How to use a firesteel

A must-have on any camping adventure, a firesteel can have your fire roaring in seconds. Andrew Groves of Miscellaneous Adventures show you how. 


Firesteels are a great way of lighting a fire in the great outdoors. Striking the ferrocerium rod with the back of a knife creates a shower of hot sparks that will ignite many natural or manmade tinders. They can also be used to light gas or alcohol stoves. Here are a few tips on how to get the best from your firesteel.

First you need to locate or make some suitable tinder. Dry, fibrous or fluffy materials work best. Below are a few of my favourites that can be found readily in the UK. Others include, cotton wool, cedar bark, seed heads of various plants or even the fluffy stuff inside jackets and sleeping bags in an emergency. The best of all though is birch bark, and that's what I'm using here in my demonstration.


In order to use your firesteel you need a suitable striker; high carbon steel works best. Many outdoor knives and axes are made of high carbon steel. In this example I'm using the back edge of a carbon folding Opinel. The idea is to scrape off a layer of the rod creating sparks that land onto your bundle of tinder. Use the thumb of the hand holding the firesteel to push the striker from the handle towards the tip of the rod firmly.


You should see a flash of hot sparks land onto your bundle of tinder; if one of these sparks lands in just the right spot fire should swiftly follow.


Once your tinder ignites, build your fire in the normal way and get the coffee boiling. Experiment with different tinders in different environments and see what works best for you. Happy camping!

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Andrew Groves lives in a barn in a small Sussex woodland, where he runs Miscellaneous Adventures. He makes wooden tools by hand and teaches workshops in wood carving and other skills.