In the large world of fire starters the ferrocerium rod must be king… at least in my book. There are a multitude of ways to start a fire out there. Everything from primitive friction fire methods such as a bow drill, a fire plow, to magnifying lenses, to matches and lighters – and many in between.
Simply put, a ferrocerium rod (commonly called a ferro rod or fire steel) when scrapped against a hard surface, produces an extremely hot spark that can ignite tinder for fire starting.
Ferrocerium is the same substance found in cigarette lighters as well as sparklers for welding torches. Ferrocerium is a man made metallic material that contains tungsten, carbide and cobalt. Though sometimes mistakenly called “flint” or “magnesium” they never contain any flint and rarely contain small amounts of magnesium, but sometimes are paired with magnesium that can be shaved off for fire starting.
When scraped with a hard surface like the back edge of a knife, the ferro rod produces an extremely hot spark reaching temperatures from 3000 to 5000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a much hotter spark than you will get from using a flint and steel set (flint and steel is about 300-500 degrees Fahrenheit).
Tips on Selecting a Farro Rod
There are many, many different ferro rods out there. They can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars up to about $30, depending on the make, size and what comes with it. If you are just looking to try one out, I would recommend purchasing a cheap one that is a thin rod and come with their own striker. This will give you practice and if you don’t want to use it, at least you didn’t waist a ton of money on it.
If you want to use a ferro rod as your main fire starting source, then you should do a little research on the different brands (there are many). Select on that is at least 2” long and 1/4” in diameter. The thicker they are the longer they will last. The higher end versions can come complete with there own tinder storage and/or built in strikers. Some are mounted in a plastic or aluminum case but you can buy “blanks” which are just the rod, no striker. Many people will do this and mount them into wood or deer antler on there own (and sometimes offer them for sale if you search the internet).
As far as a striker goes, I commonly use the back edge of my knife. If you are going to do this, make sure you have a back edge that has a 90 degree angle on it. If your knife doesn’t have a sharp back edge grinding it with a rotary tool can fix that problem. The edge needs to be sharp to scrap material from the rod to create sparks. Most ferro rods come with a scraper included. The better ones are made from a thick piece of steel (aprox. 1/8” thick) and have a handle. Some of the cheaper rods come with a striker that is thin and similar to a reciprocating saw blade (which also work well as a striker).
Just like any piece of gear, especially one that may be used to save your life, I highly recommend practicing with it before you need to use it. Ferro rods are simple to use but with practice you can begin to learn what tinders catch fire the easiest and maybe pair the rod with some of these in your fire kit. Ferro rods will last a long, long time but its always a good idea to keep a back-up fire source with you. I commonly keep a second ferro rod and/or matches, a lighter or magnifying lens in my fire kit or in another location on my body encase I loose my kit.
How to Use a Ferro Rod to Start a Fire
Remember to always take all cautions in starting a fire. Fire safety is a serious and should be respected!
Ready your materials for fire starting
Tinder, Kindling and Fuel
Pile your tinder, creating maximum surface area to catch a spark
Scrape the ferro rod a few times to remove the coating put on it to prevent corrosion
Hold the “striker” steady near the tinder
Place the ferro rod firmly against the “striker”
Pull the rod ferro rod toward you swiftly
this should create a spark
Repeat until your tinder catches fire
Place a few pieces of tinder over the flame
- Your fire is started, enjoy!
For more information on Ferrocerium Rods and Ferro Rod reviews please check out the links below!