Steel Wool Emergency Fire Starter




Introduction: Steel Wool Emergency Fire Starter

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with.

With only a battery and some fine steel wool, you can make a fire anytime. It's an old trick but works really well at starting fires in an emergency. Some of you might have seen steel wool fire wheels on the net. If not, check these ones out. here and here

The way this work is passing some voltage through the fine, steel wool makes it spark and set alight. the steel wool smolders at a very high heat and can be easily kept going by blowing on it. All you then need is some dry leaves or grass and your away. I've made many a fire with this technique and haven't ever not been able to light one.

To make this emergency fire starter as small as possible, I used a miniature 12v, battery which are usually used in car and burglar alarms. These are about 1/2 the size of a AAA battery so are perfect for this project.

I also used a waterproof container to keep the battery and steel wool dry.

This is an easy project but definitely one that has come in handy a couple of times.

Step 1: Things You'll Need


1. 0000 fine steel wool - eBay or try your local hardware store

2. 12v 3LR50 or MN21 battery - eBay

3. Waterproof Container - eBay

4. Electrical tape

Step 2: Practice Making Fire

First thing I would do is to practice igniting the steel wool. To do this you need to do the following:

1. Grab the steel wool and pull the threads so it opens up a little.

2. Next place one end of the battery on the wool and touch the steel wool to the other end of the battery.

3. You should instantly see sparks and the steel wool start to light. If not, touch the battery terminals again.

4. Once the wool starts to ignite it should just continue to smolder and burn. If not, just blow on it a little and it will blaze up.

Step 3: Prepare the Steel Wool


1. Garb the steel wool and carefully unwind a piece.

2. If it seems a little thick, you can just pull it apart.

3. You should end up with a small rectangle piece of steel wool.

Step 4: Prepare the Battery


1. So the steel wool doesn't ignite the wool inside the container, you need to wrap it in some electrical tape.

2. Take a piece of tape and wrap it around the ends of the terminals a couple of times.

Step 5: Wrap the Steel Wool Around the Battery


1. Next wrap the steel wool around the battery. Try and get this as tight as possible

2. Trim off the ends so it fits into the container. It should be as tight as fit as you can make it - the more steel wool the better!

3. Screw on the lid tightly




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    51 Discussions

    I save old newspaper and fat (oils) from cooking and paint the 'oils' on the newspaper and roll up, then save in plastic bags until ready to use. No waste! And don't have to use things I'd use for something else. I do like that you can start the fire with the battery and steel wool. I've recently started adding twigs to the rolled up oil newspapers. It seems to help keep the fire going long enough to get the bigger pieces burning.

    Thanks for a great video! Do you think this would work with an A27 battery aswell?

    1 reply

    Yep - I think they're the same battery. As long as it's 12v you won't have any issues

    Oh well, seems like there's ALWAYS that one

    Yes it shorts the battery but it's for a very short time. You won't have any issues with it going Kaboom.


    1 year ago

    Something not mentioned is good fire starter. A 35mm film container filled with dryer lint and another container filled with dry pitch from coniferous trees. The pitch burns hot like a torch and can be used to get damp wood burning. I used to take one or two disposable lighters with me until I was on a scout trip up in the mountains. It was cold and wet and the lighter that was in my pants pocket would not ignite. The fuel in it would not vaporize. That was a shocker. I was saved by a young scout who brought penny matches in a zip lock. No one was using batteries and steel wool back then. Where we went moisture probably would have made it tricky to use. We being on the wet coast of Canada. :-)

    6 replies

    Hand sanitizer works better and can also be used to make cocktails.

    I like to pack laundry lint in used TP rolls into ziplocks. keeping the lint in the roll gives you a good firestarting time

    Good use of materials that are usually thrown away!

    Most Def - see the above comment on a ible' that I made using lint and wax

    Something that helps (if you've got room to carry it) I roll up newspaper, about six inches long and 1 inch diameter and dip it into a pan of melted canning wax which is easily available. Once lit it'll burn for 5 or ten minutes and helps very much in getting the fire going.

    I do not recommend this site. The hot dogs roasted on this fire tasted bad.

    Hah Hah you made my day, (got a good laugh LoL).

    I allways go around with a steel wool, (just for in case), in my left hand inside pocket.

    And a set of battery's in my right hand inside pocket, (just for "if")

    And a pocket knife, (the Swiss-made), in my left hand pant's pocket.

    And a "nutrician set for astronaut's" in my lower left hand pocket

    And my cellphone in my lower right front outer pocket

    And..... And... Lol Gee... I just gained some 5 kgr, (yes you in U.S.A did read right, in SI-system the baseunit for weight is a gram, so a kilogram makes it to be 1000 times that)

    2 replies

    Actually, that would be 5Kg, and I really doubt that all added up to 11 pounds.

    Actually the baseunit for weight is: Gram, the prefix only tell’s you the multiplicator of the baseunit, ”k” stands for kilo = 1000x1gram , ”m” stands for mega 1000x1000kilo = 1000000, ”g” stands for giga = 1000x1000mega =1000000000 etc… kG is the ”right” one
    They are wery often ”miss-used”: NOT MHz, but mHz, (Herz is the baseunit the ”m” is a prefix and should be written with the lowercase ”m”). Oooohh… my bad, sorry, the lowercase ”m” allso is used with fractions of 1meter/1000 = (millimeter). Gee… the life is so complicated. Why didn’t they tell me that?

    Nice job.! I also like to add a couple of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly to my kit. A23 batteries are dirt cheap on Amazon with free shipping.

    1 reply

    I also read that tampons soaked in petroleum jelly work for longer because they are more dense.

    I always use a 9 volt battery every store sells them from gas stations, Walmart to dollar stores. Puff up the steel wool the 9v battery's neg. and pos. Are in the same end so you just press it to the steel wool. So much easer. It turns the steel wool cherry red and will catch wet tender on fire. I keep both in me jeep and SHTF pack.