Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

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Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:26 pm

I have been absolutely fascinated by starting a fire using this method. Something just feels good when you start a fire using a traditional method such as a flint and steel. I've been looking to get one for a little while, with my eye on a few online. I was in Colonial Williamsburg this weekend and they were selling steel strikers (made by the blacksmith on site) and shards of flint so I bought one. $12 total for the steel + flint shard. Can't argue with that. When we got back to the place we were staying in I immediately started playing with it. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I didn't it would be easy, but I couldn't get a spark to catch for the life of me. The only thing I had on hand as tinder was a cotton ball. I thought for sure it would catch a spark.

So I've come to you guys for advice, tips, anything you can offer to help me master this. As you can see from the pictures below, the striker is on the smaller side and kind of narrow. Would a bigger and/or wider steel throw a better spark? Is a cotton ball not the best way to go? If your wondering why the flint is in 2 pieces, it's because I got frustrated and threw it down on the table a little to hard and it broke....rookie mistake.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Red_Snow » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:37 pm

That is the same size I ever had when I was doing the whole reenactor thing at the mountain man rendezvous. Would hold it with my index, middle, and ring fingers with the pinky not in the steel. Hard to explain how we used to do it, but you would hold the flint between thumb and index of left hand with the tinder cradled by the middle, ring, and pinky directly below so when striking the flint with the steel the sparks would be directed onto the tender.
Anyway, that is how I remember doing it. Its been years though, so my memory could be fuzzy.


Cotton balls will work, but you would be better off finding some natural tinder from your AO.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:51 pm

Like this right?
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Red_Snow » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:00 pm

Exactly like that.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Dooms » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:39 pm

First, you're going to really want to get yourself some char-cotton/char-cloth or true tinder fungas. Traditional flint and steel isn't like using a ferrocerium rod, where one good strike will easily burst a cotton ball into flames. It's more like using a bowdrill, where you typically have to work to carefully caress an ember into flame.

As far as holding the striker, I learned long ago not to put all my fingers into the loop. Doing so is a great way to slice your knuckles open on some of that amazingly sharp flint. Rather, I hold the striker along the bottom edge, and strike in a kind of downward whipping motion. I find this also allows one to gain a lot of speed and leverage with each strike. It's difficult to describe without showing someone in person, but hopefully this picture gives you an idea:

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Even with that relatively small striker and chunk of flint I have no problem getting a fire going as long as I take the time to prepare my tinder.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by TacAir » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:17 pm

I hold my steel with the fingertips of my right hind, then use a flick of the wrist to strike the flint. I use a charred piece of lantern wick under the stone to catch the spark.

I've seen 11 Y/O Scouts master this in a couple of hours. Just play with it, everyone seems to have their own 'method' - have fun!
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Regulator » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:17 am

Char cloth is what you need until you got some practice. Keep your wrist loose when striking. Wrapping the char cloth over the sharp edge and striking the steel through it is kinda like cheating, but will make sure that spark is caught. You'll get it :wink:

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:07 am

Thanks for the responses guys. I really appreciate it. Char cloth is something I've been meaning to make (by make I mean try for the first time), but I just haven't got around to it. I like TacAir's char lantern wick idea. That might have to be the first think I try and make char cloth out of. It seemed like my biggest issue was getting the sparks to land on my tinder. I tried putting the cotton ball on top of my flint but still no luck.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:59 am

1. Hold the steel the way it feels most comfortable.

2. You must have a sharp edge to toss sparks. Move the rock around to find the edge.

3. You want a glancing blow. Don’t hit beyond the edge unless your intention is to knap a new spot. Sometimes this helps.

4. Does your striker toss sparks? I one got one that wasn’t properly heat treated. Sometimes people use files from China that are too soft. The striking area should be dead hard.

5. You MUST use charcloth at first. Later try chaga, melkweed ovum, charred natural materials etc etc etc but for now char cloth is what you need. Use TP or fluffed up jute rope to blow that coal into flames before trying a natural tinder bundle. Jute is the standard tinder bundle for F&S kits. The entire process should take under a minute. Most people just stay with charcoth, about ½ the time that’s what I still use. If you're uncertain about how the charcloth should look when done I could put some in an envelope and mail it to yea.

6. You can use local rocks if the chert/flint gets used up.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by ninja-elbow » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:59 am

Charcloth. Sparks busted off flint and steel tend to not be hot enough to ignite cotton and such. As has been mentioned, you can put your bit of char cloth on the flint or under the flint to catch a spark. It's how I do it. Hoping a spark hits your small bit of charcloth in a nest below your flint and steel is just too iffy.

Did you get any sparks off your steel? Practice that first. Learn to make sparks with what you've got first. Then add the char.

Remember, in this order:
1) spark
2) small ember
3) bigger ember
4) smoke and a bunch of embers
5) flame
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Boondock » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:01 pm

ninja-elbow wrote:Did you get any sparks off your steel? Practice that first. Learn to make sparks with what you've got first. Then add the char.
Yup. That's how I learned.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:55 pm

My striker definitely throws sparks. It took me a little bit to get it down. Once I found the right edge on the flint I was good to go. I'm still not consistent with every strike but about every other 2 or 3 I see sparks.

Woods Walker wrote:If you're uncertain about how the charcloth should look when done I could put some in an envelope and mail it to yea.
I'm going to give a few shots here before to long. I think I know what I should come out with but we'll see. haha after a few tries I might end up taking you up on that. I really appreciate it. Thanks Woods.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:39 pm

I got out of work a little early today and I took the opportunity to finally make char cloth. I didn't, however, try it with my striker as it was getting pretty windy. Some of the ash/embers was blowing out of my Vargo stove so I figured it best to wait. I used a some small pieces of a spare wick as TacAir suggested. I wish I had used the whole wick but whatever. I'll make more. There are more pics of the process in my other thread in Bug Out Gear.

How's she look?
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by ninja-elbow » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:11 pm

Looks about right. Will it take a spark? (use a ferro rod or a lighter to test a chunk).
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by ninja-elbow » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:23 pm

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If it helps at all, when you get to finding your sweet spot for consistent sparks, here is a pic of where I hold my char material. I find it works best to fold it on top of the chert I use.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:54 pm

ninja-elbow wrote:Looks about right. Will it take a spark? (use a ferro rod or a lighter to test a chunk).
Just ran outside to try it. It definitely holds a spark. BUT couldn't get it with the flint/striker. I did it like the picture you posted above and it feel apart in my hands. I almost had it though! I'll definitely get it next time. The picture (of the second piece) I took below was from my ferro rod. Just wanted to see it catch a spark.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Regulator » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:02 pm

The cotton pads that women use to remove makeup make excellent char cloth. You can get a whole sleeve of the things for like $1.95 at walmart.

The lamp wicks only need to be charred on the ends. Catch your spark on the charred end, stick it into your tinder and blow to flame. Once it bursts into flame pull the lamp wick back with your hand and snuff the ember out. Stick it back in your fire kit ready to be used next time with that charred bit on the end.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:05 pm

Regulator wrote:The lamp wicks only need to be charred on the ends. Catch your spark on the charred end, stick it into your tinder and blow to flame. Once it bursts into flame pull the lamp wick back with your hand and snuff the ember out. Stick it back in your fire kit ready to be used next time with that charred bit on the end.
How do you char part of something?
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Regulator » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:26 pm

When you put the flame out, whats left is charred :wink:

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by 74 or more » Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:28 pm

Regulator wrote:When you put the flame out, whats left is charred :wink:
*face palm*

well played sir
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by TacAir » Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:51 pm

74 or more wrote:
Regulator wrote:The lamp wicks only need to be charred on the ends. Catch your spark on the charred end, stick it into your tinder and blow to flame. Once it bursts into flame pull the lamp wick back with your hand and snuff the ember out. Stick it back in your fire kit ready to be used next time with that charred bit on the end.
How do you char part of something?
I did a post on this a while back For this I used a ferro rod as that's what most folks have, not knowing about the old school stuff.
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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Regulator » Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:09 pm

TacAir wrote:
74 or more wrote:
Regulator wrote:The lamp wicks only need to be charred on the ends. Catch your spark on the charred end, stick it into your tinder and blow to flame. Once it bursts into flame pull the lamp wick back with your hand and snuff the ember out. Stick it back in your fire kit ready to be used next time with that charred bit on the end.
How do you char part of something?
I did a post on this a while back For this I used a ferro rod as that's what most folks have, not knowing about the old school stuff.
Indeed, not sure how I missed that then, but yes, that is a great writeup showing exactly what I was talking about.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:17 pm

Go with cotton pads or something thin like a bandanna. Those should easily catch a spark once charred. Cook it within your tin till the smoke stops. You can either put the char on top of the rock, striking steel on rock or place the char on the ground/inside tin, striking rock on steel. I prefer the last method with char too delicate to hold on top of the rock.

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Re: Traditional Flint and Steel Striker - Rookie Needs Help

Post by Halfapint » Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:18 pm

I was just going to start a topic about charcloth and starting fires with both flint and steel as well as with a ferro rod.

I made a bunch of different charcloth recently and so far my favorite is denim. It is thick and takes a spark easily. I still have to figure out how to use the flint and steel better it takes me nearly 20 strikes to catch the charcloth. Tomorrow I shall use the info from this to education myself better!

Once again this forum full of useful information! LOVE IT!

Edit: WW that above video is damn amazing..... I'm in awe... Even with my ferro rod it takes me at least 2 strikes and I thought that was good....... :shock:
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