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Doan Magnesium Fire Starter

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by newknife, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. newknife


    Jul 6, 2008
    I went out today to the local army navy store and bought a Doan Magnesium Fire Starter. I have to say though..I'm not impressed. What a pain. Making shavings is time consuming chore. Then when you do make the shavings they go all over the place. Once you light them they just kinda fizzle out. Also, I'm sure shaving magnesium is not the best activity for the blade of any knife. In contrast though, I took just "few"s shavings from some fatwood and used the ferro rod from the magnesium block to light it. In a matter of seconds I had a really good flame. Easier on the knife and quicker to get started. Both of which would be better in a survival situation.
  2. KuRUpTD


    Aug 5, 2008
    I prefer a mischmetal rod but also keep a Doans magnesium bar in my pack.
    A trick I've learned is to scrape your mag shavings onto a piece of duct tape
    to keep the shavings from blowing away. I also keep a piece of old hacksaw
    blade attached to it which makes the scraping a lot easier.

    Like with all other firemaking techniques ... the more you practice the better you'll be at it.

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  3. Bushman5


    Oct 31, 2007
    i'm not a fan either of the mag blocks. Hell on the blades (spine) and way too much work to get a pile of shavings - esp when the hands are cold.

    PJCB & Fatwood all the way.
  4. dawsonbob


    Feb 18, 2009
    I have no idea how many fires I've started with a magnesium block, but there have been many. Is it the fastest, easiest way to do it? No. Why carry it then? Because it works. True, shaving the block isn't the easiest thing in the world, and the wind can play hell with your shavings, but — if you do get a good pile of shavings — it provides a super-hot little fire (5,000 degrees F, if I remember correctly) that will get even damp tinder going.

    I have nothing at all against fatwood — actually I love it, now that I've tried it — but it's not a universal solution. Fatwood can't be found just anywhere. If you happen to have some on you, then that's good. If you don't, however, the Doan's magnesium block is a very good substitute. It's small, light, waterproof, reliable, and simple to use.

    No reason on earth that you can't carry both.
  5. powernoodle

    powernoodle Power Member Gold Member

    Jul 21, 2004
    Everything is relative. Compared to freezing all night or not being able to cook up some food, having a Doan's and something to scrape it with would be awesome. Compared to a Doan's, a bag of tinder and a working Bic lighter is even better. I personally like the Doan's, as the magnesium flares up like a, um, small pile of combustible metal when a spark hits it. We all like different things, though, and thats groovy.
  6. Joezilla

    Joezilla Moderator Moderator

    Jul 22, 2005
    I'm not a big fan of the Doan, but using it this way makes it a little less painful. It is one waterproof way to carry "tinder" I reckon.

  7. newknife


    Jul 6, 2008
    Right..but one could carry Fatwood into the woods just as easily as one could carry a Mag block. But, if someone want's to carry both..there's no problem with that. I won't. For me it just seems like the mag block is a lot of work compared to other options (that work quicker) and it's more wear and tear on your tools.

    Oh well.. at least I know. Part of the fun is figuring out what you like and dont' like. It's different for everyone.
  8. wildmike


    Nov 17, 2007
    I have used a Doan many times in the past. They are an acceptable and fairly reliable means to a survival fire.

    You shouild always shield a fire site that will keep the shavings from blowing away. Yes the shavings do flare and burn up quickly. That just means you have to make sure they are situated to quickly ignite your other tinder and kindling. Then they will work great.

    As in ALL mathods of fire building and lighting YOU have to make sure to do all the prep work beforehand in order to get the desired results. Instead of using a knife to shave the Doan and strike the fling I use a piece of hacksaw blade. Steel Strapping from shipping pallets also makes a great scraper.
  9. dawsonbob


    Feb 18, 2009
    Yup. You just hit the nail on the head. Carry what you have and you're comfortable with.

    Until Mistwalker sent me some a week or two ago, I'd never tried fatwood, but I've been using a Doan's magnesium bar for years. Now I'll carry both — in different locations — along with other fire starting aids: I likes my fire, I does.
  10. Dannyboy Leather

    Dannyboy Leather

    Nov 7, 2004
    Post expired.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2010
  11. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Magnesium fire starters are just exactly what they were designed to be...a partially self contained emergency fire starting device with fuel on one side and an ignition source on the other side. Yes it does require some sort of sharp edged tool for scraping and sparking but the people they are issued to are also issued a "survival" knife. They were never intended to be any-one's primary means of fire starting

    Is using the magnesium shavings the easiest way to start a fire under all conditions? HELL NO!! Just like fatwood and Paper Bark Birch aren't found everywhere. But it is usable to start fire in pretty much any environment where there is fuel using vurtually any knife...it just may take a little longer in some cases than in others.

    Also, as you can see in the videos below the magnesium fire starter can be used without making any magnesium shavings. Yes this is a Doan Machine mag block, they are the only ones I'll buy until given no other option.

    In this first one you can see just how hot the magnesium flashes...and how quickly. Had this been a drier time or had I used a different tinder and took more time I would have had fire. As it is having had days and days of rain these leaves are not the easiest thing in the woods to ignite.


    and then this one shows a couple of other things being tried...lastly the magnesium fire starter and some....


    A good magnesium fire starter is still a great back up piece of kit no matter what opinions you developed today.
  12. Don Rearic

    Don Rearic

    Oct 8, 1998
    When push comes to shove, it's a ferrocerium rod with a nice big handle. :)

    I expected too much from them when I was a teenager. I, too, pronounced it worthless until I grew up.
  13. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Exactly! That's the best attitude to have with them...a handle made of a usable fuel if needs be. If only the ferro rod on them was a 3/8 dia instead of 3/16...

    I never saw them as useless, I've always liked them...but it did take me a while to get the right perspective on them....well right for me anyway :)
  14. markhait

    markhait Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 14, 2007
    I'd like to add one bit of information I read a long time ago....I think it was from Tom Brown...he said "if its on the ground (tinder) consider it to be wet!"
    I always get my tinder from dead branches on standing trees or even from trees that are down, but not laying down. You can make your fuzz sticks from them and also get those really small twigs you find on pine trees. Although a pain to harvest because they are so small, you are almost always guaranteed success.
  15. mistwalker

    mistwalker Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    For the most part that is a true statement and a good rule of thumb. There are times when it has been days or weeks between rains and what you can find laying on top of the leaves will be just fine, as well as the upper leaves. Knowing that I still prefer to gather my tinder from up high where the wind has blown across it...dead lower branches and dead limbs hung up in trees.
  16. Darteres


    Feb 4, 2008
    Ever throw one of those in a good fire? Takes about 10 minutes, but look out! You don't want to be looking directly at it when it goes off. Quite impressive.
  17. Diomedes Industries

    Diomedes Industries KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 19, 2007
    I love them - I use a hacksaw blade to get the shavings and strike the ferro rod - and I get a good blaze.

  18. dougo83


    Feb 28, 2008
    This is far from my preferred fire starter, but it works in a pinch. Of course, I kind of cheat and scrape the shavings into duct tape or PJCB with the saw on my Farmer. However, I would still much rather have a Bic or Zippo or Ferro rod.
  19. jca21


    Apr 12, 2006
    like others have posted it makes a great back up to another source of ignition.

    i think one of my greatest personal fears is not being able to make fire in the woods over here on the west coast. with crazy amounts of rain and many forests that contain wood not particularly suited to friction fire lighting, fire making implements are worth their weight in gold here IMO.

    i carry a fercium rod with me always in the woods as its a dependable way to make fire even if i was to get completely soaked. that being said, i also carry a sealed box of matches in my pack and a bic lighter in my pocket. i like to carry my equipment in layers, from those things that are immediately accessible in my pockets all the way to my pack. in between my pack and my pockets i have a small leather belt pouch that i like to carry. it contains some paracord, a small first aid kit (i carry a more comprehensive one in my pack), and a doan magnesium bar fire lighter. i also have a couple bbq lighters that they sell at most brick and mortar stores; these sachets contain a flammable material and light with a spark from the doan or firesteel.

    with practice the doan bars are an extremely reliable method of lighting fire. the fact that the tinder and striker are all one piece makes it an ideal bit of kit. even if you carry fatwood with you in the woods, you will still have to shave it up or process it in some way that allows for it to catch on fire. while fatwood generally requires the edge of a knife to be processed, for example, into shavings, scraping magnesium off a doan bar only requires the spine. infact, you could arguably scrap the doan bar with man different objects such as a jagged rock or even the keys out of your pocket. in a situation where one is cold, tired and stressed out, i think scrapping a doan bar would be alot easier than shaving fatwood, but that is just my opinion.

    bottom line, i think the doan makes a great bit of kit, especially as a back up fire starter. don't give up on it yet :)
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009


    Apr 14, 2006
    I've carried and used the Coghlan version for years - no problems.

    In fact I have a mag bar and a small piece of hacksaw blade threaded on my belt 24/7 (along with a spare van and apartment key).


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