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Yet another "firemaking thread"...with pictures!

Jun 18, 2000
All of these fire threads have inspired me to take a few pics of how I make fire with my magnesium-block and flint...enjoy.:)

Here is my magnesium block with flint attached.
I think I bought it at The Sports Authority, or maybe Dick's Sporting Goods.
I added the orange cord which I bought a spool of at Walmart.



You can see where I've chewed it up a bit while experimenting with various blades.
The blade that I think works best is a jigsaw blade that I keep in my Gerber Pro-Scout.
It makes magnesium sawdust faster and with less effort (and without scattering the magnesium everywhere) than every other blade I have tried.
It also works better than the metal file on my Gerber or my Leatherman Wave.


Anyway, on with the firemaking....

Before I start making magnesium sawdust I first make a little nest for the sawdust.
If you don't have any leaves around you could always use paper money, or any paper in your wallet, or maybe an article of clothing.
And you want to create the nest in an area that is protected from the wind...so your magnesium sawdust does not blow away.


Once you have the nest ready, then gather plenty of tinder and firewood and have it close at hand to build the fire once the magnesium ignites.

Now you're ready to start sawing and creating magnesium sawdust (be careful to not breath any into your lungs).
I like to start at the bottom of my block and create a small slot.


And then, once I think I have enough magnesium sawdust, I like to break off a small piece of the block to help the fire get started.
Multi-tools are real handy for this type of stuff.


After placing the large magnesium piece in the sawdust, it's just a matter of making some sparks.


Unfortunately, it's difficult to take pictures as you make sparks!
My first attempt did not ignite the large mag piece and only ingnited some of the sawdust, and it burned out rather quickly without a real flame.


But after re-gathering the remaining dust and trying again...success!
And with the proper tinder and some careful firebuilding I had a nice fire going....but my camera needed recharging in the worse way.


Thanks, I hope you enjoyed the show.

Nice pictures, great idea! Most people don't realize how much magnesium you really need to use..

I have always heard it should be enough magnesium dust/shavings to fill a circle as large as a quarter.

Have that tinder close by/right beside it, so it will light it.
Magnesium burns real hot, and real fast.

If you light your magnesium, then go and reach for a tinder ball, by the time you get it to the burning pile, it could be waning.
I've always made shavings, or "curls", never tried the "sawdust". Has anyone used both to any significant degree, and does one tend to work better? Thanks.
Hey Guys


Good write up..
Interesting way of doing it....


I make curls as well,, by shaving the mag rather than sawing at it...

I prefer to make curls,, however they burn VERY Very fast.. However they ignite Very easily..

I use both,, the dust I create is done with a wood rasp on a 4' bar of magnesium that I scroundged..I usually rasp a 1/2 cup at a time....

When my magnesium bar gets nicks in it from the blade I usually file it flat and smooth.. I prefer a very smooth side and a sharp knife to shave the curls off...

Everyone has a differnt way of doing it I guess.. As long as you've got a crackling fire in the end,, it's All Good..


I've always made shavings, or "curls", never tried the "sawdust". Has anyone used both to any significant degree, and does one tend to work better? Thanks.

I kind of use a combination of dust and curls. I put a burr on the back of my hacksaw blade that works really well for this (same process used for a paint scraper)

I first use it lightly and that makes a really fine powder, then gradually press harder and harder until I get large curls.

I like AlanC's idea of breakin off a chunk, I'll have to try that next time I'm out. I imagine a chunk like the one pictured would probably burn under water :eek:

On a side note, lighting an entire magnesium firestarter with an acetylene torch at night is well worth the $5 in my opinion. All in the name of science of course :D
That's interesting, I've never thought about making a big block of it. I'm another curl person.
I've used the "curl method" too, but I don't think they ignite from the sparks as readily as the sawdust...at least for myself.
And I sometimes end up flinging the curl shavings all over the place, especially when it's very cold and wet out and my hands are freezing and shaking.
I find the sawing to be easier in such conditions.

But there is no right or wrong way so long as the results are the same.:thumbup:
I believe the difference in sawdust, curls and shavings is the size. In science we learn that the smaller it is, the faster it reacts (or burn in our case...) because the molecules is lesser so the reaction is faster. eg coal dust in a coal mine can cause an explosion or flour (have not try that yet all say too dangerous) I believe a mixture of dust and shavings might help abit in starting a fire.
Have any one tried chemical means of starting a fire? Its sounds intresting but no one will let me try...
Another curl person here. i like to make a small pile about the size of a quarter, or so that it would fit into a bottle cap. I always try to position my tinder pile as close to or even on top of the mag shavings pile. I've never had a problem starting a fire with the mag block. Good tinder aids a successful fire start, too.