Emergency Fire Starter




Introduction: Emergency Fire Starter

I originally made this to replace an old fire starter I had lost on a trip. It includes a carbide window breaker, a carbon steel pick, a striker-wheel and flint, and a few inches of jute tinder twine that also functions as a key lanyard. Id like to note right from the beginning that this is a fairly involved build. The tools I used were as follows:

-Vertical mill and assorted cutting bits

-Micro lathe

-Belt sander

-Assorted hand tools (bit drivers, squares, and clamps).
-Various consumables (glues, tapes, Popsicle sticks)

I should note that there is never only one single way to complete a project. I always believe in improvising to solve problems, but only within reason. A rule I always follow is if something sounds like a bad idea, it probably is. Always follow appropriate safety precautions and never take unnecessary risks. That said, lets proceed with the necessary materials. One final note: I will periodically dimensions such as the size of bits and screws, but always perform your own measurements before making a cut or drilling a hole.

Step 1: Materials

The first picture depicts all the necessary materials. Each one is labeled with an annotation in the picture, an are as follows:

-5/32" OD aluminium tube

-1/8" solid brass rod

-3/32" music wire

-3/8" brass bar stock

-1/8" BROKEN carbide end mill

-3/16 (10-24) stainless steel screw

-cheep flip top lighter (I found these online for under $2)

-Jute twine

-Kevlar cord

As a preliminary step, begin by harvesting parts from the lighter. In the one I had, all that was necessary was to drill out the single aluminum rivet that held the striker wheel in place. The parts you want to save are the spring, the flint, and the striker wheel.

**I learned the hard way that striker wheels only work in ONE direction. Make sure to mount your wheel with so the teeth scrape forward at the flint when you operate it. (See last picture)

Step 2: Lathe Work

After milling, the shape will no longer be able to mounted in the lathe, so we want to do any turning or boring first.

Begin by cutting off a 2.5" section of bar stock. I chose brass, with a 3/8" diameter simply because that's what I had handy. Cut the piece greater than the desired length to allow for facing off each end on the lathe.

**It is very important to face off each end carefully, and make sure each end is exactly square with the length of the piece. This becomes very important in a later step when we begin to mill the sides.

After you are sure each side is exactly square, proceed to bore a 7/64" hole entirely through the piece. This will be the hole that accepts the flint from our lighter. Because the hole is so small, be sure to bore very slowly, stopping often to clear out any chips. For a hole this deep, I like to bore half way through one side, then turn the work piece around and begin again from the other side.

Once the hole is bored, taper one side of the rod. I used the angled edge of a lathe bit, and cut until the small diameter matched the head of my 10-24 screw. In my case, the small diameter ended up being 5/16" across. Once the taper was finished, drill and tap the tapered side of the rod. I used a 10-24 tap, and a 5/32" drill bit. Be sure to tap it so that the entire length of your screw fits into the rod. On mine, I used 1/2" long screw.

This concludes the lathe work, and it is safe to proceed to milling.

Step 3: Milling Work

For milling, I chose to utilize the flat faces on each end of the piece to clamp it down. Before removing the piece from the lathe, use it to make a mark 1/2" down from the untapered size of the work piece. Because we need to mill all the way to the end of the tapered side, use a couple of brass nuts to act as a spacer between the end of your piece and the jaws of your vice. Insert the drill bit into the tapered side, and use it to support the nuts while you mount the piece in the vice.

The key to a successful cut is first making sure all your parts are exactly square, and then ensuring you have a rigid tool setup. Use setup blocks, or just uncut bar stock to make sure that the piece is mounted parallel to the base of the vice. Next. use a square to make sure that the piece forms a right angle to the face of the jaws

**It is extremely important to make sure the piece forms a right angle to the jaws. If it is not mounted squarely, it could pop out of place during mulling. This is also the reason why it is important to make sure the sides of the piece are exactly square.

Be sure that the jaws of your vice are close tightly. Check the piece for rigidity by hand before you begin. If it pops out of place, the set up is not square or is not tightened sufficiently, and must be redone to maintain safety.

It is extremely important to make very shallow cuts, and move the table slowly. Cut from the very bottom of the tapered side, all the way up to the mark 1/2" from the untapered end. On mine, I continued to cut until the bit reached the outside of the 5/16" tapered face. Once this was completed, I proceeded to do the same on the opposite side. The end result should be two parallel flat faces, each extending to the 1/2" mark from the top of the piece.

At the end, your piece should accept the screw you chose, and have two flat faces. Now we can proceed to mounting the striker wheel.

Step 4: Mounting the Striker Wheel

Now that we have two parallel faces, we grip these in the jaws of the vice. Again, ensure your piece is square to the vice. I used a 1/8" scribe tip to center the mill with the hole we bored in step one. Use a 1/8" end mill to cut out a slot for the striker wheel. For mine I had, I cut to a depth of 3/8" from the top of the piece, and also had to widen it to 0.14" to accommodate the striker wheel.

Once the slot was cut, I chose to mount the piece directly to the table with step blocks. Again, make sure all your faces are square. To ensure the drill bit went through the center of the piece, I used a jig to align the chuck. Admittedly it wasn't the most elegant solution, but it worked well enough for me. Find a bit to match the hole in the striker wheel, and drill straight through, placing the center of the hole 1/8" from the top of the untapered side. My striker-wheel accepted a 1/8" drill-bit, but I highly recommend that you make your own measurements.

**Because this is a through hole, be careful not to drill into the bed of your equipment. In my case, segment I was drilling into fit in between the T slots on the table.

Once the hole is drilled, cut an angle that will reveal more of the striker wheel for your finger to grip. To do this, I used a chauffeur cutter with a 60°.

Finally, take a shaft that fits in the hole you just made, (1/8" in my case) and cut it off, leaving roughly 1/16" excess on each side. Use a hammer and tap the ends of the shaft that protrude from each side to mushroom it out slightly. This will ensure it does not come loose. Once this is done, use a dremel or a file to remove any excess shaft that still protrudes, and buff out any scratches with fine sandpaper.

Finally, we can install the glass breaker and key lanyard.

Step 5: **(Please Read)**Mount the Carbide Glass Breaker.

I had originally included the steps to attach the broken shank from a 1/8" carbide end mill to use as a glass breaker. I recently learned that carbide dust is particularly nasty to inhale. Not at all being an expert, I didn't feel comfortable putting the information out without being properly educated. Best wishes to all; please stay safe.

Step 6: Assembly

The last step in assembly is to cut the music wire to size. If you notice, the completed glass breaker (left) has a very short point protruding from the screw. The easiest way I found to size this is to first load the flint and spring from the flip top lighter into the hole. Then sharpen the section that protrudes from the screw, and keep shortening. and sharpening until all the threads screw in.

I chose to add a bracket underneath the glass breaker to accept a keying or lanyard. The lanyard I used is weaved from jute and Kevlar. Each loop is encased in heat shrink tubing to prevent the metal edges from cutting the cord over time. Jute can be used as tinder to start a fire, and the Kevlar simply prevents the cord from breaking too readily. Be careful to make sure that the end of your bracket does not interfere with use of the glass breaker. I had this problem, but remedied it by just flipping it upside down.

Step 7: Conclusion

For anyone still reading I thank you greatly for taking time out of your day to view my project. I know I've much to learn still. Healthy criticism is greatly appreciated. Best wishes, and stay safe.

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    57 Discussions

    This is basically a WWII tinder lighter but without the advantages. Those have a tube with a rope in it and the flint wheel at the top. Self contained. This is way too complicated to make for most people. There are simpler alternatives including a simple tinder tube and a ferro rod and striker. You need to carry liquid fuel to get the jute to light? The proper way to do it, that doesn't require any extra fuel, is to char the end of the cord with a flame. Then you should be able to light it with a spark from the flint from then on. You have to protect the charred end. It is very fragile. The char gets rubbed off easily and won't light until it is renewed with a flame. The purpose of the tinder tube is to protect the charred end.

    See Ron's Primitive Skills: Fire for an example.

    19 replies

    I understand your points and they are all valid. To be honest, I'm not at all an avid hiker or woodsman; this was just a fun project for me. Just for clarification, it lights jute fine without any fluid, I just didn't think it was necessary to show it a second time. Thanks for the advice.

    Best wishes

    I'm not either but I am into vintage lighters of all kinds and I especially like WWII flameless 'trench' (misnomer) lighters, a.k.a. rope, hurricane, flameless, foxhole, blackout lighters. I want to make one myself but I can't find all-natural cotton cord anywhere. Even if it says it's 100% cotton, it isn't. If you read the label it contains 'synthetic fibers' and probably fire retardants as well. It will not light.

    I guess the best way to light jute is to cut it up and fluff it into a loose tinder packet.


    I'm not sure if it'll work, but some market around my city sells cotton twine to wrap food for steaming. It's a little thin, but perhaps it could be woven thicker. Thanks for the picture by the way. I've heard of foxhole lighters before but could never quite get the hang of how they work. Perhaps with all the new information I'll give it another try. I'll pass it along if I do find any cotton cord that works.
    Best wish

    You really need 1/4" braided rope for these lighters and that's what's hard to find. Pure cotton twine is easy to find. The rope that comes with these lighters lights first time with one spark and forms a full ember without blowing on it.

    Ah, I see. Now i understand why that would be hard to find. I was wondering if you have tried kerosene lamp wicks? They allege to be "100%" cotton, but I suppose that doesn't mean much.

    Heres a link to what I was looking at:

    OK, I found just what I need:

    Weep Cord, 1/4 in. x 100 ft., Solid GRAINGER APPROVED

    Made of 100% premium solid cotton with no polypropylene core


    That's about $0.23 a foot and that's the best price I could find.

    This guy selling this Tinder Tube on eBay, told me that's what he uses for the tinder cord.

    I'd still have to boil it in potash though.

    I'm working on an alternate solution that wouldn't require that extra step.

    That does look promising, and much more reasonably priced. It'll be a while until I am able to try anything, but I hope it goes well for you. Thanks for the refrences, I'll make to store the links I don't lose them.

    Here's an update. I finally bought the real thing. Though somewhat pricey, around $1.65 a meter, from Spain, from the guy that sells the lighters, it is specially made and treated for these lighters and looks great. It also works great. He specially made up this bundle for me but I see two more people bought one.



    Thanks so much for the update! Im definitely going to look into it next chance I get.

    I THOUGHT you might be interested. I have tried this in a lighter and it works well. Unfortunately the guy isn't selling lighters at the moment but he said he is having more made.

    Yes, I played around with some other materials but basically confirmed what you already told me, that it is necessary to get good cotton cord. Thanks again!

    Yes those may work. They are kind of pricey for such a small quantity. Also, I have read that any wicking material has fire retardant in it so it doesn't burn down if the fuel runs out. I'm looking for 100% cotton window sash or weeping cord as that would be more reasonably priced.

    Alright that makes sense. I'm glad I got to talk to you before I purchased any parts. Thanks again very much!

    That's definitely worth exploring; for sure I'll give it a try next chance I get

    You definitely might want to consider buying a brand new rope lighter: YESQUERO - CHISQUERO - ENCENDEDOR DE MECHA - ROPE TRENCH LIGHTER. It comes from Spain and only costs about $12 total. It is very well made of cast chromed metal. It is quite attractive. I'll say this. It is not as good as a vintage Bowers or IMCO foxhole lighter but for the price, it is worth getting one. I had to mod the hook that attaches the ball on top to the cord. It was too awkward so I added a short piece of very fine chain I got at Hobby Lobby to make it work just like the vintage ones. The way it works is, you pull out the ball to expose the charred end of the rope and move the end close to the flint wheel and spark it up. Then you pull the rope down and the ball seats into the tube and extinguishes the ember immediately. It is pretty cool. The achilles heel is the flint mechanism. The wheel is about half the thickness of the IMCO/Bowers ones, so presents half the surface area of teeth to the flint. Added to this, the spring is way too weak. Even stretching it so much that I had trouble getting it back in, it is still too weak. The result is a weak spark compared to the vintage ones. It takes anywhere from 1-10 times to ignite the char. Sometimes I just can't light it at all after lighting it a couple of times, but after letting it rest a while, it finally lights. In practice, you would only light it once each time, so this isn't a big deal. I can't find a spring that narrow or I'd replace it. Still I am glad I bought one. It's nice to see that someone is keeping up the tradition and it is a really beautiful little lighter plus the price is incredibly reasonable. Also, I love to mod things. ;)

    Here is a picture of mine showing the mod I did.


    You're absolutely right, that is a beautiful lighter. I'm definitely going to look into getting a professionally made one like that. Regarding the spring, have you tried replacing it with just a spring from a hardware supplier? That's the first thing I'd try. Thanks so much for the information--I'll pass it along if i ever am able to find a fix for the spring
    Best wishes

    I guarantee you, you will not find another one like this. This guy is the only source. It shipped fast and the guy is very friendly/helpful. There is/was(?) another guy selling these for twice the price and I looked at his purchased items and saw he bough them from lokitron.

    I have already tried the narrowest spring from True Value and from an assortment from Home Depot. They are both way too wide. I checked Grainger as well.

    Alright thanks again! Actually, you're right. I took another look at the springs I had in mind (Small Parts Inc on Amazon), and they would end up costing more than the lighter it self.