Flint and Steel vs Ferro Rod - How to Start a Fire In the Outdoors
by Emily Jannet on Apr 22, 2022
It's hard to fathom anything more transformative than fire. This is especially true for those who enjoy the outdoors, where staying hydrated, warm, and fed becomes as fundamental as it gets. Fire is typically necessary for at least two of the three activities.
There are many ways to start a fire these days. You can use a butane lighter or matches. Matches are a wonderful invention, but they have flaws. They can get wet and be destroyed. Waterproof matches are costly and difficult to light. Matches occasionally fail for no apparent reason. The morale of the story is that matches and moisture don’t mix well.
When we look back into ancient times, we realise that one of the most primitive ways to start a fire is by using flint and steel striker.
Flint and Steel
The ancient Greeks were the first to use flint and steel, until the friction match was developed.
Flint is a type of quartz (rock) that occurs in the form of nodules in sedimentary rocks such as chalks and limestones. The flint inside the nodule is generally black, green, white, or brown in colour, with a glassy or waxy sheen.
See different types and colours of flints below:
The flint's sharp edge is used to strike the fire steel at an acute angle, cleaving or shaving off small pieces of metal. The pyrophoricity (liability to ignite spontaneously in air) of the steel causes the shavings to oxidise. The molten, oxidising shavings ignite and produce a spark as they burn.
A steel striker is generally a hard metal that can be used to scrape off a piece of flint to generate sparks. The type and hardness of the steel used are crucial. The steel must be hardened, but not as much as the flint-like substance removing the spark. High carbon steels produce sparks readily; stainless steels do not. Garden tools and hand instruments can frequently be utilised as strikers if you have nothing else handy.
Finally, to make a fire using flint and steel, it is recommended to use a char cloth or dry tinder.
Linen or cotton jute is used to make charred cloth after heating the material to extremely high temperatures without oxygen. Charred cloth is a highly combustible cloth that has a low ignition temperature and so burns slowly.
Quick tip: even a little amount of moisture or sweaty palms can reduce the effectiveness of char cloth. Putting the char cloth in a heated pocket or in the sunshine for a few minutes will raise the chance of a spark igniting.
Ferro Rod and Striker
Ferrocerium rods are generally made from a combination of metals such as iron, magnesium, cerium and lanthanum with smaller amounts of other metals included.
The recipe used by ferro rod producers is not the same. Some survivalists will advise you to use ferro rods that contain higher amounts of cerium. Cerium is a soft, ductile, and silvery-white metal that discolours when exposed to air.
All things considered equal in terms of the pyrophoric alloy contents, the length and width of the ferro rod is probably one of the most important factors when it comes to how easy it is to start a fire with this survival gadget.
The longer the ferro rod, the longer you will have ample contact time with the surface as you slide the striker over it.
The more surface area you have, the more sparks will fly off owing to the larger diameter of the ferro rod.
If you're going to carry around a ferro rod as part of your everyday carry tool, you don't want something too big. However, if you're just getting started, I'd urge you to invest in a larger ferro rod so that you can develop your technique. It will be simpler to improve your skill with the bigger ferro rod.
Quick tip: When you buy a ferro rod, it is most likely going to be coated with a layer of black substance. This is to prevent rust. You'll need to scrape some of the coating off before waiting for any sparks to appear.
While choosing a ferro rod product for your next outdoor adventure or camping trip, we recommend to pay attention to the steel striker that comes with it.
The flimsy strikers that come with low-cost ferro rods don't provide much control. The edges of these, too, aren't very sharp, so you won't be able to generate many sparks.
Remember, the secret to making effective ferro rod strokes is to keep your strokes strong and controlled. In order to do this, you need a good grip on the striker and decent, sharpened steel surface that can shave off the ferro rod and generate sparks. And remember: never strike your ferro rod with your knife blade as this will make your knife go dull very, very quickly.
- DURABLE FLINT FIRE STARTER - 65mm (2.55in) long and 9mm (0.35in) diameter magnesium ferro rod, made from a high-quality pyrophoric alloy containing iron, magnesium, cerium and lanthanum. It can produce up to 10,000 strikes with sparks at around 3,000 degrees Celsius. Ideal for campfires, fireplaces, barbecues, bushcraft, camping or as an emergency outdoor accessory.
- ERGONOMIC GRIP HANDLE & STRIKER - designed and tested to make it as comfortable as possible to have a firm grip and easy to start a fire in any weather (even in extreme cold rainy weather) and at any altitude by men or women.
- FLUORESCENT PARACORD makes this ferro rod a perfect gadget for any outdoor adventure. The striker and rod are tied together with a fluorescent paracord lanyard to make it easy to find in the dark and prevent separation as well as make it compact enough to fit in a pocket or backpack. It is waterproof, long-lasting, portable and safe for travel.
While most people generally refer to ferro rods as fire starters, in reality, they are NOT fire starters, because they simply generate thousands of sparks.
In order to start a fire in the wilderness with a ferro rod, you also need to carry with you fluffy tinder or charred cloth. Good tinder can be fluff from plants, feather sticks or dry grass from the birds nest.
So, after you've got everything ready, we recommend the following technique:
- Place and hold the scraper/striker at a 45-degree angle
- Make sure the ferro rod's end is next to your tinder
- Pull the rod backwards, not the scraper
- Thousands of sparks should fall on your tinder and set it alight
Hopefully this post gives you some good tips to try using flint and steel or ferro rod and striker to start your fire. And remember - practice makes things perfect!