firestarters and have the same replacement policy. Anyone know if they are the same company?

branned
09-25-2011, 12:32
Those all weather firestarters look a whole lot like kodiak firestarters and have the same replacement policy. Anyone know if they are the same company?

Good question? I bot a pair from them at the Reno Show for my kid and I:supergrin: These are better than the REI and USGI ones and I have them also:cool:

enbloc
09-26-2011, 19:12
Anyone have experience sourcing magnesium from old "Mag Wheels?"

I know that old car and motorcycle wheels were called "Mags" because they were made of magnesium. And they would burn...

I wonder if filings could be made to ignite?

~bloc