How To Make Fire Without Matches - Flint & Steel -

Below are the instructions for use with our Flint and Steel Firemaking Kits. You can find these and other primitive skill building kits in our Knife, Arrow, and Firemaking product category. For individual components and other fire making tools please visit our Fire Making Supplies category.

Flint and Steel & the Fire Glass -

Disclaimer: The author of this article and GoKnapping shall not be liable for any injury, loss or damage, direct or consequential, arising out of the use or inability to use the information on this page.

Making fire with flint and steel is easy with a bit of practice and the correct materials. The general idea behind this method of making fire is to quickly pass the edge of a steel striker past the sharp edge of a piece of flint to shave off tiny curls of steel that we see as sparks. The curls of steel actually ignite and glow from the friction of being shaved off the tool, and this ignition is what we will move on to other materials to make a fire.

CAUTION -- This process involves sharp materials that can cut deeply or become lodged in the eye. Wear safety glasses. Be sure to NOT strike the stone with your hand.

You will need:

Flint -- Almost any flint or flint like stone will do for a few sparks, but the best will be a sharp freshly broken piece on which you can see a few ripple marks on the flake surface. Flint is also available here.

Steel Striker -- The most common form is a curled piece of steel made to fit with 3 or 4 fingers in the loop. It must be made of tool steel and should have been heated red and quickly quenched by a blacksmith to produce the best sparks. Steel Strikers are available here.

Char cloth or the equivalent (primary kindling) -- Char cloth is the mostly burned black fabric that will be the material that catches the sparks thrown by the striker. After a spark is caught on this cloth, a small ember will appear, and can be nursed by the gentle blowing of air, until being transferred to a larger more substantial kindling ball. Char cloth is sensitive to humidity and moisture (keep it sealed and away from moisture). Included in our fire kits is enough cloth to make many fires, but at some point you will need to make more. Some batches of char cloth catch sparks easier than others, if your char cloth will not create an ember, you may need to make a new batch.

Rope kindling (secondary kindling) -- Fiber rope, very dry fibrous leaves or ‘inner’ bark that can be fluffed and wrapped around the glowing char cloth. This material will be what actually catches a flame from the char cloth fabric ember. This bundle when ignited will then be placed underneath a pre-made tipi of small twigs and sticks on the ground. This tipi is what will become the actual fire location. Many materials will work for this kindling ‘nest’.

To Make Fire with Flint and Steel:

First, take some of your kindling rope and pull the fibers apart into a ball of fluffy fibers. A piece of rope about 1/8 inch by 6 inches will give enough material to make a fire, but you may use more if you like.

Next, tear off a 1 inch square of char cloth and set it aside.

If you intend to make a campfire, create whatever pile of dry tiny sticks and grasses you think you will need to catch larger kindling, and make this into a little tipi shape into which you can insert the burning char cloth and rope kindling. It is best to be prepared because you only have a minute to keep your fire going. If you only intend to demonstrate the first steps of burning the rope then you can skip this stage.

The steel striker should be held by the hand with the striker out and the gap toward the user's palm. It should be held firmly in place with the thumb. Right handed people should use the steel striker in their right hand, and vice versa.

The flint should be firmly held in the other hand, with a sharp, angled edge sticking out so the steel can rapidly strike the edge. It is important to strike a reasonably sharp part of the stone, but be sure to NOT hit the stone with your finger as the steel moves past the cutting edge.

Take a couple of practice strokes to get used to moving the steel very rapidly past the cutting edge of the flint. Next, move the rapidly traveling steel into the edge of the flint just slightly. If using the correct angle and speed, you should immediately see sparks as the steel is shaved off the edge of the striker by the sharp edge of the flint. Do not strike the flint hard in such a way that it stops the travel of the steel. Practice this move for a moment and get good at making sparks. Making sparks is easier than catching them and making them into a fire. The more sparks you can make the easier the next process will be.

Now that you can create sparks, place the 1 inch square of char cloth onto the top of the flint stone and hold it in place at the edge with your thumb. The top edge of the char cloth should sit almost exactly at the edge of the stone, since ignited curls of steel (sparks) will come from the edge and hopefully catch in the frayed edge of the cloth.

Make sparks as practiced earlier. This may take some effort and you will probably need to modify the angle at which you are holding the char cloth or striking the flint in order to catch the sparks better. You should strike rapidly and repeatedly until you see a glow on the edge of your char cloth. Immediately blow the ember to nurse to a larger size so it will not extinguish too quickly. This ember indicates that a sliver of steel has ignited a portion of the char cloth creating an ember and you can proceed to the next step.

Gently blow on the glowing char cloth to enlarge the burning ember to about 3/8 inch in diameter, then fold the unburned parts of the char cloth once so that it will be able to spread more rapidly in the next step.

Carefully wrap the fluffed kindling ball around the burning char cloth. Make sure the burning areas are touching the kindling fibers, and that the ball is slightly pushed together to ensure contact.

Holding the ball in your fingers, blow hard directly on the glowing section. You may have to blow repeatedly and hard to nurse the flame onto the kindling, but it is easy with a bit of practice. Hold the ball out away from your face horizontally. Do not blow down on a ball of tinder held underneath your face, or you could burn off your beard, hair and eyelashes when the fibers catch fire. Do not set the ball down to blow on it at first -- hold it in your fingers until it begins to smoke, but be prepared to drop it rapidly when it flames up. First comes smoke, and then comes flame.

If you intend to start a campfire, wait until the kindling ball and ember is smoking and place it in your prepared teepee of kindling for the final blowing and flame up. If you only intend to demonstrate catching the rope on fire, be sure you toss down the burning ball quickly and safely. It is a flaming little demon and can ignite whatever you drop it onto, so be careful.

Making Char Cloth:

Included in our kits is enough char cloth to make many fires. But the time will come when you need to make more.

To do that, remove the contents of your kit from the can it comes in, and peel off the label on the lid.

Place loosely in the can small squares of cotton cloth that will become the char cloth. Cotton Tee shirts, underwear or denim jeans make good char cloth. You will partially burn this material without air to make the char cloth. A pre-drilled hole in the top of your can will help you notice when the burn is completed.

Place the can full of cloth in a campfire in such a way that you can see the smoke coming from the can as it burns. The char cloth will be ready when the smoke slows, but the cloth should not be completely burned as this will make material that is difficult to catch fire. This process will take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to fully char the cloth. It may take some experimentation as the size of the flame and the material inside often vary. Remove the can from the fire when the smoke emitting from the can diminishes greatly.

When you remove the can from the fire let it cool before opening -- otherwise you could get burned or get a flame up if the cloth is still burning. Test a piece to make sure it catches the sparks and creates a glowing ember. If the cloth is not quite black, burn it some more. If it is jet black, crumbly and does not catch the spark try again and don't cook it for so long this time. Store your char cloth in the kit can, preferably in a plastic bag so it will stay dry.

IF YOUR STIKER EVER GETS LAZY AND WILL NOT MAKE GOOD SPARKS – Drop it in campfire coals until it is bright, bright red, fish it out of the fire and drop it in water quickly while bright red. Make sure your stone is sharp enough to shave the steel from the striker. Chip or break off flakes to make an edge sharp.

Also included in our Deluxe Fire Kit is a ‘fire glass’. To use a fire glass, you need a bright sunny day. Find some dry tinder or leaves in your local environment. Newspaper works great if available. Move the glass around in the light, concentrating the beam of light into a tiny point and aiming the beam so that it lands on your pile of tinder. Do not stare at this tiny beam of light as it will hurt your eyes. Experiment by moving the glass around until you have found the best possible angle, and wait until the tinder starts to smolder. Blow gently on the burning tinder until a flame is created. Transfer the flame to a kindling bundle or fire pit.


Copyright 2020 Elliot Collins