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Making a Fire with Flint and Steel

August 27, 2011

We’re now going to start a fire with flint and steel. Actually we’re just going to ignite our tinder bundle. The bundle will only burn for ten or fifteen seconds, so if you were doing this for real you would want to have your fire already set up and ready to push the flaming tinder bundle into it.

So, take your tinder bundle and lay it out within easy reach. Fluff the tinder up a little so that it isn’t compacted together, and be sure not to set it directly on the ground where it might absorb some moisture.

Now take your flint and hold it in a tight pinch grip in your left hand with your thumb on top (these instructions are for a right handed person). Take a piece of char-cloth and place it on top of the flint. Position one edge of the char-cloth directly over the striking edge of the flint and hold the char-cloth in place with your left thumb. Don’t get you thumb too close to the striking edge, or you may hit it with the steel when you are striking. Pictured below: top, how to hold the flint; bottom, char-cloth held beneath thumb.

Now you want to take you fire steel or file and hold it in your right hand. Lift the fire steel about a foot above the flint and bring it down fairly fast to contact the edge of the flint. Don’t bring the steel straight down. Use a kind of swooping motion. Start a little out from the flint, as your hand comes down let it move in toward the flint, and finish by pulling you right elbow out so the striker moves away from the flint after you hit it. This move takes a little practice, and you may want to practice it without the char-cloth for a while so that you can focus on getting a good shower of sparks. Pictured below: Series of three pictures showing the correct striking motion.

When you are getting sparks on a regular basis, try it with the char-cloth. With any luck at all you will have some sparks land in the char-cloth and you will see a small glowing spot or spots on the char. Pictured below: Glowing red spots where sparks have landed in the char-cloth.

Your char-cloth is now burning. Don’t panic and get in a hurry. The char-cloth will keep burning until you put it out or it all burns up. Calmly pick up your tinder bundle and lay the char-cloth on it. Gently fold the tinder bundle up around the char-cloth so that the tinder is in light contact with the char-cloth. Now blow gently into the bundle to so that the oxygen in your breath will cause the char-cloth to burn hotter. Don’t hold the bundle too close to your face or you may get singed when it ignite. Pictured below: top, char-cloth in tinder bundle; middle, tinder wrapped up around burning char-cloth; Bottom, blowing gently on tinder and char-cloth. Note that the tinder is starting to smoke.

After a few seconds the tinder bundle will burst into flame.

Congratulations, you’ve just started a fire with flint and steel.

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