Flint and steel are essential tools for any prepper or survival enthusiast. Having the ability to quickly and efficiently create fire with just two small tools is a life-saving skill.
The flint is a small, roughly pebble-sized rock with a sharp edge, while the steel is a piece of carbon steel with a flat straight surface.
Together, these two tools make a powerful combination that can be used to create a spark and ignite tinder, even in wet and challenging conditions.
In addition, the small size and lightweight design of flint and steel make them convenient to carry and store, making them a must-have for any prepper or survival enthusiast.
The Old Ways
Flint and steel have been used since ancient times to start fires.
Originating in Europe and Asia, flint and steel were used by hunter-gatherers to begin cooking and heating fires.
Over the centuries, the use of flint and steel has evolved.
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As metallurgy developed, so did the steel used in the flint and steel fire-starting technique. Different alloys and steels were developed to create a spark with greater intensity.
In the modern age, flint and steel are still used by preppers and survival enthusiasts to start fires in the wild.
When it comes to flint and steel fire starting, the best type of steel to use is high-carbon steel. This type of steel is strong and durable, with excellent striking capabilities.
Carbon steel knives can also be used for fire starting. Hand-held steels with curved edges that can be held like a knuckle duster. The curved edges of the steel turn back on themselves to form a suitable grip.
The straight edge is where the flint is struck to produce a spark.
Getting good sparks takes some practice, as you must fine-tune your angle and how hard you strike the two surfaces together.
When it comes to finding the right rock for starting a fire, flint is the ideal type of rock, and that is also where “flint” gets its name.
Flint rocks are usually small to medium and have sharp edges, making them the best rock to use.
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Flint is generally found near riverbeds and other areas where water has shifted the rock and exposed sharp edges.
When selecting a flint rock, be sure to find one that is the right size and has sharp edges on multiple sides.
Other rock types can be used but are less reliable than flint. Rocks such as quartz, and jasper can also be used, but they don’t typically have the same sharp edges and may be less effective.
There are two methods of using flint and steel to start a fire.
The first is to strike the steel against the flint, causing sparks to fly up onto the char cloth or other material placed on top of the flint. This method requires quick action to take the char from the flint and put it on the tinder bundle.
The second method is to strike the flint against the steel, causing sparks to fly down onto the char cloth or other material placed on the ground. This method requires more accuracy than striking the steel against the flint.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once a spark has been produced from the flint and steel, a delicate process of soft blowing is necessary to ensure the spark catches and ignites the char.
After the char starts to glow, it can be carefully transferred into a bird’s nest made of tinder and slightly larger kindling.
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Next, the bird’s nest should be gently blown to ignite further. Once the char and bird’s nest are glowing or burning flames, transfer it into larger kindling to build a fire.
Easy Does It
When blowing on the bird’s nest to get the char cloth flaming, it is essential to remember to blow softly and steadily through pursed lips.
Blowing too hard or fast can cause the bird’s nest to smother, preventing the char cloth from igniting. Also, blowing too hard and fast can cause lightheadedness and hyperventilation, leading to lightheadedness and possible loss of consciousness.
Therefore, it is essential to remember to always blow softly and steadily for the best results.
Be Ready; It Happens Fast!
Before striking flint and steel, you must ensure your materials are prepared. This includes preparing the char cloth, bird’s nest, kindle, and firepit. Having the materials ready before you begin striking the flint and steel will ensure you can quickly and efficiently transfer the flaming bird’s nest into the kindle and start the fire.
Keeping the equipment dry, especially the char is essential when carrying flint and steel to start a fire.
A waterproof canister will help ensure that the equipment stays dry in any situation, ensuring you can quickly and easily start a fire in any environment.
Use a magnifying glass or a fire to char cotton or cotton wool.
To make char cloth, place the cotton or cotton wool in a fireproof container and heat it over a fire until it is charred.
You can burn the fabric with a magnifying glass until it’s black.
Make sure that you stop the heat before burning your substrate to ash. You can also select char from a previous fire to carry.
Bird’s nests help when starting a fire with flint and steel, as the bird’s nest is where you will transfer your glowing char to get your fire going.
First, gather fine, dry grass and kindling to make a bird’s nest. Then, gently tease the grass and kindle until it forms a loose pile, preferably in the shape of a ball, almost like a round weaver’s nest, hence the name.
Place the char cloth in the middle of the pile and then gently blow on it to get it flaming. Once the char cloth is flaming, transfer it to your kindle to get the fire going.
Flint and steel are one of the oldest and most reliable fire-starting methods. It is a technique that should be mastered and practiced often.
The principle of striking a spark from flint and steel is simple and can be applied to various carbon steel objects and sharp flint rocks.
Flint and steel are one of the most critical fire-starting methods, as lighters and other methods can deplete, but flint and steel mean you have a fire for life.
With practice and the proper materials, you can be sure you will never be without the safety and convenience that fire offers humans.
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Makes a handy kitchen utensil.
Flint Knapping can make a very sharp edge, so sharp it can cut leather and skin with the greatest of ease. So, if you can find Flint, get you some and add it to your prep supplies.
I have it in my preps.
Just one of many things I see that can be used in a scenario that you need to cut something or someone…
If you can find the right piece, you can attach it to some kind of rod or stick and use it as a skinning tool or a cutting device or it can become a fears weapon.
stay sharp, lol
For cutting and skinning the ancient hand knife was perfection. It’s a sharp bow shape opposite a dull more straight side. Held tight against the palm of the hand it will cut quickly with the sharp edges and is easily controlled. Flint for knives, arrowheads, and fire starting is a wonderful find. All you need is a good steel knife or piece of metal to start your fire. I actually prefer the stone hand knife for skinning. You can achieve almost the same thing with a can lid and fold about 1/3 toward the middle of the lid then sharpen the rounded edge. But you still need a good stone for fire starting. I usually have a flint and bar somewhere near in my backpack or vehicles.
I also have electric and fluid fueled lighters around as well.
Flint knapping is an art worth practicing. Its the art of striking or pulling off rounded flakes of stone to sharpen and shap it. A well done edge is as sharp or sharper than a good serrated knife edge. It will cut easily or produce fine hot sparks.
A good example would be the Hoko Knife. Primitive but very effective. Many what people refer to as (large) arrowheads are actually a Hafted Stone Knife blade.
Char cloth is quickly and easily made but any partially burned dry stick is also easier to light than an unburned one. Carrying some partially consumed bits from a cold fire is a fine headstart.
RedAnt, excellent comment about flint knapping; and it brings to mind (when one can find them) looking for arrowheads, often made of softer rock like flint or chert, softer than quartz. Most that I have found were pre-worked (but not finished as an arrowhead), still they have edges, just not super sharp edges. They also could have been re-purposed for fire-starting. I often wondered if Indian kids made them, practicing the craft and then left them behind. It may be good to look around creek beds (after flooding), and maybe grassland or forest fire areas that have had a lot of snow melt or flooding (and before spring-time “ground cover” grows and hides them). Or ask at a garage sale Lots of now Old Timers had farming grand-parents who used to pick them up after plowing their fields in Spring Time. That is how I got most of mine. Your Comment now reminds me of my next project after garden planting. Thanks, Red!
Thank you, I have been arrowhead hunting many times and still love to just look at the ground for whatever I can find. By the way, Flint is a form of Quarts.
My dad was an arrowhead hunter and has some stuff in the Smithsonian Institution Museum that he has found. An Ancient burial, it was.
I have found many full and broken arrowheads. I also found a 25lb round flint rock. I still have it.
Say, radar have a good one and keep looking.
Ya got my garden going pretty good, need some more heat so my seeds will germinate.
That’s a pretty Knife in this article…what brand and type is it?
Being a pattern welded blade (what many call Damascus) a raindrop pattern from what i can tell, i would guess that it is most likely custom made by a bladesmith.
Good info, I use the modern version of the steel and composite flint. It’s good to have more then one form fire starting to rely on.
In respect instead of the environmentalist wanting all dependency on all electric devices. We should have numerous choices too. Gas & wood burning stoves have been around longer than electric stoves have.
Yes the more skills added will keep us from freezing and starving. Electricity green energy is just a form of control. And relying on the Chinese CCP’s solar panels & wind mills that are making China’s military stronger.
I’m going to get a flint rock as a backup.
Another great item to add to you fire starting kit is a pencil sharpener. They are great for making tinder from twigs that lights well even when wet due to being so thin and uniform in size. It also takes hardly any room up in your survival tin.
Also less chance of cutting yourself making tinder with a pencil sharpener than a knife.
Bagrat, great idea, pencil already in bag (tiny golf pencil) now becomes tinder supply!! Brilliant! I love when an item can do double duty.
Now to attach a small flint to the underside of the pencil sharpener and with the John Wayne as the “steel” I have a much better go bag!