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Home Bushcraft Fire How to Use a Firesteel

How to Use a Firesteel

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This video teaches you how to use a Firesteel. This is part of our Bushcraft basics series and we believe learning how to master the Fire Steel is an important skill to learn.

Comments (7)
7 Tuesday, 08 May 2012 16:07
Ashley Cawley
That's a good point Stephen - the striker itself could be an important reason as to why you've struggled. 55 seconds into this video I show & mentioned the different serrated and flat-edged strikers you typically see, I should have mentioned that I have personally found the flat-edged strikers to work better than the serrated ones.

Also I have seen some firesteel rods not working as well as others, I've seen some cheap ones that have been bought off eBay and have performed terribly and then equally some that have worked well but needed a LOT of effort to strike.

My personal experience with LightMyFire Firesteels has been very good, I've probably gone through about 20 of the mini version (which I use in the video), I've used that many because of teaching etc. and have found all of them to be really good, they are a good size for kids to use aswell.

All the best and keep us update on how you get on.
6 Tuesday, 08 May 2012 15:19
Stephan Woollcombe
Hi Ashley,

Thanks for taking the time to answer my comments.

I just wished to let you know that I have purchased another fire stick (not from the same manufacturer as my previous model) and it seems to be working much better. I believe the scrapper is the key to the success.

In the meantime, “Light my Fire” from Sweden are sending me a new “Fire Steel” which is also equipped with a more efficient scrapper than their previous model. So I will be able to compare the two models.

I have to admit that I am still impressed by your video in which you manage to ignite tinder with just one strike at your fire stick.

I look forward to giving them both a try and will let you know how successful I am.


5 Monday, 07 May 2012 14:02
Ashley Cawley
Hi Stephan,

I appreciate your response - but again I'd have to disagree, I don't believe there's any secret technique that gives people the ability to consistently ignite natural tinders, yes I think it does required practice and of course learning the initial technique but that can be done from this video that you've commented on - that's exactly why I made this video.

In the video you can see me light two natural tinders both with the first strike and in one continuous video scene (so you can see I haven't re-took the scene numerous times) - This proves that with practice and the right preparation of the tinder it can become easy.

If you search this site for "Featherstick" watch how quick Justin manages to light a featherstick, it takes numerous strikes but doesn't take him long, again this was done in one continuous scene so you see him prepare it from wood.

Keep practising and perhaps get involved in the forum on here, others in there might be able to give even better advice than I can offer. All the best,

Ashley Cawley.
4 Monday, 30 April 2012 19:24
Stephan from Switzerland
Hi Ashley,

Thank you for your answer and for your kind advice. It is true that if you scrape the surface of some birch bark into a fluffy material it makes things easier. In the end, I did manage to get some birch bark burning. But sometimes it would take me two minutes and on another occasion, the same sparks on the same tinder would not get any result whatsoever after ten minutes…

I certainly agree that a Firesteel can be a reliable tool if you have man-made tinder. I did try my Firesteel with such tinder and it does work. It also works very well if you use it to light a camping stove. (However, I would advise those who use their Firesteel for lighting a stove to avoid storing it anywhere near matches. A friend of mine discovered that this would provoke a chemical reaction through which both the Firesteel and the matches turned to powder… Not a good surprise when you are camping above 2000 metres). Well, so far I agree.

Nevertheless, were I come from, there’s not so much natural tinder to be found except for birch bark, dry grass, “old-man’s beard” and perhaps feather-sticks which can be carved out of wood. From my experience, I find that with this kind of tinder you cannot rely on the Firesteel to give you the proper amount of sparks that will be sufficient to ignite them and eventually start a fire within five minutes, that is, before it’s too late and your hands are already frozen stiff. For that reason, in order to make sure that I can light a fire in an emergency situation, I always carry along a simple Bic lighter together with some rubber-tire shavings, all wrapped up in a waterproof pouch. In a cold environment, I will carry this pouch hanging around my neck inside my shirt in order for the lighter to keep warm enough.

Furthermore, if I do get my Firesteel to produce sparks that are indeed much stronger than what an ordinary Bic lighter might produce, I have to admit that they are far from being as impressive as those “showers of sparks” that you mention. As a matter of fact, last week I had to send my Firesteel back to the manufacturer in Sweden and am waiting for an explanation. At this point, the manufacturer seems to believe that it is not working as it should. Indeed, the Firesteel that I bought required such strength for it to produce sparks that I had to lean it against the ground in order to put enough pressure on it with the scrapper. All the same, I had to wear leather gloves to avoid cutting my skin with the scrapper. I even managed to break the blade of a kitchen knife on one occasion (I was lucky that it did not fly into my face).

Mysteriously, up to this day nobody has ever been able to explain how it is possible to get those massive showers of sparks with just one easy strike, as can be seen in some documentaries and other films released on Youtube. It remains a well-kept secret…
Perhaps you could give me some further advice on this?

Up to now, this is hardly what I would call a user-friendly tool and it seems to me that in order to master it one needs such expertise that would require a proper and expensive training. In which case, I believe people should be warned before they buy such an item. All the same, after a bit of research on the Net, I find that I am not the only puzzled user who fails to understand why his Firesteel doesn’t work with natural tinder.

Still, I’m sure there must be some explanation and I look forward to getting some further advice from you that may solve this mystery. Be sure that I will gladly buy you a drink if you ever come to try your survival skills here in Switzerland.


3 Wednesday, 25 April 2012 17:56
Ashley Cawley
Hi Stephan,

Thanks for leaving a comment. I would have to disagree; I wouldn't like to discourage people from getting a Firesteel as part of their kit because I still believe it is a very reliable (and easy) method of starting a fire if you have the right tinder (I'm thinking man-made at the moment). Have you tried lighting a cotton ball? That is where I would start. I have taught young children to reliably light cotton balls with a fire-steel (I don't mean this in a degrading way) as we all have to learn how to use every tool. If your thinking; well cotton-balls are man-made and nothing like that exists in Nature then think again!.. Because it does; the bullrush head when it releases it seeds gives off lots of fluffy material that is much like a cotton-ball, this catches a spark VERY easily like cotton-wool but it burns very quickly.

If you are getting good showers of sparks but are failing to light your tinders I would suggest it is the preparing of the tinder itself that is stopping you, you need to try and create fluffy edges, so for example if you try again with paper or toilet roll perhaps, try ripping it into small pieces to get ruff fluffly edges, you maximise the surface area and expose fine fibres that have a much greater chance of catching.

I have often just taken a Firesteel as my ONLY means to light fire when I have gone to Dartmoor, if I didn't consider it to be a reliable method then I honestly wouldn't have taken it. If your getting good showers of sparks than the rest of the work needs to be on your tinder. Keep practising and I wish you the best of luck!
2 Wednesday, 18 April 2012 21:10
Stephan Woollcombe

Great video. I really enjoyed that.

However, I have tried to use a Swedish “Firesteel”, on several occasions and with different types of tinder:

- dry paper
- birch bark
- dry grass
- a mix of dry grass and birch bark

On each occasion, I did manage to get huge sparks, all of which went straight into the tinder. But apart from a headache that I got once from watching the flashes generated by those sparks for more than 20 minutes, nothing happened and I could never actually start a fire. I insist upon the fact that at least one millimeter of the stick has been scraped off in the process.

I understand that you master the technique. However, I fail to see where my way of using the Firesteel differs from yours… To my knowledge, birch bark is probably among the most flammable stuff you can find in nature. But not once have I managed to set fire to it with the Firesteel. A simple match would do the trick in a second.

I did try to find some advice from your website, but have learned nothing in particular. It seems that I’ve been using this item as recommended. Perhaps you could give me some further advice?

From your website, I understand that the “Firesteel” is one of the most reliable ways of making fire.

Personally, I would warn people against buying such a product, because in an emergency situation, you need something you can rely upon within an instant. Not a tool that will eventually answer to your need in the next half hour when it might be too late.

I would recommend a Firesteel for lighting a camping stove. However, it should not come in contact with any fuel, unless you wish your Firesteel to dissolve itself.

All the best,

Stephan Woollcombe

1 Wednesday, 28 December 2011 01:22
wulfe yngling
Thanks for posting, persactly what I was looking for!

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