1. Are you a current member with account or password issues?

    Please visit following page for more information

    Dismiss Notice

Firesteels, the reality...

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by francis castiglione, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. blinding

    blinding Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    I continue to be amazed at the things people will tote around for tinder. Don't get me wrong, it is interesting to know that steel wool, dryer lint, or hand cleaner can be used to start a fire. If I had nothing better I would use any one of them but to pack them deliberately? All of those will melt, leak, or be ruined if wet.

    I carry some of those white fuel tablets, the ones you see sold in camping stores for those ridiculously heavy folding stoves. They are waterproof; I have soaked one in water, shaken it off and lit it. They burn for several minutes. If you can't get a fire started in that time then check to see if your wood is petrified :) The fuel tablets don't leak or degrade. Even is you somehow broke it the pieces would still light.

    Before you rant about your home brew concoction try starting a fire using a fuel tablet. Then use an equal size/weight of wax, steel wool, or lint.
     
    Barrel likes this.
  2. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    May 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,186
    Likes Received:
    160
    Actually, I can start more fires with a 35mm film can full of vaseline impregnated cotton balls than an entire box (3 foil packages) of fuel tabs. And vaseline and cotton balls are more readily available, take less space, weigh and cost less, and are simply more fun.

    Being able to start a fire without modern industrial products like fuel tabs is not only fun, but sometimes challenging. Like navigating with just a map and compass it too is a useful skill: Else we can all wait for the GPS system or receiver to crash.

    But if you REALLY want to start a fire, use a road flare. I once started a 14" diameter log that had been soaking in a lake. Took about 28 minutes of a 30 minute road flare to do it, but we got it lit. Ah, college days....
     
  3. liquidsunshine

    liquidsunshine Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    1
    Blinding,

    not to rubbish your preferred method by any means, just be aware that these tablets have a rather limited shelf life, especially if they are not sealed air tight. Depending on brand it varies, but after some months or a couple of years, they may look exactly the same, nonetheless they won't light even if you try to light them with a flamethrower.

    Vaseline plus cotton may be a bit messy, but that's what water- and airtight containers are for. It may go rancid after years, but it will still burn. Therefore: +1 for vasline plus cotton!

    Cheers,

    Matt
     
  4. blinding

    blinding Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    I have not tried vaseline but do not doubt that it burns well. But it sure sounds messy. (Fun and messy but not illegal. Two out of three :)
    For anyone doing this make sure they are "cotton" balls. Apparently some are now Dacron.

    I can toss a couple of the fuel tabs in my jacket pocket or my essentials bag without having to worry about a container.

    You are right though, having the skills is often more important than having the equipment.
     
  5. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    May 9, 2009
    Messages:
    1,186
    Likes Received:
    160
    Pull a piece out of the 35mm film can about the size of a dime. Spread it out to about the size of a quarter. Set on burnable stuff. Apply spark. Watch fire! Even burns in the rain.

    And, the vaseline is handy for chapped lips too...
     
  6. blinding

    blinding Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    You got me worried. I did some searching to find out about the shelf life of hexamine fuel tablets and what I fount listed them as indefinite or more than 10 years. Then I went and found some very old Esbit, made in Germany, fuel tablets. They did not have a date but the included stove was corroded. The fuel tablet lit and burned just fine.

    There are many variations of these fuel tablets. Were the ones you had problems with made of hexamine?
     
  7. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    0
    I like to pack cotton balls dry in a 2" x 3" little plastic bag with a zip lock that I got at Walmart. Actually, I think I had to buy a 50 pack of them. I also carry a couple tubes of Vaseline Lip Therapy which are .35oz. It has the same exact active ingredient as petroleum jelly, which is 100% white petrolatum. You can get Target's brand for half the price of the Vaseline tubes. The Vaseline Lip Therapy is a dollar and Target's brand is two for a dollar. The tubes are very small and are also dual purpose. You can use it for the intended purpuse or for adding to cotton ball tinders.

    Keeping the two seperated is a good idea for a couple reasons. One is that you can add as much as needed. Pre soaking the cotton balls can over saturate them, especially if they aren't used for a long time. To get a cotton ball to take a spark easily there needs to be a dry spot on it. So if you take a dry cotton ball, then add a decent amount of petroleum jelly and squish in on the cotton ball you can pry the cotton ball apart from the center and it should be dry enough to take a spark. The cotton lights up with no problems and then the petroleum jelly (Vaseline Lip Therapy) ignites and extends the life of the cotton ball giving you more time to add more natural tinder and kindling.


    Parawolfe
     
  8. Supa

    Supa Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hexamine is the white blocks that come in 2inch squares with a wax like coating and can be store indefinatly. They are usualy found in packs of 8 within the british army 'hexi' burner.Yoiu will need to crush them down to a fine powder to make them light from a spark tho.

    Trioxane however comes in a sealed browinsh metalic foil and is purple in color, it take light alot easier than hexamine but once the packet is opened it needs either used or put inot a airtight container to remain usable. If kept sealed in the original foil wrapper the Trioxane will last just as long as the hexamine. Also, trioxane will light from a spark straight from the packet.

    Just my two pence
    Supa
     
  9. rmojo

    rmojo Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    I carry a small pencil sharpener in my fire kit. All I do is find a stick that is about the size of a pencil that is dead on a tree. I have done this in a downpour. Under some kind of cover(poncho, tarp) just spin the stick in the sharpener like a pencil. These shavings are dry and ready to take a spark. Just be sure to have all of your other tinder ready because it burns quickly.

    I also keep the following in my altoids tin:

    a small bic lighter
    Cotton balls
    small tube of vasaline
    carcloth
    a small tealight candle
    firesteel
    piece of a bike innertube
    a small piece of fatwood
    small magnifying glass (in my first aid kit)
    This is all I will need to start hundreds of fires.

    Try as many ways as you can think of in all conditions, not just on a nice day. These skills can never go to waste if you ever really need them.
     
  10. liquidsunshine

    liquidsunshine Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    1
    @rmojo: At the risk of outing myself for not knowing an important fire making method:

    What do you do with the bike innertube?

    Cheers,

    Matt
     
  11. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    0
    It could be something new I'm not aware of but I've heard people burn small pieces of inner tube. It's like petroleum jelly. It doesn't help start the fire but helps keep it going once it is started, especially in wet conditions. So you still need some tinder to start the initial fire.

    Parawolfe
     
  12. liquidsunshine

    liquidsunshine Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    1
    Interesting, will give that a try some time, if for no other reason than scientific curiosity - who knows, maybe I'll add a piece to my stuff if I'm convinced.

    There's so many ways to do a particular thing, unbelievable. I think that every time I come across yet another facet of something that I thought I know a lot about.

    Matt
     
  13. Widerstand

    Widerstand Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    2
    I personally use a Strikeforce fire starter because the rod is some composite material and when you strike it the sparks are like three times as hot as a standard match or something like that, it comes in a hard ABS case, it has a built in striker, and a spot to hold a few wet-fire tabs.

    Other then that its all about practicing being able to find the dry materials to make a good birds nest and tinder even in soaking conditions it can always be done.
     
  14. Joben

    Joben Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm new to firesteel too.
    I really not sure how you got a blister, it really isn't that strenuous an activity.
    It's more about technique than force, so if you're pushing that hard it might be messing up the technique...

    And yes, doing it with tinder gathered at the site can be tricky.

    So take it one element at a time.
    Try it with proven prepped tinder first to be sure you're doing it right.
    I suggest shredded jute twine (scrape it with a sharp blade held at 90 degrees; make a hairball) and/or fatwood shavings.

    Then once you know for sure you have use of the tool down solid work on prepping tinder in the field.

    There is a learning curve. Just like there is for other elements of fire-making actually.
    A lot of 'city folk' figure if you've got a log and a lighter you're all set LOL.
    But of course it doesnt work that way, you need kindling, you need to stack it right, etc.

    I like the pencil sharpener idea. Very clever.

    That's quite a list. For an extra layer of redundancy i suggest alcohol swabs (probably in your first aid kit)
    The ones i have burn for about 45 seconds if laid flat on the ground. If you cut a small X in the wrapper and peal back the edges so only a small surface is exposed you can get a candle like flame with double the burn time.
     
  15. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2007
    Messages:
    847
    Likes Received:
    838
    Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel is another great firestarter option, and it's a good idea to have on a trip for preventing unpleasant cases of stomach failing to handle field issue dirt. For firestarting, dip, rub or soak any porous material and merry blue flames will catch from any source. Although, I'm afraid, sparks from a firesteel directly into a puddle of gel won't work, need to try it out but my firesteel is not as good as the proper Swedish.
     
  16. rmojo

    rmojo Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    2
    liquidsunshine


    The innertube will burn very well under any conditions and burn for a long while....just avoid the fumes.
     
  17. bigfoot

    bigfoot Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,804
    Likes Received:
    1,311
    Well, I dumped out my drawer of various firestarters (Swedish Firesteel army / scout / mini size, Doan mag bar, StrikeForce, BSA Hot Spark, Horseshoe Mtn mag bar, Spark Lite, etc.) and spent some quality time with each one of them. I mixed up a huge batch of Vaseline cotton ball tinder (thanks to folks here for the suggestion!) and also used some more WetFire tinder. Sat on my butt in the backyard and played mountain man. Nope, I didn't burn the house down, but I am happy to say that I am now much better with a firesteel. Each brand and model definitely has its own quirks. A good technique for one sucks for the next. Also noticed that some of the stock strikers are better than others. The piece of hacksaw blade was pretty impressive -- eats through your ferro rod but puts out quite a shower of sparks. And the awl on the SAK is pretty decent as folks have mentioned. Next step is to try and find one of those carbide sharpeners for a striker.

    Look out Les and Bear! :laugh:
     
  18. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Messages:
    616
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've got a bunch of fire starters and I was watching a YouTube video this guy in Ireland did on Fresnel lenses. I was never really impressed with using a magnifying lens/glass to start a fire. But after watching some of those videos I'm going to have to pick one up. They are cheap anyway. I think Going Gear has a 3.75" X 5.25" for $3. I've never had a problem getting any of my fire starters to work. Especially when using cotton balls for initial tinder.


    Parawolfe
     
  19. bigfoot

    bigfoot Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,804
    Likes Received:
    1,311
    Just snagged a UST BlastMatch last night and tried it out... impressive. The case doesn't seem as strong as the StrikeForce, but it still puts out some serious sparks. The extra moving parts make me a little nervous, but it lights a PJ cotton ball with no problem, and the WetFire tinder, too.

    Thanks Para, gonna have to try out that fresnel lens idea today, we're supposed to be sunny and triple-digit heat. If it doesn't work today then it is definitely operator error on my part. :)
     
  20. Vic303

    Vic303 Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    698
    Likes Received:
    34
    It's the Wetfire tabs that have had a shelf life issue. We used to have a 12pack, but they went bad even in the sealed mylar packets after a couple years. Maybe they have addressed the problem and reformulated, but I don't know. I'll stick with stinky dryer lint and/or vaseline...