Stainless Steel Knife Firecraft Myths. Field Tested!

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by Woods Walker, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    There are always myths floating around bushcraft and knife topics. Stainless steel knives have been subject to firecraft myths so I decided to field test these two:

    1. They can't strike a spark via ferro rod.

    2. They can't strike a spark via flint/chert/quartz/whatever rocks.

    Bonus myth:

    3. You can't use the edge of your knife as a ferro rod striker.

    Obviously I haven't used every type of Carbon or Stainless knife steel ever made but have tested multiple types in the past. None of my findings clashed with my previous experience. I will also compare knife steel to a dedicated high carbon steel striker which was made by Wolf Creek Forge from an old File. Maybe W1 but not sure. Ok lets take a look at the stars of the show. The knives and kit used. Yes we will be starting a fire.

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    1. Mora older 546.
    2. Mora #2.
    3. Ferro rod. Dang cool looking one!
    4. WCF Colonial flint and steel striker.

    More knives used.

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    1. Mora Robust.
    2. LMF Mora firecraft knife. In Zombie Green! Yes toxic/bright/funky green is the international color of Zombies!
    3. KJ Mora older and nicer 511 type knife.

    Carbon vs. Stainless Firecraft myths! GO!!!

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    Like much of my testing this was done in the woods using mostly materials found that day. Flint and Steel methodology will require rocks so I found some.

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    Cedar bark would be useful for both a ferro rod or Flint and Steel fire.

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    Dead dry grass actually isn't my preferred tinder as it rained hard in the AM but went for it anyways.

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    Also had imported flint and chaga which was foraged from these very woods a year ago.

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    Time to put the myths to the test.

    Myth:

    1. Stainless steel knives can't strike a spark via ferro rod.

    Busted.

    Total bull dung. Both stainless or carbon steel knives seemed equally as effective. The fact Mora's LMF knife is made from 12c27 should be a good indicator this myth is false. Just square the spine of your knife and odds are it will toss a great spark from a ferro rod be it carbon or stainless. Most probably know this however this myth keeps popping up online. The proof is on the video for anyone interested.

    Myth:

    2. Stainless steel knives can't strike a spark via flint/chert/quartz/whatever rocks.

    Plausible or confirmed.

    I only tested Mora knives here but have tried this with other stainless steel blades in the past. The results were always the same. Never a hint of a spark. I might as well be hitting the rock with wet clay. I used both native and imported rocks hoping to catch a spark on charcloth. I was prepared to use chaga and charred natural tinder (charred tree bark) but never got a chance because it doesn't work.

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    The dedicated striker tossed mad sparks. The Mora #2 tossed marginally in comparison but still effective sparks. The 546 nothing. Zero.

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    Fire all done. The flames are in the video along with the flint and steel action. Watch me fail to get even a hint of a spark from stainless!

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    All of that stated I am not saying a stainless steel knife absolutely can't toss a spark via rock. I have not tried every last stainless steel made or every last knife using that material. However can say I have never been able to do it over the years and can see why the myth is grounded in facts. A stainless steel knife just doesn't want to toss a spark when hit by a rock.

    Bonus myth:

    3. You can't use the edge of your knife as a ferro rod striker.

    Busted.

    The spine is better as it won't dull your edge but if yea gotta, it's not the end of the world. See me do the unthinkable in the video. That said lots of things can strike a spark off a ferro rod such as sharp rocks etc.

    Safety warning.

    During this test I did things which could easily result in serious injury. It wouldn't take much for someone to cut themselves using a knife as a striker and more so if under physical stress from exposure etc etc etc. The knives I used were shaving sharp.

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    In the micro second of not paying attention during taking the last photo was all it took to get a little cut. Ok this wasn't a deep cut but imagine the damage a rapidly swinging hand hold a rock striking a knife could do. There are multiple methods of using a knife to toss a spark from either a ferro rod or rock. Some safer than others. That said a dedicated flint and steel striker IMHO is often safer and more effective. I like using a knife as a ferro rod striker but a dedicated strike for that works great as well. Just something to consider.

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    Here is a video of the field testing. Thanks for watching.

    [video=youtube;XJ8xUREp-SY]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ8xUREp-SY[/video]
     
  2. The Zieg

    The Zieg

    Jan 31, 2002
    Well done!

    Zieg
     
  3. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    Thanks brother!
     
  4. The Zieg

    The Zieg

    Jan 31, 2002
    I'll be trying out some flint and steel this weekend here in Colorado.

    Zieg
     
  5. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    This raises a question that has puzzled me for a while. If you are carrying a bushcraft knife with a ferro rod and your obligatory Altoids tin or possibles bag full of every other fire starting methods know to mankind from vaseline and lifeboat matches to a mini-crack torch and a pint bottle of white gas, who cares about flint? How would you lose the ferro raid, yet retain the knife and all of the other fire starter gear you had on hand? :D
     
  6. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    Maybe ask several people who were on Alone that question. They seemed to lose their ferro rods. When it comes to da woods entropy rules so more options are never a bad thing. Overall for me like friction fire flint and steel methodology is fun. I like fun stuff.

    I do take ferro rod loss seriously. Here are some videos on that topic.

    [video=youtube;-TwQRhg8mY4]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TwQRhg8mY4[/video]

    [video=youtube;I8Ki5UZ4a8M]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8Ki5UZ4a8M[/video]
     
  7. LostViking

    LostViking Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 1, 2009
    Excellent!
     
  8. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    Now for phase 2. Which alloyed carbon/tool steels with strike a spark on flint?
     
  9. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    Heat treatment has much to do with it IMHO. Dead hard seems best. Hence why dedicated strikers often work better than knives (however I do have striker knives) but many carbon steel implements certainly work. An old USA file works great! I had good luck with 1095, W1, O1, the tool steels. Other types of carbon steel works as well. I am sure there are stainless which would work but so far I have not found a stainless steel knife that does.

    It's going to be fun! Make sure your rock has a sharp edge.
     
  10. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    I am thinking more about some of the "in between" steels that are not considered stainless, but still have fair amount of chromium like CPM3V, CPM4V/Vanadis 4E, A2 or even D2 which is right the line as far as chrome content goes. I assurme that most on here have already heard this, but my understanding is that when you strike a ferro rod or "magnesium match", it is the particles from the rod or magnesium "striker" that spark up, but when you use a steel and flint, it is the STEEL that "shaves" off and gets hot. I wonder if it is the chrome that is the primary culprit? "Plain" tool, spring and bearing steels like 52100, 5160, CruForgeV, 1095CroVan, etc. have no more than 1.5% chrome. O1 is about the same. But I wonder what happens when you get up around 5-7% chromium?
     
  11. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    Heck doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out the ferro rod is disappearing, not the knife. With flint and steel it's the knife getting scraped up though dang, you should see some of the rock chips fly at times. LOL. I am not sure what the primary anti spark problem with SS knives are. D2 is one I have been thinking about. Only have one D2 knife and it's coated so never gave it a GO!
     
  12. jdm61

    jdm61 itinerant metal pounder

    Aug 12, 2005
    Is there some secret bushcraft ritual that frequently causes the ferro rod to jump out of the loop on the knife sheath? :D
     
  13. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    Seems that way. LOL! I made this loop of orange Kydex. Added shock cord later after comparing the contrast in colors.

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    Shock cord does help. Another DIY loop though still a human hand will eventually remove a firesteel for use. Then the cat is out of the bag!

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    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
  14. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    GOOD question about higher chrome non-SS.
     
  15. Faiaoga

    Faiaoga

    945
    Jul 3, 2012
    Very good information and well presented. Thank you.;):)
     
  16. Preacher Man

    Preacher Man Moderator Moderator

    Jan 28, 2005
    Thank you for testing this. Its nice to know for sure.
     

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