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People, I am helpless with a fero rod :(

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by ShooterMcgavin, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. ShooterMcgavin


    Jan 20, 2008
    I grew up in an area where making fires in the woods was frowned upon. Mostly because of that, I never practiced basic fire-making skills. I have gotten some fero rods in the past few years and I have tried to use them to start fires in the woods, at times when I didn't really NEED a fire. Just for practice. If you put me in the woods with a fero rod, I would probably never have a fire :(

    I have used spanish moss from trees as tinder, wood shavings from the center of split wood, feather sticks, and even Wet Tinder. None of them would light from many tries of showering them with sparks. I have shaved quite a bit of life from my fero rods. When I watch videos, it seems like it just takes a couple strikes and the user has a glowing fire, with many different types of tinder. Me? I have had to resort to matches. I should also note that, when I had a friend with me, he was also unable to start a fire with the fero rod, and he says he has done it before.

    Maybe I just need to find better tinder? Maybe I need to work at it longer? Maybe I am expecting too much, since I live in a generally wet area (PNW)?

    Have you guys had this problem, or do your fires light up with one or two strikes of the fero? Any advice is appreciated.

  2. Fanglekai


    Jan 7, 2007
    What ferro rods are you using? Different ones tend to be a bit different in composition or hardness and that can affect the sparks, ease of use, etc. Try using your ferro rod with some cotton balls coated in a bit of petroleum jelly. If that doesn't work it's not you, it's the rod.
  3. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003

    If you have a "shower" of sparks, it's most likely the tinder.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  4. SERE 9601

    SERE 9601

    Sep 7, 2011
    Either man made or natural,your tinder prep is the key. Even cotton balls and vaseline need to be pulled apart and fluffed. Manmade tinder cubes need to be scraped and the powder lit. Same with natural.lichens ETC need to be dry and fluffed up.its the scrapings and fine torn apart edges of natural tinders that ignite.start with cotton balls and vaseline and work from there once you get the technique of scraping and pushing sparks into the fine cotton fibers.
  5. ShooterMcgavin


    Jan 20, 2008
    Yeah, I can get a shower of sparks going. Enough that I am completely blind at night after I strike it :)

    It sounds like I need to work more on getting finer, drier tinder. The cotton balls are something I have not tried yet. I was hoping to get everything I needed for tinder from the wild, without bringing much - just for a worst case scenario practice.

    One thing I am thinking of bringing next time is sanitizing hand wipes. They have alcohol and I have lit them with sparks in my garage. Has anyone tried those?
  6. SubaruSTi


    Nov 28, 2005
    The tinder has to be extremely dry I have made fire from scrapes but not simple feather sticks although I've see it done. This why I prefer matches. You can argue you can run out or they get wet so I say take plenty with you in a dry otterbox type thing. Its easy for me to make a one match fire in the wettest conditions. A Ferro rod is a good skill but it has disadvantages especially for areas with no Spanish moss or fat wood in the wild. In IL its limited.
  7. ShooterMcgavin


    Jan 20, 2008
    Ok. Thanks!
  8. foxyrick

    foxyrick British Pork

    Dec 26, 2006
  9. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Don't handicap yourself with questionable wild tender until you refine you skills. But even then, keep prepared tender on hand. And a bic lighter. Fun is fun but serious is serious.
  10. Fanglekai


    Jan 7, 2007
    My comment was in regards to determining whether your tinder or your rod was the problem. Igniting a cotton ball is very easy. If you can do that you at least have the basic technique down and a rod that will work, so from there you know you need to use the right tinder.
  11. Cota


    Mar 17, 2012
    Also it helps to move the rod, not the striker.....that helps direct the spark where you want them without disturbing your tinder with an over reach on the strike. I live in the PNW as well, and have lots of luck with the moss we can find around here
  12. mac_heath


    Aug 27, 2002
    In the southwestern desert, keeping things dry isn't a problem. I typically use a cotton ball, pulled apart until it's several inches in diameter and fluffy. I've also used jute twine, but that must be really worked until you get a fine hair bird nest. Jute doesn't last as long as cotton. In my experience, soaking cotton in Vaseline makes it last longer, as the petroleum burns up first, but it's messier to keep around. As one of the other posters said, start with the easy stuff before you move on to naturally-gathered tinder. Also remember that ferro rod sparks require finer tinder than a match or lighter.
  13. kvaughn

    kvaughn Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Try pinning your tinder down with the end of the rod you are not holding. Then strike 4-5 quick strokes.--KV
  14. upnorth


    Nov 25, 2006
    100% :thumbup:
  15. Maddogg774


    Sep 19, 2011
    Cheat. Get pre made super tinder. Ultimate survival tech. Has foil packed water proof tinder and awesom little blast matches ferro rods.
  16. pitdog


    Apr 13, 2007
    In the PNW Fatwood and resin are your best friends. Add resin or balsam sap to flash tinders such as spanish moss,cat-tail fluff or fine Cedar bark shavings.
    Shave you fatwood up as small as you can or even rub it on rocks to make dust.
  17. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    I took some scouts and gave them wet wood (I had put it out in the rain, under a spout). I had them practice batonning the dry centers out, then getting the tinder from there.

    One trick you can try, with natural tinder, is it use the ferro rod like part of the tinder. Make a bunch of non sparked shavings. (IE cut off shavings of the fero rod without sparking it). This can be done with a file, knife, or saw.

    I use a leatherman file, and also broken up hack saw blades. I have successfully gotten "some what" damp tinder to light with this method. It will significantly cut down on the life of your fero rod, because you are effectively using it as "tinder"

    Cotton balls with Vaseline are super effective. They catch super easy, and burn long. I actually pack a baggie of them when I camp as my "just in case" supply.

    It is always a good idea to have light, dry tinder when camping.

    Many people's skills with fire starting will fail them in a damper environment, my self included.
  18. SpookStrickland


    Sep 27, 2012
    Get a Doan Magnesium Bar. My buddy and I had the same problem this summer with Ferro Rods, switched to the Mag bars and they work great!
  19. Goose_52


    Feb 8, 2009
    Back when I was first learning to use a ferro rod, I would hover over the tinder and try and strike the sparks down into it. Unless you've got incredibly dry tinder, its probably not going to work. From what I have seen with other people learning how to use it, I wasn't the only one trying to do it that way.

    I learned to change my method, and now most often I will place the tip of the rod down into the tinder bundle, and scrape it downward with moderate pressure. I'd say its similar to firing a shotgun with birdshot. Its more concentrated the shorter the distance. Trying to spark the rod from far away would be like trying to ignite the entire tinder bundle at once. You want to get that concentrated shower of sparks right into the center of your tinder.

    It does have a bit of a learning curve, but you will get it.
  20. Andster2


    Feb 18, 2007
    Lots of good advise in this thread. This is what i did when I started messing with a fire steel. Its fail proof. Get dryer lint from the filter in your dryer. Place your fire steel in the center of a pile of this stuff. Strike downward till you get a flame. This stuff goes up in flames with the quickness. After you get "the feel" of it, move on to other tinder. As already stated, bring a bic also,

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