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Firesteels, the reality...

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

  1. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

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    Great idea, thanks!
     
  2. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    I've had a UST BlastMatch for quite a while and it holds up great, nothing to worry about. I picked up the UST Sparkie, which is a smaller cheaper version of the MatchBlast and it seems like it could break. They are both "one handed" fire starters, that is their advantage. I still haven't tried the fresnel lens yet. I have to think of something else to buy besides the lens otherwise the S & H will probably be as much as the lens. :crazy2:

    Parawolfe
     
  3. jzmtl

    jzmtl Loaded Pockets

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    Anybody tried fat wood shaving? I bought a pack of fat wood and it doesn't work worth crap with firesteel. I've lit straight wood shavings many times with firesteel before but the fat wood just won't work. Had to resort to matches to light it up. :rant:
     
  4. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    I always thought fat wood was like petroleum jelly. It's not to help start the initial fire but the pine oil helps keep the fire going in wet conditions and makes it last longer. Like with cotton balls & petroleum jelly. You need a dry part on the cotton ball to catch the initial spark. That is why I'm not a big fan of pre saturated cotton balls. If they become overly saturated it defeats the purpose.

    Parawolfe
     
  5. jzmtl

    jzmtl Loaded Pockets

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    I tried it again last night and got it to lit. It has to be absolutely no wind for it to work. So far the easiest I've found are jute twine, trioxane, coghlan's fire paste, hexamine, and sawdust/wax (in that order). Fatwood is definately near the bottom.

    This is all with a regular fire steel, not with misch steel.
     
  6. greyhaven

    greyhaven Empty Pockets

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    Never thought of doing that, what a great idea. Gonna add some dyer lint to my firestarting part of the BoB. Plus it will smell nice too :).
     
  7. Fosszombie

    Fosszombie Empty Pockets

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    I use moss that keeps dry or can be made dry. That's high sierra though. There's always something, though it may not be as easy as prepped fuel.

    Some grasses are wet on the outside, but when broken up are dry on the inside. Reeds of some sorts too. You can powder them.
     
  8. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

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    My experience is completely opposite yours. The petroleum jelly is the fuel, the cotton ball acts as a wick. I get the petroleum jelly to start burning (a metal match, mag bar, match, bic lighter, whatever) and the jelly burns, well.

    The trick though is to pull the cotton ball apart so that there are several 'wicks'. It is necessary to pre-saturate the cotton or it isn't coated, all you're doing is lighting the cotton (which is often really rayon).
     
  9. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    To better understand what I meant, try using something like a Sparklite. The cotton is what takes the initial spark and the petroleum jelly is the fuel but it doesn't catch the initial spark, it helps the dry cotton burn longer and stronger. You can light a presoaked cotton ball with a flame with no problem because it doesn't require dry tinder to catch the spark. Then again you can light just a blob of petroleum jelly without the cotton with an open flame. The petroleum jelly isn't combustible enough to light with small sparks. Misch metal starters will work decently with presoaked cotton balls too because they are shooting off balls of magnesium. But with flint rods and Sparklite's they only release small sparks and require dry tinder to catch the initial spark. Dry cotton works excellently for that purpose but burns too fast, hence the petroleum jelly to extend the life. Cotton is also very absorbent and over a long period of time can become completely saturated from petroleum jelly. So if you need a dry spot on your cotton ball to catch the initial spark you are out of luck. Tubes of Vaseline Lip Therapy, .35oz, are small and cheap. Actually Target's brand are two tubes for $1. Keeping the two separated keeps the cotton dry but allows you to add as much as needed.


    Parawolfe
     
  10. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

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    OK, I just took a piece of cotton ball that has been soaking in vaseline for 4+ years out of my BoB. I'd say it's well saturated.

    I was able to light it on two strokes, using a 'metal match' purchased from CountyComm - like this http://countycomm.com/FIRESTARTER.htm

    I was able to light another piece using the striker from this: http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Lite-Fire-Starter-1-kit/dp/B00029EP7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1249766257&sr=8-1 (mine was issued by the US Air Force about 20 years ago).

    And with one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Genuine-Issue-Magnesium-Survival-Starter/dp/B0002X1IOM/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=sporting-goods&qid=1249766257&sr=8-5 It took a few strokes to get the oxidized magnesium off, first. I used a piece of hacksaw blade as the striker

    I didn't bother with the lifeboat matches or Bic lighter....maybe I should video the technique and put it on youtube....
     
  11. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    Here is a picture of the various firestarters I have. Minus a UST Sparkie which is a cheaper version of the UST BlastMatch and the Coghlans Magnesium Firestarter which I also have. And of course a variety of Bic Lighters, Zippo Lighters, IMCO lighters, Strike Anywhere matches, on and on.

    [img width=640 height=480]http://img147.imageshack.us/img147/9373/firestarters.jpg[/img]

    Why would you need a cotton ball with a lighter or any open flame? Also ANY firestarter that has misch metal or uses magnesium scrapings is going to be much easier to catch because of the magnesium. It's the smallest common denominator like flint or the SparkLite I want cotton for. I see you mention you used a SparkLite on cotton balls that were saturated for 4 years. You must have gotten very lucky or there was a dry area on the cotton ball after all this time. Even with the quick tab tinders that come with the SparkLite you have to fluff the ends out to help them catch the initial spark. It mentions to do that even in the directions.

    The whole idea of the cotton ball is to give your tinder something very dry and flammable to take the spark. The petroleum jelly is to help extend the life of the initial tinder. It's not to help catch the spark. I can take a cotton ball and a glob of petroleum jelly and then work the PJ into the cotton ball so it is very saturated. Then take the cotton ball and pry it apart exposing the center that is dry. Then take a SparkLite or the TAD Gear Survival Spark and light the dry part of the cotton ball in one strike. Once the dry part of the cotton ball ignites the open flame ignites the petroleum jelly and I get the desired effect. There is no technique to it. Using Firesteels, MatchBlast, Misch metal rods, etc are even easier. There are all types of things people use to extend their initial tinder. Some I've used some I haven't. Small pieces of inner tube, hand sanitizer, Birthday candles, fat wood, on and on. I find that keeping cotton balls and petroleum jelly separate until I need them works the best. You may decide otherwise, go with what you think works the best for you.


    Parawolfe
     
  12. davidt1

    davidt1 Loaded Pockets

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    Just bought these to build a fire-starting kit for my EDC bag
    [​IMG]

    match box: waterproof and cheap but the striking surface on the back didn't work.

    waterproof matches: made in 2005; worked OK but didn't work on the striking surface of the match box.

    Ultimate survival technology fire thing: works with the right tinder; I will stick with a Bic lighter after the novelty wears off.

    Cotton ball and Vaseline: last long enough to cook; but if you are using a Bic lighter there is really no need for it.

    Toilet paper: bought for toilet use, but it burns easily and can be used as tinder just like cotton balls.

    OK I just tried one sheet of toilet paper soaked with some Vaseline. It worked beautifully. Didn't last as long as a cotton ball but long enough to start a fire. I use 4 sheets to wipe, so one sheet is not much at all.

    My conclusion is the easiest way to start a fire is a Bic lighter and toilet paper or cotton balls.
     
  13. Brangdon

    Brangdon Loaded Pockets

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    Although most people say Vaseline, candle wax can be better because it's less messy. Use good quality candles, though, not tea-lights.
     
  14. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

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    Yes, I pull the small piece of cotton out to expose the individual fibers - but they dont burn because they're cotton.

    Ever seen a kerosene lamp burning?

    Whats burning, the kerosene or the cotton wick?

    [answer: both, but mostly the kerosene] Same with a cotton ball with petrolatum (vaseline) on it.

    When you light a cotton ball thats soaked in vaseline, the initial spark melts the vaseline (making a little puddle of petroleum based oil) which burns. The heat of that burning melts more vaseline, which also burns. Being an oil, it's not much affected by water. The cotton is just there to hold the vaseline - in fact, you can carry a tube of just vaseline (or chapstick, or antibiotic ointment (not cream), or a bunch of other things), squeeze it onto your firewood and light it, and it will start. The vaseline isn't there to keep the cotton dry, cotton is a pretty poor tinder (unless chared).

    Davidt1: I carry some soaked cotton balls in a 35mm film can - it's not messy, and since you only need a piece about the size of a dime (which you then pull out to the size of a quarter) to start a fire, you can carry a lot of fire starting. The idea isn't to cook with them - if you want something to cook with try trioxane tablets http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/MGR826-1.html which are waterproof, light easily enough (with a match or lighter) and more or less durable (I've had them powder on me, but the pieces will still burn).

    And don't count on a Bic (or any other mechanical) lighter as your fire starter. When they work they're great, but I've had them fail on me (after being stored in a ziplock bag, unused, for a year since purchase).

    Brangdon: It's hard to light candle wax without an existing wick and flame. And I carry a couple of tea lights, both for light and as a fire starter if needed: When I can buy 100 of them for a buck at Ikea, why not?
     
  15. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    Grab a plain cotton ball and a similar size glob of pure Vaseline (100% White Petrolatum). Take a SparkLite and see which one catches a flame quickest, separately. The plain dry cotton ball will always win. Vaseline isn't combustible like gasoline of kerosene. Granted given the proper spark or flame it will definitely take a flame but not as quickly as dry cotton or even dryer lint for that matter. A cotton ball by itself burns up in a matter of seconds. I've never timed it but would estimate 30 at the most. Add a decent amount of PJ and it lasts much much longer. If all the cotton ball was used for was a wick, as you suggest, then you could use anything. Try 550 paracord or any other type of small rope and saturate it with petroleum jelly. I'll stick with what has worked for me for as long as I can remember. Cotton and petroleum jelly.


    Parawolfe
     
  16. Flight-ER-Doc

    Flight-ER-Doc Loaded Pockets

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    I've done it, and I stick by my version and what works for me.

    Paracord, shoelaces and anything synthetic won't work well since they don't absorb the oil into the pores
     
  17. Brangdon

    Brangdon Loaded Pockets

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    In my experience, the initial spark ignites the cotton, which burns. The burning cotton first melts, then vaporises the Vaseline, and the Vaseline vapour burns. The cycle then continues with it being Vaseline (vapour) that burns and is consumed. So we more or less agree on what the steady-state ends up as; we just disagree with how it starts. In my experience it's extremely hard to ignite Vaseline alone, because it's hard to get it from solid to liquid to vapour with a single spark, because the spark doesn't contain enough heat and the Vaseline cools too quickly by conduction to the other Vaseline that surrounds it.

    If you have really big and hot sparks, and very thinly divided Vaseline, it might work, by counter-acting those two factors. That's partly about the quality of the Ferro rod, and the technique of the user. So maybe it works for you. A lot of people have more success igniting dry cotton first, because cotton is very thinly divided. As parawolfe says, a dry cotton ball will ignite pretty easily; it just won't burn for very long.

    Lighting it is the hard part. Easy with a flame, but hard with just a spark from a ferro rod.

    I've always found dry cotton will take a spark readily, straight from the shop, without needing to be charred first.

    I hope I didn't imply you didn't need a wick. You use the wax as you would Vaseline, mixing it with cotton. The cotton acts as a wick.

    Tealights will work, but in my experience they are a false economy. They provide roughly 1/4 the light of a proper candle. They are cheap for a reason.
     
  18. parawolfe

    parawolfe Empty Pockets

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    That has been my point as well, the cotton takes the initial spark. I actually did a video using a SparkLite fire starter because it is one of the fire starters that produces the least amount of spark. As usual, I got a cotton ball to catch in two flicks of the SparkLite. I then took a dollop of Vaseline on the end of my finger and used the same SparkLite to try and get it to catch. It never did, after dozens of attempts, but you could see that the sparks were hitting the Vaseline because it was slightly discolored (brownish) and the same discolored area was permeated with flecks of flint. Then I demonstrated how taking that same dollop of Vaseline and mixing it with the cotton ball works. After mixing the Vaseline in the cotton ball I spread it apart revealing a dry center. That dry center takes the spark and as you mentioned ignites the Vaseline. I completely agree with your experience, it is the same as mine.

    Parawolfe
     
  19. clock

    clock Loaded Pockets

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    has anyone tried tissue paper or toilet paper ?

    Should catch a spark fairly easy, but I havent tried it myself.
     
  20. Dane1957

    Dane1957 Loaded Pockets

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    Just rember your white socks you have on, and everthing will be all right....... :luck: