Did you know there's a way to start a fire by squishing air? In this project I'm going to build a tool that does exactly that. And I'll do it for under $1.00. This tool is completely see through, so you can witness the ignition first hand!


PatrickA64 (author)2016-05-04

What are the sizes of the acrylic tubes? where did you get them?

itsruthanitha (author)2016-03-10

Informative and Thanks for sharing your Insight. Recently I bought this Waterproof Firestarter, The ferro rod and which are both included in 1 fire starting kit and that fits conveniently in your pocket. I found this discount code. Use this code "PD10"and save 10%.

bob8898 (author)2015-07-08

Could i get some tubing from maby a plastic injection company? (PTA Plastics. My dad works there.)

RichardF15 (author)2015-07-07

Recreated the fire piston

mikes4222 (author)2015-02-28

You should build these for hikers and campers. I suggest getting a kickstarter page and pre-sell these to donors. It looks amazingly simple and lightweight enough to attract the attention of so-called doomsday preppers.

acoleman3 (author)mikes42222015-03-30

this should attract the interest of ANY kind of prepper, doomsday or the more common variety who just stocks up supplies for natural disasters. yeah, not every prepper is a political dissident who gears up for the end of civilization with a cache of ammunition and guns. no matter WHAT the ubiquitous propaganda mill may say.

VentureScout (author)2014-08-12

truly awesome

CommandoNinja (author)2014-06-25


mlee wei (author)2014-05-24

Wow so cool

triumphman (author)2014-03-07

I have made a Deer Antler Fire Piston, with wood piston and rubber "O" ring, it would not work, then I tried a metal rod, no good, then metal tube and metal rod, no spark, I tried waxed string gasket, still no good!

I finally got one to work, a Maglite Flashlight and wood piston w/ rubber "O" ring. Still trying to get the others to work. Not sure why the others won't spark. Thanks for yours. Great for showing young scouts the magic of it!

Southpaw69 (author)2014-01-26

Interesting. This is the same principle Diesel engines use for ignition. compressing the air/fuel mixture to generate heat instead of spark plugs. Cool!

Slim49 (author)2014-01-11

Wow! nice one! I tried this with an old mini Mag light.

can't get it to fire, :-(.

I will look for these components !



haammoouud (author)2013-11-11

I bought a rod but it is a little too big to fit into the tube. Would I be able to sand the rod down until it fits into the tube! And by the way i love your videos

rajan007RJ (author)2013-07-23

Actually, where do I get an acrylic tubing? I live in Pune, India and the people here really don't know where can one find it. Please help me.

Improvisation (author)2013-07-17

Is there any template for this, like for 3D printing?

encyclopediaofwierd (author)2013-06-23

Can you please tell me what the inner dimension and outer dimensions of the acyrilic tube is, or suggest a good measurement for a metal one?

Koubiac (author)2013-06-18

Just made this. Works like a charm, great instructable.

RossTheGreat (author)2013-05-06

So cool! I want one for my survival kit. Ginna try to build one out of metal tube, though.

Arathorn (author)2013-03-24

Awesome! I had heard of this technique years ago and always wondered how it worked. Thanks!

miicchhii (author)2013-03-11

This is great!

Did you try to make one from aluminum?
Is it possible to use metal instead of plastic or would it cool down the cotton too much?

Keep it up! Great work!

Metal is actually more common. My first one was made from a copper stub-out from the hardware store. Aluminum would be great as well! I just did the plastic so I could witness the ignition. Thanks for asking and for your compliments!

nekomartinez1 (author)2012-12-01

where can i buy the clear acrilic tube and rod i would like to make this. any info would be great.

Thanks for asking! Check around with local plastics companies. At last resort, you can buy some on the internet.

mrbubbles9868 (author)2012-10-02

i am very, very impressed with all of your videos. my favorite video of yours is the paper plate speaker, which i used to make my own amp for the bass i made. thanks for saving me so much money!!!

freeza36 (author)mrbubbles98682012-11-04

Id love to see the bass. Upload a pic?

Hey, that's really great feedback, and I sure appreciate the compliments. Also that you found something useful and saved some money is very gratifying to hear!

Thank you!

Kwitmeh3 (author)2012-09-30

Can't click the char cloth link in the video because the header bar gets in the way.

Thanks for letting me know. Try watching the video on the youtube channel page and the header won't be a problem, or click here to go the channel directly and you can find it from there;


vandalex (author)2012-09-28

You got skills bro. Awesome device

Thanks brother!

jphphotography (author)2012-09-19

Fire pistons certainly are cool. After having difficulty finding good instructions on how to build one and finally getting it right from trial and error I posted my own instructable.

Just a bit of back story, I read the comment about the tribes seeing the soldiers with the muzzle loaders but this technique pre-dates that. It is widely assumed that any tribe that developed blow-guns eventually happened upon the fire piston when boring the hole for the blow-gun. Lots of speculation though. Either way its a cool project, both yours which is clear and good for educational purposes, and mine which is more geared towards survival.


Your instructable looks very nice. Well done! And you also used the tinder claw idea. Did you use that based on my video? I've not seen that done before, so wonder if there was some inspiration there, or if you just share similar thought process?

Do you put a brass tube inside the wood handle? I've tried making all wood pistons, but the wood is very porous and lets the air escape before enough heat is built up.

Thanks for your comment, and the link to your great project!

Thanks for the compliment! I posted my instructable a few years ago so no inspiration there, I'd seen the "tinder claw" idea in a few other designs.To be honest I haven't actually watched your video yet (youtube is blocked here at work) but I'm going to check it out when I get home. Based on the image I saw in the Instructables newsletter I had a pretty good idea of what you'd done.

After a few failed attempts at making a fire piston I finally gave in and ordered a really nice wood/brass one online, once I had a working one in my hands I was able to see where my problems were and was finally able to get a working design of my own.

As for the all wood pistons, the wood density is extremely important, living where I do we have more softwoods than hardwoods. A guy on Ebay called EB Primatives was making really nice all-wood ones and selling them for a really reasonable price ($29) so I ordered one just to see how those worked. It even came with tinder and a "fire box". I guess his all wood design wasn't exactly all wood, at the end of the piston he had a circular piece of leather which was held on by a philips screw. The leather acted as a seal and the screw head held the tinder. Unfortunately I just googled him and he doesn't have anything for sale now on his ebay store.

Anywho thanks for the comment, I look forward to watching the video when I get home from work.


Sorry I missed a line there, I mentioned we have more softwoods than hardwoods where I live, because of this I had the same issues as you. You need a really dense/hard wood that is non-porous. Another possibility would be getting the hardest wood you can find and then somehow sealing it with epoxy or something like that. I know when you buy some types of burl for wood turned pens they call it "stabilizing" and the wood is saturated all the way through with an epoxy.

There is a video on youtube somewhere of a guy recording an aboriginal tribesman out in the jungle somewhere carving one completely by hand, its an amazing thing to watch knowing how hard these are to make even with modern tools and materials!

I think I've seen that same video! He made it look incredibly easy didn't he!?

Thanks again for your detailed reply. It's good to connect with someone who appreciates the art of fire making. I once heard a guy on dual survival lit a fire with his urine. I didn't have TV, but I figured out a way and tried it and it worked. Made a video about that as well project to master. haha.

Take care James. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around!

Crap, one more thing. I just looked up the Ebprimatives ones and it looks like that design used a brass cylinder too but the piston itself was wood. Here's a rewview that one guy posted, mine was a different model but same idea

OCLVig (author)2012-09-16

You used a 3/16" Drill Bit for your Tinder Claw! hahaha

Haha. You've been busy posting comments everywhere. lol

gunstock (author)2012-09-16


Thank you!

spark master (author)2012-08-10

use ryer lint works as good as char cloth and no friggen dirty fingers which is embedded in the skin with the petroleum jelly.

I tried dryer lint today and got some very impressive flashes on ignition, but the lint would not sustain a spark. It lit up on every hit whether it was compacted, or fluffed up. Scorch marks left in the lint, but I wasn't able to keep the spark. Have you tried this? Do you have any suggestions?

I'm guessing that your lint wasn't 100% cotton. Synthetic fibers do not work.

Good job on the piston. I've seen a few demos and none of them impressed me, at all... Yours is the exception. Most of them require precise tools, like a needle, to pull out a burning ember, which is practically impossible with cold and shaking hands. It looks like with your piston a knife or small stick could be used to push the ember out. This is one I'll have to try.

Wow great ideas, great feedback, and great compliments! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know your thoughts, and the idea bout the 100% cotton lint is great .. I'll have to look into that. Might require a special load of laundry with all cotton fabrics?

err cotton undies and towels, (all of mine are cotton).


Thanks again!

spark master (author)snakeii2012-08-27

A few days ago I bought 2 rom wilderness solutions. If you use shagga , the gross looking fungis that grows on bich trees it is very doable. I did get coals after a few tries with JEff Wagner stnding over me, I did mush better later on. I even managed char cloth. An interesting fire nest (something you put the glowing ember into) and very nice indeed was a dead dried up flower head (marigolds) DEAD AND DRIED AND READY FOR DEAD HEADDING . They were superb.

other good thigs for piston fodder are mulin pith and cat tail fluff.I would imagine incence sticks are good too, I will be trying soon.


Hey Sparkie! Thanks for posting the results of your experiments! Very helpful!

Thank you!!

Arid (author)The King of Random2012-08-16

You might want to try a mix of lint and saw dust. The lint ignites quickly and the saw dust holds the heat to continue the burn. (this does work much better if the lint is all/primarily cotton as opposed to synthetics)

The King of Random (author)Arid2012-08-16

I tried bits of charcoal as well, as someone else suggested. Same results as the lint. Nice flash on ignition, but won't sustain the spark. I imagine saw dust would be even harder to hold a coal?

About This Instructable




Bio: Random Weekend Projects
More by The King of Random:5 Ways to Start a Fire, Using Water How to make a Batarang like "The Dark Knight"How to Make Ninja Stress Balls
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