Using firesteel in a survival or emergency situation can be tough. Here’s how to get a quick blaze every time when you properly use a ferrocerium fire steel rod and a knife to start a life-saving and soul-warming blaze...
Here’s What You’ll Need: First you’ll need some REALLY DRY tinder (this is the fine stuff)... because this is ONE of the MAJOR keys to SUCCESS... dead grass or weeds, fine, dry wood shavings, twine pulled apart, dryer lint or cotton balls... all make good tinder. Next you’ll need a campfire all set up and ready to go - I recommend a tee pee fire for beginners - we’ll talk more about this in a minute. You’ll need some comfortable leather gloves and a ferrocerium fire steel rod such as the Bear Grylls, Schrade and Exotac rods. And last but not least, you’ll need a fixed blade knife.
Set Up Your Tee Pee Fire - Now... set up your Tee Pee Fire with your dry tinder on a dry surface like sticks or a rock, and add kindling. Then top it off with some larger sticks for fuel.
Your Survival Knife - Next we’ll need our knife. Just about any sturdy fixed blade knife with a 90 degree / squared-off AND UNCOATED spine. (You *can* file off a squared section of a coated knife's spine and then treat it with gun bluing to help protect the steel.) The Bear Grylls knife is a popular one with those just getting into survival land. With its included ferro rod and well-designed, notched, coating-free striker area on the spine toward the handle, it’s a perfect knife to start with.
Ferro Rod - Now... If you are using a new ferro rod (like the one that comes with the Bear Grylls knife, you’ll need to remove the dark rust-inhibiting coating from the portion of the rod you are going to strike. To do this, angle the spine of your blade and scrape off a good bit of the coating. It should look like this once you’re done...and throw a nice shower of sparks...
Bonus Tip Most beginners make the mistake of striking the ferro rod by pushing the knife over the rod and toward the fire... This often results in TOO MANY sparks falling short of the tinder, AND by pushing your knife out toward the fire you run the risk of knocking your fire over as your hand travels forward... which is really frustrating.
So Here’s the Right Way to Do It - With gloves on, hold the knife firmly with your strong hand, spine side facing down and the edge facing up. Brace your hand on the ground close to your tinder for support. This hand will be stationary during the process. Now grip the ferro rod with your other hand and bring it under your knife spine tilting it at about a 45 degree angle to the blade. To generate sparks, pull the ferro rod toward you while it rubs against the edge of the knife spine.
BONUS Tip - Individual streams of sparks may not be enough to easily start your blaze...... especially if your tinder is even just a little moist. So here’s a technique by experts... Make sure you wear leather gloves and rub your ferro rod back and forth on the knife spine. When done right, this technique produces vital heat to quickly dry your tinder and bring its temperature to the point of combustion.
Problems? Here’s What to Do - If after a minute or two you can’t get a fire, your tinder is probably too wet or may not be the proper material. So, if you have a choice, find new tinder. If not, keep trying. It might take up to 20 minutes to get a fire going in wet or humid situations.
ONE Last thing... Since practice makes perfect... Here’s a simple way to practice using your ferro rod and knife without starting an entire camp fire.
Grab a cotton ball and add a small dab of petroleum jelly...This will allow the cotton ball to burn much longer. To prepare your cotton ball tinder... Simply pull it apart a bit, expanding it to two or 3 times its original size, so it literally catches the sparks. Then follow the steps we talked about earlier... AND with a strike or two... You should have a nice little practice fire in no time. Check out David's video if you want to see this all in motion!