Starting a Fire With a FireSteel – A Recap For When TSHTF

One of the things I bought my nephews for part of their camping kits was a firesteel to put on their knife sheath.  This is a great piece of gear – if you know how to use it. This is just a quick recap on how to use a firesteel to get a fire going. Why a firesteel?  For me there’s a couple of different reasons.  First, it’s tough to strap a book of matches or lighter to my knife sheath knowing that I’ll have to keep it dry.  Once a match gets wet it’s useless.  Lighters fare a little better although it takes time for them to dry out enough to use, even using the trick where you rub the lighter wheel back and forth on your pant legs using friction to dry it out.  Also, lighters don’t work that well in extreme cold weather unless you’re carrying it next to your body. A firesteel, on the other hand, will always throw a nice spark even if you pull it right out of the lake and shake it off. Here’s another reason:  if you can light a fire with a firesteel you will be able to light that same fire five times easier with a match or lighter when the time comes.  Why?  Because it means you truly understand the fire making process, which is the most important thing of all. Making Fire There are several phases to making a fire with the most critical point being at the very first sign of flame.  You have to have something standing by in order to catch the flame and nurse it to life. The first thing you need to gather is some kind of tinder.  Tinder is what I talked about above, something that will catch a spark and turn it into a flame.  Some people like char cloth, but for the sake of argument I’m going to use all natural materials to build this fire. I live in the Northeast and have discovered a few items in my area that will start a good fire quickly and successfully just about every time.  First, I like to use cattail fluff to catch the spark.  Then I have birch bark shredded and ready to go.  You need to tear some up in very fine pieces so that it will catch the flame easier.  Once the small pieces of birch bark are going I’ll put on some bigger pieces.  Birch bark is a great fire starter because it has oils in that allow it to burn quick and strong once you get it lit. Once the bark is burning I’ll then use some kind of dry kindling to take it to the next level.  I like the fine tips of pine branches that have died, or pine cones. Next take some of the dry hardwood (or whatever you have) that you’ve split with your knife into small pieces, then put them on top of the fire in a tipi shape until they’re burning too. When the fire is burning good and strong and you’ve started to get a few small coals built up you can start adding the bigger pieces.  
  Summary First, you need to know how to use your particular fire starter.  I use the Gobspark firesteel, which throws an amazing spark. Then gather: Tinder Kindling Dry wood Then make a spark on the tinder. Catch the fire with some birch bark or other flammable material and slowly build your fire until it’s sure to go by itself. That’s it! How do you build a fire? -Jarhead Survivor      
10 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 27, 2012, 8:51 am

    I Gorilla Glued a sewing bobbin (wound w/ trip wire onto it, about 60′) onto the end of a Firesteel Pup (I think) and its works pretty well. The bobbin gives me a handle on the firesteel, provides ‘cordage’ and has perforated edges, so that a ring can be added very easily. Makes a good necklace or key ring add-on.

  • Spook45 April 27, 2012, 9:31 am

    Definately a skill that must be honed. I must say here, that after multiple attempts and failures, I was finally able to make a fire piston that worked!! Ive made 5 or 6 and all miserable failures but this one came out great and the design is the key.

    • Jason April 27, 2012, 1:20 pm

      Edison failed 1,000 times before coming up with the right fibers for the light bulb.

  • Bill April 27, 2012, 10:25 am

    I try to make a fire several different ways (firesteel, magnifying glass, firebow, one match). Making a fire can be pretty challenging in the beginning. It is important to practice this skill under many different conditions and with different materials. You never know if it is going to be windy, rainy, or what wood and tinder you will have available. Murphy’s Law will pretty much guarantee conditions will not be ideal, and you will probably be tired when you really need a fire.

    Practice, practice, practice.

  • Jason April 27, 2012, 2:49 pm

    That was was very nicely done Jarhead – simple, clean & easy.

    I went camping with some friends a few weeks ago & one of the guys at a neighboring camp stacked full sized logs & ended up using a full can of BBQ lighter fluid to light it – a real survivalist, eh?

    • TiredOldGuy April 29, 2012, 12:37 am

      Takes me back to my days as a boy in the Australian Army Cadets. Even if you’re not planning on joining the military, its a great way to teach young people these sorts of skills.

      I had a lance-corporal who taught us a valuable lesson by demonstration – Don’t sit on your pack right next the fire… and most definitely do not keep the antiseptic rubbing alcohol in said pack.

  • george April 28, 2012, 10:57 am

    AWSOME video!!!

  • Waterboy April 29, 2012, 11:06 pm

    Another thing to consider is that butane lighters (even good ones) can let you down in higher elevations. I prefer to stick with a fire steel and kindling or a piece of steel wool.

  • Waterboy April 30, 2012, 12:09 am

    Great video.

  • sean May 2, 2012, 9:31 pm

    I have used steel wool and a 9V battery before.


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