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Old 08-29-2011, 12:41   #1
MikeGoob
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Question about 'Fire Steel' material

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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:49   #2
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Hacksaw blades work well for me.
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:50   #3
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Like two hacksaw blades scraping together?

Last edited by MikeGoob; 08-29-2011 at 12:50..
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:54   #4
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You can buy this fire started at your local Harbor Freight Store. think they cost around $ 3.00.
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Old 08-29-2011, 12:57   #5
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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?
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Old 08-29-2011, 13:23   #6
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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..
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Old 08-29-2011, 14:23   #7
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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.).
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Old 08-29-2011, 16:44   #8
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Originally Posted by MikeGoob View Post
Like two hacksaw blades scraping together?
No, like hacksaw scraping a flint-like rod.

Sorry, I misunderstood what you were asking.
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Old 08-29-2011, 17:01   #9
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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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 18:45   #10
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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:
Survival/Preparedness Forum

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}:
Survival/Preparedness Forum

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:
Survival/Preparedness Forum

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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 18:55   #11
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I bought a lighter and put it on my keychain.
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Old 08-29-2011, 21:10   #12
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Stupid question - what is wrong with using a gas lighter? Why do survivalists prefer exotic fire starting methods?

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Old 08-29-2011, 21:33   #13
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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?
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Old 08-29-2011, 21:57   #14
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Originally Posted by branned View Post
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?
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:00   #15
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How often are you planning to start a fire?
survivalists and preppers think LONG-TERM
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:09   #16
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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.

Last edited by RichJ; 08-29-2011 at 22:21..
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:16   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitizenOfDreams View Post
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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:20   #18
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survivalists and preppers think LONG-TERM
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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:35   #19
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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

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 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.
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Old 08-29-2011, 22:54   #20
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Inexpensive Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Mini
http://www.rei.com/product/762946/li...firesteel-mini

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

http://allweatherfirestarters.com/

http://www.allweatherfirestarters.co...1&product_id=5
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Old 08-29-2011, 23:11   #21
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Originally Posted by MikeGoob View Post
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.
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Old 08-30-2011, 02:51   #22
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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.
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Old 08-30-2011, 05:23   #23
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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.

Quote:
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.
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Old 08-30-2011, 06:28   #24
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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?
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Old 08-30-2011, 06:43   #25
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...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=_XQQL...layer_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=l10DV...layer_embedded
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