I managed to get my hands on a single piece of flint about the size of a matchbox, perfect for fire starting. It throws really good sparks on the blunt end of a file, I understand this is because it is very high carbon steel.
I was looking for a more manageable size Steel to use but nothing works as well as the file. Seems lots of the broken tool steel I tried seemed to have some kind of coating or was the wrong allow.
Any ideas other than buying and butchering an old file?
I'm also interested in more primitive options for a striker, such as iron pyrite or something similar. Do we have a good source of these in NZ?

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I stil have never used a "propper" Bought flint and steel, only a shity small one.

I used to always play with "vuursteen" (fire/flintstone) when young back in holland.
It's all over the place. All our railway systems seem to be build on mega-tons of the stuff.
You can get some good sparks of it and I made a verry sharp "knive" out of it ones.
I also made a tip for my crossbow arrows from it.
awsome stuff to play with!

Comming back to Bushcraft in NZ though:

What is wrong with just taking a $1 Lighter into the bush and maybe some matches?
I have made a waterproof caps for my lighters so they dont get wet.

Your Bought flint and steel, or magnesium block are also machine made in a factory (In China..) as is my lighter... so both arent all that natural.
Theres nothing wrong with taking a lighter, I always take one with me as backup. Several different methods of making fire is the best policy, if for no reason other than safety.

Just like theres nothing wrong with taking a goretex tent, a GPS and a aluminium camping chair. They make life in the bush a lot more comfortable, no doubt. But thats not really what bushcraft is all about, to me it is about taking the time to learn and develop skills that make you more self sufficient and resourceful, which then extends to a much wider range of situations.

For example it is way easier to douse some wood with white spirits and light it with a lighter, it would probably take 10 seconds and would even work in the rain I bet. But its FAR more rewarding to learn how to cut down some damp wood to the dry centre, and make a friction fire or even use a flint and steel. You can carry these skills with you for the rest of your life and use them over and over again, but the white spirits runs out or the lighter drops and cracks.

At the end of a 8hr tramp though, whip out the lighter and get a cup of tea going ASAP for sure!

As far as flint goes, this "vuursteen" sound cool. Is it just the dutch name for flint the stone? Thats what I'm referring to here, sorry if I didn't specify. We also talk about it here. Some great info on how a flint and steel works is here.

I think you may be talking about a Swedish firesteel, yes technically its not natural but they are very effective and can be used over and over again. I carry one with me always, its on a magnesium block but unfortunately its a cheap on and so the magnesium must be mixed with something else as I can never get the shavings to light. So the magnesium is pretty much dead weight!
From what I understand the better quality aluminum catches with a spark well and burns very hot.
Ah sorry I miss read. I was thinking you where refering to the swedish steel, so you have a piece of the stone.
I think i probably still have some flint stone in my "stone colection" that i brought over sitting in my parents ceiling somewhere. I should have a look! Yes vuursteen translates to firestone and is the flintstone you are talking about.

I agree with you in saying learning about bushcraft is about developing skills.
And I supose a lighter could brake quicker then a fire steel thats a good point.

One way of fire starting way I would like to learn is making a fire piston.
Flint is pretty hard to come by around here, it would be great to have tons of it around as its also used for flintknapping.

Fire pistons are awesome! Never used or even seen one but I understand the priniple and have contemplated making one. If you are going to make one you should write up a post or a tutorial on it, I would be keen to read it.

You should start up a discussion on them in the firecraft section of the forums, some of the members may be able to help you out
Hi Ryan,

As you may have found you need a lump of high carbon steel to strike a natural flint against.

Your file will be high carbon steel. As you have found Stainless steels do not work.

Traditional European 'flint and steel' fire lighting kits used a strike a light made from a high carbon steel a piece of flint and amadou as a tinder to catch the sparks. Later kits most probably would have used a cotton match...

Then along came the match and they faded away....

In regards to your 'flint' and magnesium. The one to get is the Doan branded one these used to be USGI issue. The magnesium on them combusts really well but very quickly so you have to have some very good tinder preperation sorted out before you strike the flint... Also the magnesium shavings are very light and get blown all over the show by even a very light breeze... they are good fun to use but I just use a 'firesteel' / ferrocerium rod these days.. Kathmandu sell a reasonable one and I've seen "Primus" branded ones in Hunting and Fishing here in the Waikato...
I agree to all of your points. I would love to get my hands on an old striker in the traditional "C" shape I scour trademe antiques regularly but nothing so far.

I have heard about amadou through its other name, horses hoof fungus. Do we have this in NZ? Another less primitive option would be charcloth from what I gather it would catch the relatively cold spark that this technique would produce.

Have you used this technique yourself much? I rely on a firesteel/ferrocerium rod for 90% for my fire starting, about 10% I use matches due to impatience or frustration in damp weather, and 10% with friction fire and other primitive techniques for practise.
Hi Ryan,

No I haven't used many of the 'primative' fire methods. I 've given them ago but I don't use em much TBH... As for Horsehoof fungus in NZ..

I think a lot of traditional techniques sprung up from waht the local population were doing. from my studies I believe Maori used a form of fire plow which is a common technique throughout much of polynesia. However from my studies I understand that bracket fungus which is pretty common in the bush was used by Maori to transport fire from place to place as it smoulders well. I've never looked at a bracket fungus to see if it has a layer that might produce amadou.. Charcloth would make an ideal tinder for a flint and steel...

I'm also like you a ferrocerium rod is what I use a lot of the time...
From talking to maori and research books and the net I have been told that the fire plough, or "hiki ahi" used mahoe or pate wood for the base and kaikomako or totara for the plow. Some of these were mentioned in a Maori Plant Use post

I will keep my eye out for bracket fungus and get back to you
I haven't found anything that works nearly as well as a bit of file for striking sparks with a natural 'flint'. It doesn't have to be a big bit of steel, but it needs to have a high carbon content and not be too soft.

I have used quartz instead of chert or flint, and I've had very good results striking it with a steel. It shatters a bit more than the flint I've used, but it can be easier to find a usable bit of quartz compared to finding a nice piece of flint.

One thing that my primitive firelighting experiences have done, is that I now have a greater appreciation for matches, lighters, fire-steels, and flammable fluids. But I'm glad that I know how to use primitive methods, and I will continue to play with them.

A 'C' shaped striker would make a good project if you are interested in setting up a small charcoal forge. If I were going to make such a striker, I would use an old file. I think I would prefer a small straight striker compared to a bigger curved one.

I have a very small knife that I ground from a file. I took care to not let it overheat while being ground so it stayed very hard. The back of it makes a good striker.

hi i have a firesteel made by light my fire  but i can't get a fire going any tips?


From what you've written I can't tell for sure at what stage you are having trouble.   But here's what I think...

There are two tricky parts to lighting a fire with things like fire steels:

1.  Getting the spark to 'catch' on the tinder, and...

2.  Coaxing a flame from the glowing tinder.

If you are having difficulty getting the sparks from your firesteel to ignite the tinder, I'd suggest two things to try (if you haven't already).

1.  Hold the knife steady just above the tinder, and jerk the firesteel upwards past the blade.   In other words you don't scrape your knife (or striker) down the firesteel.   I think this makes it easier to aim the sparks into your tinder 'nest'.... and you are less likely to 'beat out' any spark that might have caught by clobbering it with your knife.

2.  Get some thin, plain facial tissue paper (not the stuff impregnated with aloe vera or whatever) and tear it into thin strips... then rub it between your dry palms.... then make sure that it is 'unwrapped' (not scrunched up too tightly)... and make a nice pile of it in a safe, dry, place where there is no wind.  Drop some sparks on to the pile from a close distance and you should get some joy.   You may even get a flame without having to blow the spark into life.

Coaxing a flame from glowing tinder is a good skill to master.   Experience should teach you a lot about this.   Basically I'd get a pile of very dry, thin tinder material (like extra dry grass or fine tissue paper and make a loose ball of it.   The glowing material gets placed on, or into, this ball... and then it is waved about in the air... or you blow on it in gentle puffs to increase the heat and maybe get a flame.   You can overdo the blowing.   You have to make sure that each strand of the tinder is close enough to the next bit so that the heat can travel easily... but you cant have the tinder ball squashed together so tight that air cant get into it.

With firesteels, I like to just scrape the last few millimeters of it.  This tapers it at the end eventually.  I figure this is better than making the whole steel thinner and more likely to break.

I hope this helps.   Best wishes from Nelson... Coote.

thanks i'll try it out soon



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