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magnesium fire starter vs. flint and steel

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by andrew7978, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. andrew7978


    Mar 19, 2007
    I have the fire stricker rod from a magnesium fire starter kit and was wondering how using this rod (w/o the magnesium) compares to using flint and steel in terms of difficulty of starting a fire.
  2. Normark


    Nov 7, 1999
    Hey Andrew..

    I'm going to assume you mean old school natural flint and steel striker...

    The natural flint and steel takes quite a bit more skill to use....

    With the ferrocerium rod (firesteel)v you simply send a shower of sparks onto the tinder, lets keep them both at char cloth for now...

    Once embers have started on your tinder,, you would transfer it to a tinder bundle, and blow it into a flame,, which kindling would quickly be added..

    With natural flint and steel it is much harder to get the sparks to take on the char cloth..

    Once you've done it a couple of dozen times it does get easier though...

    Hope that helps..


  3. Pritch


    May 3, 2006
    The rod from a magnesium firestarter or other so-called firesteel is ferrocerium. The sparks thrown from such a rod are much hotter and easier to produce. Many people wrongly refer to firesteels as flint.

    Flint is a very hard rock. The number of sparks generated by striking it with steel is significantly less and not nearly as hot.

    I find starting a fire with a firesteel, with or without using magnesium as a tinder, is very simple. I have never started a fire with flint and steel but have watched it done. It seems more difficult because there are fewer sparks and fewer tinders that will ignite with the cooler spark.

    Ron Hood demonstrates both methods in Volume One of his "Woodmaster" DVD series.

    -- FLIX


    DOH! You beat me to the punch, Eric!
  4. Jaiofspam


    Apr 24, 2006
    ferro rod + magnesium is much much much easier....

    but flint and steel is much more fun imho :D :thumbup:
  5. lotoblades


    Oct 20, 2006
    A ferro-rod or a magnesium block is much easier to use,even in damp weather there are usually natural tenders you can use to make fire with these.

    With tradional flint and steel it is very difficult to start a fire without carcloth or well prepared tenders,and even with them it can be challenging.

    Between mag- block or ferro rod the mag block has the adantage of having it's own tender but one isn't realy much harder than the other to master imo
  6. 2dogs


    Apr 20, 2003
    We need a sticky explaining the difference between "flint and steel" and the "ferrocerium rod" or (so called) "flint stick". Maybe some pictures could be added. This topic seems to come up every week and has to be explained again.
  7. Normark


    Nov 7, 1999
    Hey 2Dogs..

    That's a pretty good idea...

    I think for the most part,, alot of us call the ferro rods Firesteels,, however that isn't correct either,,as it's the brand name of the Swedish company...

    I'd also like to define the word "striker" as the item used with a firesteel isn't a "striker", but rather a Scraper.. With natural flint and steel the steel is a "Striker" as you strike the flint...

    As far as calling ferrocerium "flint" it has been called flint since ferrocerium has been invented.. When fixing your broken Zippo, you would ask for Zippo flints, not Zippo ferrocerium rods...:)

    Good to see you(2Dogs) here dude...


  8. 2dogs


    Apr 20, 2003
    Hey there Eric. If you use the devices enough you can communicate with others easily only if you're on the same page. Firesteel, mishmetal, hot spark, mag stick, mag bar, Swedish Firesteel, and probably a bunch I'm forgetting have nothing to do with actual flint. You and I know that but someone new to the game can easliy mix up terms.

    BTW at times ebay has large quanties (hundreds at a time) of ferro rods at auction
  9. Fiddleback

    Fiddleback Knifemaker Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Oct 19, 2005
    The vocabulary, I agree, is very confusing. But there is a static fact. The material that gets shaved is the material that produces the sparks in both cases. With a ferro- (mishmetal) rod the scraper shaves off slivers of it producing sparks. Where with flint and steel, the flint shaves off slivers of the steel striker, and those slivers become the sparks.

    The striker/scraper item is another source of confusion IMO. With flint and steel, the material that the striker is made from is paramount. If its not carbon steel, you get nothing. With a ferro rod the scraper can be anything that is harder than the mishmetal, as long as it has a somewhat sharp edge. Glass, carbon steel, stainless steel, flint, diamonds (haha), etc. all work well.
  10. Longstrider


    May 18, 2005
    I find it easier to use "traditional" flint and steel (with a small piece of char-cloth) than a "ferro" rod and magnesium. Ferro rods come into their own if you have good wood for feather sticks or decent tinder to take the sparks, but I find that the small shavings of magnesium are a nightmare to contain in any sort of windy conditions. With flint and steel the wind actually helps the ember-glow of the char-cloth instead of being a hinderance.
    The effective use of flint and steel is a "knack", but it's one thats well worth teaching yourself.
    I make sure to keep a ferro rod to hand in my PSK though, as a good soaking fails to make these unusable, whereas wet charcloth is of no use to anyone.
  11. Pritch


    May 3, 2006
    Longstrider, I think what you are comparing is the tinder, not the firestarter.

    Char cloth will ignite every bit as easily from a ferro rod as with a traditional flint & steel. Actually, the ferro rod would be easier because, if used properly, it throws significantly more sparks, and the sparks are much hotter. I can think of no instance where a traditional flint would be superior (or easier) to the use of a ferro rod in igniting ANY kind of tinder. While magnesium flakes can be a pain in windy conditions, that can be overcome by shaving them onto the adhesive side of a piece of duct tape.

    This is not to say that learning to light a fire with a traditional flint and steel is a useless skill. As a survival skill, it is useful in instances where you find yourself without any other firemaking method, i.e, where all you have is steel and find a hard rock. Of course, you'll have to find some natural tinder as you wouldn't be able to rely on char cloth in this instance. Given the lower temperature and smaller volume of sparks, flint and steel is not as efficient igniting natural tinders, especially in adverse circumstances. therefore, I would not rely on this method as my primary (or even secondary) survival firestarting method. Primitive skills folks also value this skill for nostalgic reasons that are independent of their objective efficiency.

    -- FLIX

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