Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Firesteel Scout

Over the weekend I picked up a Light My Fire Firesteel Scout at REI and tested it with several different kinds of tinder. It is basic “flint” and steel system for generating sparks to start fires. The striker is a small piece of flat steel, while the “flint” is a ferrocerium rod or something similar (REI's site says it's magnesium but I think that's wrong) with a small plastic handle. The flint is like those found in the magnesium fire starter blocks. It requires two hands to use, unlike a Blastmatch. The striker and flint are connected with a piece of nylon cord.

The Firesteel Scout throws a good shower of sparks. Among the different kinds of tinder I tried to catch those sparks and start fire with, were dryer lint, a pinecone oozing resin, a used dryer sheet, jute twine, and a cotton ball impregnated with Vaseline.

Any of these items would've worked fine with a match or butane lighter. However, using a flint and steel system requires tinder that's easier to ignite. The dryer lint worked OK but burned too fast. The dryer sheet worked well once I rubbed some resin from the pinecone onto it. Without the resin it didn’t work at all. The pinecone wouldn’t ignite from just sparks. Unraveled jute twine with pinecone resin rubbed on worked very well. The cotton ball with Vaseline worked into it and then teased out worked extremely well.

I also tested jute twine which had been soaked in the melted wax from a citronella candle bucket. Once unraveled it caught sparks well and burned long enough to ignite other items, like a pinecone. I cut a bunch of 2” – 4” lengths of the twine and soaked them in the melted wax, and have them stored inside a small aluminum canister.

Soaking in the citronella wax is also an easy way to waterproof matches, instead of setting up a double boiler to safely melt paraffin. Just do it outside so you don’t stink up your house. Aside from waterproofing the matches, the wax melts when you light the match and if you're careful, will drip into the tinder you're tying to light, making a bigger flame.

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