Flint and Steel Question

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Mar 8, 2007
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554
This one's for the flint and steel guys. If my life depended on it, I have 100% confidence in my firesteel to make a fire. I wanted to expand my knowledge of fire making, so I picked up a steel and flint. I am able to get the char cloth that I'm practicing with to light only 20% of the time. I'm holding the steel at a good angle, close to the cloth. I can only get some small sparks to fall on the cloth, most of which do not ignite it. Any tips?

Also, should pieces of flint be chipping off as I strike? I suspect that I may be striking too hard.

Thanks,
Chris
 
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Mar 19, 2007
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Sometimes chips come off mine. But not every time.

Here is what I do - I wrap the charchoth around the stone leaving the striking face of the stone open for the steel. Then I can catch any sparks on the bottom or the top.

Does that make sense?

TF
 
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in my small experience, you don't really need to strike very hard, just fast.

is your char cloth 100% cotton and is it 100% char? if not, then that could be giving you trouble?

it sounds like you are holding the steel and striking the flint against it? the way i've always seen it done (and done it myself) is holding the flint and swinging the steel.

you should have your char cloth right up to the edge of the flint, so that any and all sparks hit the cloth. the first couple of times i did it, i didn't even see the sparks, just the glowing cloth.

hope this helps...

have you checked out youtube? there is probably some helpful stuff there too.
 
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TF/Siguy: Thanks for the suggestions. I'll give them a try and see how it goes. I am holding the steel and striking with the flint. I'll try it the other way around and give that a try. I didn't make the cloth, it came with the kit. I'm going to make my own and try it.

How do you keep the cloth from falling apart as it wraps the flint? I think that with the cloth that I have, by just looking at it the wrong way it will fall apart... Might be overcooked. :D
 
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I fold the piece of char cloth in half twice, and place it on the flint so its right on the edge,with the ruff edges of the cloth facing the edge,e even fray the edges some, works very well for me.
 
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New to this subject but was curious, what's the opinion on the "best" flint & steel to keep in a survival kit?
 
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New to this subject but was curious, what's the opinion on the "best" flint & steel to keep in a survival kit?

If it's for a survival kit, why carry a flint and steel when you can carry a ferro rod and cotton/petroleum jelly tinder? In a survival situation, you want to make it as fool proof as possible.

I have a steel and flint and I have used it many times, but it's not something I would bother to carry, but to each their own. It also may be a consideration if you're into reenacting etc.

Doc
 
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do you think i could use a caribiner(or something else easy to hold that is steel) and some flint i found in my yard to start a fire?
 
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No. The steel has to be high carbon. When you use a flint and steel, the flint actually shears off a very small piece of steel that glows. This glowing piece of steel is what starts the char cloth glowing.

When you use a ferro rod, it's the ferro rod itself that sparks, so steel, hi carbon or other, is not needed.

Doc
 
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This one's for the flint and steel guys. If my life depended on it, I have 100% confidence in my firesteel to make a fire. I wanted to expand my knowledge of fire making, so I picked up a steel and flint. I am able to get the char cloth that I'm practicing with to light only 20% of the time. I'm holding the steel at a good angle, close to the cloth. I can only get some small sparks to fall on the cloth, most of which do not ignite it. Any tips?

Also, should pieces of flint be chipping off as I strike? I suspect that I may be striking too hard.
Chris

As an active historical reenactor of many years (most reenactors have this skill down to a fine science for obvious reasons), I have made literally thousands of fires using flint & steel using a variety of methods. Methods will change when the conditions demand such. First, you MUST have quality materials if you expect good results. The char cloth must be cooked enough, you must have a good steel properly heat treated (good steels produce lots of sparks), and quality flint (or other glass-like stone).

If the hot spark is hitting the char cloth in close proximity (as you mention), good char cloth should catch and hold it quickly. Most always I can get my char to catch a spark within just a few (3 - 6) strikes.

With regards to striking the flint with your steel; one simply wants to make a quick, glancing tick or flick across the sharp edge of the flint. Most beginners have the tendency to crash the steel into the flint and break off the desirable sharp edges. Very, very little contact is required to shave off micro amounts of friction heated steel. Too, learn to sharpen your flint when required. One does not need to be a skilled flintknapper to keep his firestarting flint sharp, or the flint in his flintlock rifle or smoothbore.

There are several roads to the post office when it comes to flint & steel spark making. I have written booklets on the subject, web and magazine articles, teach it in my classes, performed countless demonstrations for the public and schools, and have practiced these skills with hundreds of reenactors over the years. Seen and heard most of it, I think. Take my word for it, there is a TON of crap out there regarding the use of flint and steel. It just isn't all that complicated, and even some of our young children at the rendezvous win the occasional trail walk firemaking competitions. Good materials and methods will take the "mystery" right out of the skill real quick. :)

This is one hand and materials position I use with regularity. I prefer to teach flint & steel with a *full-sized* steel in the "C" configuration. The smaller steels won't throw near as many sparks, BTW. The char is sitting in a nest of tow linen which shields it from beginner impacts, and it makes only a fair tinder, too.
fands3zt4.jpg
 
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Here are some videos I made so you can see how to hold a knife for this method. As this is a great arrow to add to your quiver on fire, as Doc eluded to, there are several others much more reliable for a survival situation. Best of luck!

http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn230/abodude/?action=view&current=P3190030.flv

http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn230/abodude/?action=view&current=KnifeRockFireOne.flv

http://s305.photobucket.com/albums/nn230/abodude/?action=view&current=KnifeRockFireTwo.flv
 

lmalterna

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Dec 12, 2002
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Dannyboy,
I was DQ'ed in a firemaker competion for placing my char in the pan on my trade musket :) Hey, it worked!!

Do watch your knuckles as you learn. That flint will peel the skin on a knuckle right back if you are careless!

2Door
 
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Mar 8, 2007
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554
This is all great info. Thanks for sharing! The vids helped me understand more, as well. Will try some more, tonight.

Dannyboy: The pic was worth a thousand words.
 
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Dannyboy,
I was DQ'ed in a firemaker competion for placing my char in the pan on my trade musket :) Hey, it worked!!

2Door

I have been known to do that myself. However, they keep a close eye on ya in the competitions, don't they? :D

Dannyboy: The pic was worth a thousand words.

Excellent. I would be very curious to hear how things work out for you! If you have any difficulties, please feel free to email me.

"Quiet Bear" has some excellent, reliable, and well-explained information (and video) on this forum when it comes to firemaking. Another good guy to keep an eye on, IMO. :)
 
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