Using Swedish FireSteel to Ignite Tinder





Introduction: Using Swedish FireSteel to Ignite Tinder

This instructable will introduce the basics of starting a fire by method of Swedish FireSteel. FireSteel easily ignites damp tinder with a spark in excess of 3000 degrees Celsius (5500 degrees Fahrenheit). This method of fire making is also beneficial when on a prolonged outing as a continual source of matches or fluid would not be available.

Step 1: Get It!

To create a flame we will need only three very basic items:

- fuel (in this case a stick of oak)
- a knife or scraper of some type (this is only needed if you plan to use wood as a fuel)
- Swedish FireSteel

My FireSteel is made by Light My FireLight My Fire. This is the same company which created the original Swedish FireSteel for the Swedish Department of Defense.

Step 2: Shave It!

For tinder we will be making wood shavings. The texture of our shavings will not be quite as fine as sawdust but our intent is to create as "fluffy" a tinder as possible. "Fluffy" tinder traps the oxygen in the air between its particles creating conditions suitable for combustion even if the shavings are from damp wood.

This tinder is procured simply by rubbing the blade of a knife perpendicular to the grain at a 90 degree angle to the surface of the wood. A handful of shavings is more than adequate for making a simple fire.

This is the easiest and most readily available source of tinder, given that you have wood.

Step 3: Spark It!

Gather the tinder on a dry surface in a mound.

Place the end of the FireSteel at the base of the mound as to help direct the sparks into the tinder. The striker on the lanyard has two unique features. Because the striker is stamped, the edge of the embossed side is rounded (the top), and the back side has a resultant burr (the bottom). As long as the "up" logo is facing towards you, any edge on the striker may be used (the serrated side seems to roughen up the FireSteel). If you do not want to bother with which side of the striker has the burr and you do not mind dulling a blade, the slicing motion of a knife seems to do the trick. If you are experienced, you can get it on the first try ( I have yet to do this). If not give it a few more tries then rearrange your mound or add more tinder to increase your chances.

Step 4: Ignition!


I find there is nothing quite as rewarding as making such a primal necessity as fire without aid of lighter or match.



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    Great Strategy, Thanks for sharing the 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%.

    The FireSteel is SUPER useful as long as you take the time the practice with it. I grew up in the woods, but always thought these things were garbage until I started teaching Survival. Here are things I discovered along the way:

    1. The striker can be any "hard" object that shaves sparks. It doesn't need to be carbon steel (the Ferro Rod has steel in it, already).

    2. The easiest "first timer" material is drier lint or cotton balls. Even if you want to use natural tinder, practice with cotton balls to become comfortable with throwing sparks.

    3. Focus on Containing and Directing the sparks from the steel. An easy way to do this is by holding the striker and pulling the FireSteel against the striker. Think of the striker as a mirror which should be reflecting the sparks into your tinder.

    4. A good first Natural tinder is an old charred log (it should be dry). place the rod firmly into the center of the charred part and use the back of a knife to scrape sparks down onto the char. This will give you a coal, which you can blow into flame as with flint and steel.

    Finally, I don't like magnesium blocks because the weight would be better spent carrying a second Ferro Rod. Magnesium works great but it's really no different than packing a lighter. Instead of the magnesium block, buy a 6pack of bic lighters. They work better for the same price.

    OK. What's the trick? I've tried every kind of tinder I know of, all of them sure fire burners when ignited, stuff I've used many times in the wild using a match to ignite. So far I can't get anything to catch on fire using the Lightmyfire firesteel. Lots of sparks. No fire. Help!

    3 replies

    I have worked at a boy scout camp in southern Ohio for 2 years teaching camping skills from knot tying to axe safety but a large portion of what I taught was fire starting. For magnesium fire starters, like your firesteel, a twine or jute nest works best. To make these you should start out by getting some natural farmers jute or twine(this can be found at most superstores in the tools or home section). Cut this string into small 1 ft lengths and start unraveling them to make your nest. This nest will eventually get you flame and act as your match, so the nest itself will light your tender, not the firesteel. To start a good fire you should have a nest about as big as both of your hands put together. Put the magnesium bar directly in the nest and scrape with the steel, spraying the nest with sparks. Once you get some of the nest caught, blow into it to get flame. Now start piling on that tinder and get that fire going! I hope this was helpful in getting your fire started.

    Please be aware that the kind of twine commonly used on farms today (known as baler twine), contains pesticides to prevent rot and repel rodents (to keep mice from eating the strings in a pile of hay). If you are using a tiny piece to light a fire in a survival situation, probably not a concern. But if you use this every weekend, and probably blow on the fire to get it going, pesticides may be a bit of a concern.

    Get a magnesium fire starter, they work a thousand times better. All you have to do is scrape a bit of magnesium (a pile about the size of a quarter) and use the flint rod to light it, they works amazingly I use them a lot.

    I'm an avid and long standing camper, also a scout master.  I have found that the fire steal as noted above or available at Duluth Trading and the like are THE BEST fire starters, after matches and lighters and the like, and are my personal favorite.

    That being said, I will say that for me it normally takes time.  The trade off for a fire started that lasts practically forever is that it is a little slower to start a fire.  I think that's why they called it an art form back in the day.

    For advice, I would suggest patience, and realize that it will take a bit.  My average is 5 to 15 minutes.  For tips:
    I suggest trying to get something more along the variety of leaves, grass, cotton, pocket lint.
    Try to make a bowl or ball of materal to catch the sparks.  Watch the tinder closely as as you see smoke and smoldering (which you will likely see first) then start blowing to encourage that to flame.

    Note: While the Firesteel alloy may contain magnesium, magnesium will not self-ignite by friction alone and needs a very hot spark to ignite, thus the use of flint or other such compound in the Firesteel. This is what makes Firesteel so valuable, the ability to create a high temp spark without the magnesium filing and prep-work found with ordinary magnesium/flint starters.

    I meant that firesteel,when the fire is going it can be burned to.

    If you guys cant afford a lightmyfire firesteel, then go to They have the "scout model" (3,000 strikes) for 3.50, and the army model 12,000 strikes for 5.50. I got the srmy and i love it.

    Hey don't use the sharp side if at all possible. Chances are that If you need to make a fire this way your going to need your blade as sharp as possible. Also practice, its not that easy when your cold and wet an night is coming fast.


    oh i forgot to mention nice instructable! its simple, to the point, & easy to follow for the non outdoor people or who are new to camping stuff i suppose. nice pics too


    i have an Ozark Trail magnesium fire starter witch is a bar of magnesium with a length of that fire steel on one side, but isntead of lust stricking the fire steel you make a pile of magnesium shavings witch eliminates the need for tinder the results are great i have averaged between 1-3 strikes for a sucesful fire

    Neat. The thing with the wood handle just looks like a steel file. Is it a steel file? Or magnesium?