Before we get down to actually using a FireSteel, we need to understand one of the most important survival rules of all:
Survival Gear is only as good as the ability of the person who uses it.
As an example consider a very simple tool, the axe. In my area there are men who were just about born with an axe in their hands. Give them a well sharpened axe and with three or four deft blows they can slice right through a six-inch thick hardwood tree as though it were made of butter.
Hand the same axe to someone else and after 30 or 40 hacks into the tree they may throw the axe down in disgust and declare the tool is poorly made and does not cut worth a damn. After all they declare, they were in the Boy Scouts or in the army and used axes and cutting implements a number of times.
To be fair, they probably are familiar with the axe, compass, or some other survival related gear that is the subject of problems. But that does not mean they are using it optimally or correctly and it certainly does not mean they are an expert at its usage.
Firesteel and Scraper
FireSteel Scraper Teeth
These teeth and ridges, located on the backside of the scraper, are the key to generating sparks on a FireSteel.
Having started some campfires in Boy Scouts does not an expert fire maker make. As with every human endeavor, there is a scale of abilities that range from neophyte to expert. Getting to the expert level can take a great deal of experience in all conditions mother nature can dish out and is certainly not based on a scrap of paper given at the end of a seminar or class.
Another problem arises. Human nature being what it is, once someone takes the stance that the gear is at fault it can be very difficult to get them to believe it could be the user instead. That is why people will sometimes disbelieve the reading from compass when they are lost. After all, they have used a compass a number of times and they never got lost before!
Now that we understand the vital importance of the User of survival gear, we can learn how to optimally create sparks using a FireSteel.
First of all, try to remove all prior notions you may already have about using FireSteels and follow my instructions to the word. Even if you are already a proficient user of FireSteels, you may discover a tweak or two that can improve your abilities. Secondly, read the following carefully – because I cannot know your particular knowledge and abilities I will have to start with the very basics and work from there.
To make sparks with a FireSteel.com FireSteel requires threee components.
1. The FireSteel itself
2. The scraper
3. User Technique
Because the FireSteel “is what it is” there is little we can do to tweak it. However the scraper and user technique bear further investigation.
Although I have been able to scrape sparks from FireSteels using a shard of ordinary glass, some objects work better than others. Good scrapers for making sparks include:
* Blades of knives - including survival and bushcraft knives.
* Backs of knives
* Hacksaw blades – both the toothed edge and the opposite side.
* Various other thin metal pieces.
* FireSteel.com specially made scrapers.
Important attributes of a good FireSteel scraper are hardness, strength against deformity as it is scraped against the metal of the FireSteel.com FireSteel, and its size and shape allowing your fingers a good grip.
It is important to note that not all materials when used as a scraper for FireSteels will perform in the same way. For example, some knives when scraped along a FireSteel will produce more sparks than others. In general high carbon steel blades are harder and more spark producing. The bottom line is you will have to experiment with a variety of FireSteel scrapers to find what works best for you.
Firesteel and Scraper
The Angle is Important
For optimum sparking, the angle you hold your scraper is important
In this photo you can see the proper way to hold the scraper.
Make sure the word "UP" is facing toward the hand and fingers holding the firesteel. Place the FireSteel in the scraper "Nock". Hold the scraper at about a 45-degree angle to the firesteel. Scrape the firesteel in the direction away from you.
Scrape hard and scrape fast.
Tests I have performed show that with prolonged usage some blades, including hacksaw blades, will degrade. This may be due to mechanically rubbing the metal of the blade against the metal FireSteel rod and the 5,500 degree temperature of the sparks the FireSteel produces.
Because the edges of some scrapers degrade with use, you may have to occassionally obtain a fresh scraper in order to optimally create sparks from your FireSteel.
An important quality of FireSteel.com scrapers is that they are not prone to degradation during repeated use with FireSteels as are many knives and blades.
Using FireSteel.com Scrapers
In talking with many users of FireSteel.com scrapers, I am surprised to find that some are using the scrapers upside down or even scraping the FireSteels with the wrong end. Using the scraper incorrectly will of course lead to sub-par performance.
Once again, survival gear is only as good as the ability of the person who uses it.
If you take a close look at your FireSteel.com scraper you will note there is
* A front side, where the word “UP” and the “FireSteel.com” logo is engraved into the metal.
* A back side where there are no words.
* A right-side up (with the word “UP” in normal readable position).
* An upside down (with the word “UP” being upside down).
* A left side (the narrow portion where the word “UP” is printed).
* A right side (where the “FireSteel.com logo is printed”)
Take a look at the back side of your FireSteel.com scraper (the side that has no wordage). If you closely observe the narrow portion of the scraper you will see and feel a set of “teeth” with raised ridges. In the picture a pencil is being used to point directly at them.
These teeth are the working portion of the scraper. You want them bite into the FireSteel as you move the scraper along the FireSteel rod in a quick and fluid motion.
To optimally use the FireSteel.com scraper:
1. Grasp the right side of the scraper firmly in your right hand so that your thumb covers the “FireSteel.com logo. You want a good solid grip.
2. Grasp one end of the FireSteel firmly in the fingers of your left hand.
3. Place the FireSteel in the “nock” of the scraper (where the narrow part meets the wider part), being sure that the word “UP” on the scraper is readable and facing the fingers holding the firesteel.
4. Tilt the scraper so that it makes an angle of about 45 degrees with the FireSteel. This will allow the teeth on the scraper to dig into the FireSteel.
5. Press the scraper down hard onto the firesteel.
6. In one fluid motion, while continuing to press the scraper down hard, scrape along the entire length of the rod in the direction away from you. The key is to scrape hard and scrape fast.
7. Sparks will fly.
Firesteel and Scraper
Big FireSteel Sparks
When correctly used, a FireSteel.com FireSteel will produce a shower of big, robust sparks.
Survival Topics sells FireSteel as a service to its readers.
If you scrape the FireSteel rod hard enough and fast enough with correct technique then a shower of big, beefy, very bright 5500° F sparks will fly off. Bouncing through the air and on the ground as they sputter and hiss.
These sparks from the FireSteel.com FireSteel are used to start the fires you need to survive.
Troubleshooting Your FireSteel
Some FireSteels come with a thin veneer coating that must be scraped off to get to the silver-colored metal below that does the actual sparking.
To remove the veneer, simple scrape the FireSteel rod several times.
Sometimes with repeated use the surface of a FireSteel will become very smooth, so that a scraper is merely slipping over its surface and not biting in at all. This problem can be remedied by roughing up the surface of the firesteel. The teeth on the FireSteel.com scrapers can be used for this purpose.
Not Enough Sparks
Remember, you need to press down the scraper onto the FireSteel with force. You also need to scrape along the FireSteel with speed. You will need to experiment to find what works best for you.