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Newbie Question - Magnesium fire starter

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Col Defender, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. Col Defender

    Col Defender KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 11, 2011
    Sorry if this is in the wrong place. I'm trying to learn to use my Coleman magnesium fire starter. I'm supposed first to make a little pile of mg shavings. Is a knife blade the right tool to use for this? I did it once with a knife I did not care much about and even got a fire going but it seemed like I was abusing the knife edge since it was just for practice.

    What is the approved way to make the little pile of shavings?

    And are there better firestarters you guys use? If I ever have to do this under emergency conditions I want dependable tools as well as at least a bit of skill on my own part.

    I have seen some youtube videos on how to use the striker to light the magnesium but the ones I saw start with the assumption you already have a pile of shavings and go from there.

    Thanks in advance
  2. dayhiker1968


    Apr 30, 2011
    Cut off a small section of hacksaw blade, then keep it on the chain with the mag block.

    Makes great shavings and throws mean sparks.
  3. skyhorse

    skyhorse Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2010
    Fire steel ferro rod is better choice.
  4. FlaMtnBkr


    Oct 20, 2004
    I think he is using a ferro rod to start it. You have to have fuel and that is what the magnesium is.
  5. pilote


    Jul 4, 2009
    you don't need to make a big pile of shavings with a mag block unless you absolutely have no tinder available. and making BIG shaving ain't the easiest thing to do on a block using a knife or saw blade. what you need to do is scrape a bit of magnesium shaving or "dust" ideally on a piece of paper, then then sprinkled on to the finest tinder you have, like really fine wood shavings, or better yet, a cotton ball/dryer lint...

    then scrape that ferro bar of its black paint till it's shiny. put ferro bar and knife close to the tinder, then using the back of your knife (preferably a carbon steel knife), PULL THE FERRO BAR, NOT THE KNIFE up to scrap the bar to induce sparks on the tinder. you should practice this first. the sparks will catch the tinder bundle and will light up; then it's another minor skill to keep that lit tinder going by feeding it...

    that's how i do it; always works for me. i have yet to be in a situation where the only tinder i have is mag shavings (and i hope i never will)...

  6. mgysgthath


    Dec 15, 2009
    If you have a cotton ball you do not need any magnesium shavings, a tiny spark will set them off like gasoline, but they burn fast unless soaked in wax or petroleum jelly. The hacksaw blade section is what I would suggest as well, maybe even glue two together with the teeth offset a little, more for rigidity than added teeth.

    I'd suggest a ferrocerium "firesteel" rod instead, they're much easier to use and just as effective if you get a good one. Goinggear.com sells good quality ones that throw globs of molten metal, not just sparks. The spine of a knife that is ground 90 degrees works best, but any hardened metal sharp scraper works. Fallkniven F1 is a good example.

    Firesteel.com sells them with aluminum tubes that are hollow you can put tinder inside, for those rainy crappy days. Though I prefer GG's firesteels, I've used both and they will both do the job.
  7. pilote


    Jul 4, 2009
    i don't do enhance cotton balls; if i go that route i might as well just bring a BIC disposable lighter...and when it's damp those balls don't fire up so easily, and neither does shavings of bark, so the addition of mag dust gets it moving along faster...

    i do make it easy on myself with a handful of cotton balls in my kit, but often i do wood shavings anyways and they don't always fire up easily without some mag dust help...

    and yep, there are better fiiresteels to be had, like the Swedish ones; those rain sparks and will make the task go faster ...but the cheap ones still do the job...
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  8. nakadnu


    Dec 9, 2011
    Something you can do is use a small file to scrape mag shavings. I use the file on my leatherman. When you are stuck in the house on a rainy day make as big a pile of shavings as you can and roll some masking tape in the shavings. You will have ready made mag shavings. Under the right conditions magnesium is the ultimate firestarter. Throw in a little wind and it can be the most frustrating procces known to man.
  9. pilote


    Jul 4, 2009
    bingo...that's one approach...i never though about using tape; i like it...shaving a mag block is not like whittling wood, that block is Hard...as for the Wind; you've brought back some bad memories LOLOLOL...
  10. parbajtor


    Nov 24, 2010
    My magnesium block has a thin ferro cerium rod inset into one side.
    Bicycle inner tube makes good tinder, clamp it between the striker/knife spine and the ferro rod and scrape. The spine cuts through the rubber and contacts the rod, but the sparks get funneled through the cut and ignites the inner tube. Inner tube burns even when soaking wet.
  11. Shotgun


    Feb 3, 2006
    First off, it makes absolutely zero difference if you're using a carbon or stainless blade to strike the rod. You just need a sharp corner. Carbon steel only makes a difference if you're striking the knife as a steel with a rock. If you want to stick with the magnesium bar a good idea is to scrape the shavings into a piece of duct tape. It'll catch the shavings and burn for tinder. A file or hacksaw blade is a good idea but if all you have is a knife blade, use it. Just make sure you use a small portion of the blade to minimize damage. IMO a better tinder to carry with you is petrolium soaked cotton balls. They're lighter and IME much easier to use. They can be made water proof by sealing them inside of drinking straws. This also lets you control the burn a little bit. You can slit the straw down the side exposing more cotton and thereby burn fast and hot or slice the end off which results in a slightly slower more controlled burn.
  12. Shotgun


    Feb 3, 2006

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