Magnesium fire starters


January 26, 2003, 09:09 PM
For hunting in this cold, wet weather I started to think about
ways to keep warm and fire up the ol camp chow. Anyone
try these fire starters? Gimmick or great idea? Thanks for your


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4v50 Gary
January 26, 2003, 09:11 PM
Not a gimmick. They work.

January 26, 2003, 09:17 PM
Fire Ribbon is good stuff, kinda like Sterno toothpaste. I've got one of the StrikeForce mag fire starters, makes a heck of a hot shower of sparks, but you've got to have something flammable for those sparks to fall into.

Mike Irwin
January 26, 2003, 09:38 PM
I'm assuming you're talking about the magnesium bar with the spark strip in the back?

They work well.

I've had one for a number of years.

You'll mess up the blade on your pocket knife shaving the magnesium, so be aware of that. I've always carried an old beater knife to use.

January 26, 2003, 10:16 PM
I carry the magnesium firestarter, works well, I also carry Trioxane..


January 26, 2003, 10:16 PM
Thanks guys!


January 26, 2003, 10:51 PM
These are for real. The best ones I've found are Swedish and made by a company called Light My Fire

The best source for these firesteels is a guy called "Bagheera" over on Bladeforums. You can usually find him over at the Wilderness and Survival Skills board. His scout troop sells them on a regular basis as a fund raiser. Pleasure to do business with this guy.

With a good firesteel and some vaseline impregnated cotton balls in a film canister, fire starting is a piece of cake.

January 26, 2003, 11:10 PM
Those swede ones look nice, but its just as easy to go to a gun show and buy the US military ones surplus for $2 or so...


January 26, 2003, 11:28 PM
I've tried all kinds. The US Military ones do work, as do the magnesium bars you can pick up at Wal-Mart. But I haven't found anything that'll put out a shower of sparks like the Swedish firesteels. They run about $10 apiece for the big ones (Army model), and since each one is good for about 12,000 ignitions, it's money well-spent in my book.

January 27, 2003, 10:18 AM
Yes they work but under adverse conditions of cold and wet good waterproof matches work much better.

January 27, 2003, 02:00 PM
The biggest problem I've found with waterproof matches is the striker--even with the top-of-the-line matches (not those things they sell at Wal-Mart). A wet striker is not always reliable, and on hard surfaces like rocks, match heads sometimes break off without igniting. Not always. Just sometimes.

With matches, you only get as many shots as you have matches, and under miserable conditions, you might find yourself wishing you had more matches. With a firesteel of some sort, at least you can keep producing spark until something catches.

Of course, we're talking about back-up systems here. Most of us are going to flip a lighter and fire up in normal circumstances.

In my "just in case" kit, I carry three methods--a mini Bic lighter, some top quality waterproof matches, and a firesteel with cotton balls. In an emergency, I would go in that order until I got something to light.

These cotton balls are impregnated with vaseline. You can cram a whole bunch into a single film canister, and a single ball will catch pretty easily and burn for several minutes. Break out your vaseline and cotton balls and try it out if you don't believe me...

January 27, 2003, 05:07 PM
Sometimes if I really need to get a fire started in the wet woods (most of em are in Lousiiana) I carry some of those little 35MM film cannisters with gasoline, and motor oil in em. Get that going and it WILL light up wet kindling etc.

January 27, 2003, 05:45 PM
BAH! You’re a sissy, the whole lot of you! A field expedient bow-and-stick works every time.*

Or carry a small film canister of strike anywhere matches...

*Please note, the above comment was made in fun, and not meant to offend anyone. I usually carry a magnesium fire starter in my survival ditty-bag.

January 27, 2003, 09:57 PM
There are few lighters on the market that are made to light in high wind and wet conditions. They are nice to carry along with the magnesium, although not cheap at all but, very very nice! Don't get the cheapies, they suck! ;)

cracked butt
January 27, 2003, 11:27 PM
The magnesium block starters work just fine, but I would want something better if I were shivering cold and wet- maybe a propane torch:D

If you carry a small piece of a broken off file with the starter, you can get magnesium bits off the bloack alot easier without ruining your knife.

January 29, 2003, 10:15 AM
Two words: the zippo!

January 29, 2003, 05:56 PM
If you're anywhere close (enough) to your vechicle, a coupla railroad flares are always a good idea. The truck too has a liter of Coleman fuel, backpack stove, 3-pack mini Bics, matches - not to mention a gas tank & oil in the crank. Never forget the obvious stuff.

Have a couple military match cases with flint strips on one end. Both work quite well. Used to stash some cottons balls inside, but the cotton reacts unfavorably with the match heads (even stashed on the opposite end) & makes the matches unreliable - ended up with a smallish block of fireplace firestarter stuff.

Elmer Snerd
January 29, 2003, 06:09 PM
If you have a vehicle, then you can hook up your jumper cables and touch the clamps to get sparks. A battery that is too weak to start the engine should still be able to make a spark. Pre-PC cars also usually have a cigarette lighter.

January 29, 2003, 06:26 PM
Metal match works good.. but a wise man has more than one way to start a fire.

January 29, 2003, 07:01 PM
Flamethrower! Oxyacetylene torch! Napalm! Backpack nuke! Taser set on"Fry"..


Mike Irwin
February 5, 2003, 05:19 PM

You can also use a short piece of 12-gauge copper wire between the jumper clamps.

It takes about 3 seconds with a decent battery for it to start glowing red hot, and about 10 before it simply melts.

February 5, 2003, 10:44 PM
Heard somewhere that steelwool will ignite with just a radio's 9 volt battery...anyone try this? :confused:

Elmer Snerd
February 6, 2003, 01:01 PM
Heard somewhere that steelwool will ignite with just a radio's 9 volt battery...anyone try this?

Yes. A couple of flashlight batteries will do it. It "burns" red hot for a few seconds.

February 11, 2003, 11:48 AM
...yes they work, agree with above.

I also carry back up methods, waterproof matches, mini butane lighter (kept next to body) Zippo.

Used to make the 'starters' we made in Scouts--parrafin wax and cardbord mixed into a tuna fish can. Found the "tea lights" (small candles in their own tin real easier to have handy...less mess in the kitchen too.

February 23, 2003, 01:26 AM
Firestarters - all told are where you find 'em. & that's something you can bank.

Field-expedient are a bit more dicey than with a vehicle, but still not all that uncomon.

Shaved, dry stuff, burns easily - worse-case, drag out your $20 bill & use it for tinder. Hunting regs, yer toilet paper, license = anything to get larger fuel to burn.

What about that hunting reg packet you carry?

Frankly, in most Colorado-stuff, we have aspen -a-plenty & if you can't make a fire with that, you really deserve to die.

Had a private comminication with a TFL-guy who thought I was an idiot because I suggested he'd die without proper preventative measures.

Nobody I know would ever wish to spend the night away from his (her) prepared camp, but there are times where one might have to (I've been turned around once or twice before).

I'd never rely on anything "techy." You must be able to start a fire with anything you have in your pocket/s at any given time.

Colorado, we can usually start a fire with a real minimum of mostly nothing, as compare to something "back east," or 'Alaska."
= we're really pretty lucky, all told.

We be dry.

In any event, pack something that'll "make fire enough" for where you live.

February 23, 2003, 02:09 AM
No No not the toilet paper

December 19, 2006, 08:02 AM
my favorite firestarter is a tea candle with a vaseline impregnated cotton ball on top. the cotton ball alone will burn very good for 5 minutes give or take(mostly depends on amount of vaseline in it) the vasiline/cotton ball is very wind resistant.

whats better is that it will catch fire even when it gets wet with only a flint spark. you just squeeze the water out as best you can and then pull it apart so fine threads are there and a spark will make it burn. they light like a dream with a match or lighter. way faster than a regular candle. i have yet to test the time a teacandle will burn using the cotton/vaseline thing on top but it should burn a while. you dont need a whole cotton ball for making a fire. you can get approx 15 little balls out of each full size cotton ball. each of them will burn for a few minutes alone but its a smaller flame.

the idea is that the cotton ball acts like a oversize wick with the wax after it runs out of vaseline to burn.

for an extended cheap small fire you can get those cheapo religious candles they have at supermarkets that stand about a foot high and 3 inches thick in the glass. you know, the ones that the wicks always suck with and they burn ok for the first inch then they poop out? yeah, those. do the cotton vaseline thing in those and they burn for a long time and give up a good level of heat. the cotton stays wet with wax and doesnt burn up for a long time. they give off a small amount of smoke but its not bad. its candle wax smoke and i think it smells pleasant. too much smoke for indoor use tho.

Ancient Mariner
December 19, 2006, 10:03 AM
In the wet Pacific Northwest it is difficult to start a fire. I use fire starters I make. Take about 6 feet of cotton string and wrap it around a dozen matches then tie it off and dip the whole thing in parafin. To use strike on a rock. It will burn for 3 to 4 minutes and if you've prepared your tinder before you strike it you are set to go by just adding gradually increasing size wood. As mentioned before use good quality matches. If one should fail to light keep it until you do get one burning and then just add it. Of course you can always light them with a Zippo too.

December 19, 2006, 10:42 AM
I had one when I was a kid. It's great for survival, but I'd rather use a cheap butane lighter, frankly.

December 19, 2006, 11:16 AM
Have used the 9volt battery and steel wet weather fire starter I've seen.

.....of course you can make fire from ice......but only on sunny days.

December 19, 2006, 02:28 PM
In General Gun Discussions on this forum there is a thread about incindiary ammo that might lend itself here.
Of course I'm kidding.
The GI issue Magnesium bars are a standard part of my winter car kit just in case. The 12 ga wire and the jumper cables is a great back up idea for the same. Cotton balls with sterno are a good one too. Thanks for the ideas guys.

December 19, 2006, 03:24 PM
lol , of course they work. they come in the MREs.

December 19, 2006, 03:30 PM
Matches? Magnesium? Zippo? Batteries? These modern fire starting methods will never catch on.

What is wrong with good old fashioned flint and steel?

Next thing you know, somebody will invent a self contained cartridge.

December 19, 2006, 05:54 PM
This thread made me spend 6 bucks at Academy today on a magnesium fire starter. LOL I got to thinkin' I really need one in my "survival belt", the gun belt I wear when I'm out away from things. It has all these pouches on it I have stuff stashed in. I have another gunbelt with less stuff in it that I wear normally. This particular belt is in case I get stuck in the boonies for a few days. I use it more when I'm hiking than when I'm hunting unless I'm hunting somewhere really wild.

Anyone watch "Survivor Man"? He was in the arctic trying to walk out, the premise was his snow mobile broke down. He was allowed, this episode, to carry a big hunting rifle in case a polar bear were to find him tasty. I find it obvious, anyway, that anyone in their right mind in polar bear territory is going to have a large rifle where ever they go on a snow mobile. So, he's making camp, nothing dry. He NEVER carries any sort of fire making device, lighter or what ever, always rubs the sticks. :rolleyes: I ALWAYS have a lighter on me if I'm in the outback. Anyhow, he can't get a fire started with some moss and drift wood he'd gathered, nothing decent to use for a fire stick/drill. So, he pulls the bullet on a round, pours some of the powder out in the tender, and caps the rest of it off with the muzzle near the tender. BANG, the tender flies 20 feet. ROFLMAO! Takes him four tries at getting the right amount of powder in the case, but he finally gets the spark.

So, in effect, even the Survivor Man had to cheat that one to get a fire. :D

December 24, 2006, 01:54 PM
i did a time test on the teacandle with a vaseline sturated cotton ball on top. it burned for 50 minutes with a fairly large flame, and plenty of heat. charred the wood block i set it on during the test. the flame was always at least an inch high and half inch or more in width. flame reached 5 inches tall at its highest point and remained that tall for around 20 minutes. this set up is darn near windproof. i couldnt blow it out without serious effort. stores easily in a pocket. i wrap both the vaseline cotton ball and tea candle in saran wrap to keep the pocket clean.

December 24, 2006, 07:52 PM
All the recommendations have been good so far. Magnesium shavings work well, but you still need dry tinder. I like esbit tabs. They weigh 1/2oz a piece and burn for 15 minutes or so. A quarter tab will give you about 5 minutes of constant flame, which is usually enough to ignite larger sticks. If all else fails, you can boil a pint of water with one tab. A hatchet/axe is indispensable for fire making. You can make decent tinder with a knife, and with a larger knife you can even split small stuff, but a hatchet is far superior. I always feel better with a hatchet, as opposed to a "survival knife."

In some particularly wet climates a stove will save you a allot of time and trouble. A fire is indispensable for some survival situations, however, during wet stormy weather lighting a small stove in the comfort of your tent is much nicer than trying to start a fire outside. Unless your tent has a wood stove, in which case you have the best of both worlds.

December 27, 2006, 12:23 AM
Yes, they work, but a BIC lighter and a box of Zip fire starters is a whole lot more reliable.

December 27, 2006, 10:41 AM
I have heard that Dryer lint from the cloths dryer works good as a tender starter.

December 27, 2006, 11:17 AM
Yeah, in scouts we used to make firestarters by dipping dryer lint in paraffin and stuffing the mixture into an empty egg carton.

December 27, 2006, 11:55 AM
Every camporee, we Boy Scouts were usually faced with the perennial fire building contests, usually burning through a string set a certain distance from the ground. Sometimes we were given two matches, sometimes none, and we had to use "alternative" methods, so some various ideas from those times:

Steel Wool and batteries do indeed work well. It doesn't necessarily have to be a 9 volt battery, it can be two "D" cell batteries end to end, with the steel wool on the positive and negative ends of the pair. It's tricky to hold the batteries nose to end and make contact with the steel wool alone, but that was part of the challenge, I guess. The finer the steel wool, the easier to get it going. Once it is going, wad it up quickly and carefully and place it in the tinder.

Dryer lint is very good tinder, and charring it makes it even better, though I think charred flannel is the best I have seen in the "homemade" category. Any self respecting patrol leader always raided the wastebasket by the dryer and had a pocketful of lint going into the firebuilding competition.

To char lint or flannel, put it in an airtight metal can or container, and throw it in a fire for ten minutes or so. Fish it out and let it cool down. If it isn't charred, throw it back in the fire.

We once were able to use a kid's coke bottle eyeglass lenses to start a fire, but that was close to noon on a very sunny day. Didn't take long though.

Most outrageous firestarting method I ever used was a car cigarette lighter, some toilet paper, a couple of handfuls of pine needles and disassembled 12 gauge shotgun shell dumped into a small box so it could be carried close to the cigarette lighter. This was an "urgent" need for fire, not really an emergency.

For normal cooking fires (this was back in the days that Boy Scouts cooking with propane, or even charcoal was looked upon with horror), firestarters were manufactured out of sawdust and paraffin mixture poured into cardboard egg cartons, and then the individual cups cut apart into a dozen fire starters. Fancy ones had a shortened birthday candle sticking out of the middle. Probably a lot easier to buy the commercial or surplus ones, but it was a good and useful craft type project.

We have had our Cub Scouts make emergency stoves for cars using a roll of toilet paper stashed in a steel coffee can along with a small bottle of rubbing alcohol. The toilet paper acts as a big fat wick when the alcohol is dumped on it. Burning isopropyl alcohol doesn't release deadly carbon monoxide when burning, but it can use up oxygen in a well sealed car, so crack the window while using. It isn't a bad idea to have a roll of TP stashed in the vehicle anyhow, for other, more mundane "emergencies, and the coffee can is a nice way to store it.:p

Best firestarting advice is not try to light anything until you have all of your tinder, kindling, and wood gathered and assembled within reach, and any wind or rain blocks are in place. Also, practice with whatever methods you plan on using in an emergency a couple of times beforehand. It's not rocket science by any means, but it's best that any mistakes or flaws in your firebuilding strategies expose themselves before they might be fatal...

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