Flint and steel

What is a flint and steel?

The term "flint and steel" refers to a tool used as a fire starter. Before the invention and widespread use of matches and the ubiquitous presence of lighters nowadays, there existed a multitude of different fire staring methods.

For example, one method of fire starting involved the use of friction to heat a combustible material to the required temperature. This approach included several different variations, the simplest of which was the rubbing of two dry pieces of wood together with a dry and easily combustible material sandwiched between them. Another ancient method of friction-based fire starting is reminiscent of drilling, whereby a wooden fire drill is used with one hand to spin a straight stick along its vertical axis. The other hand is used to apply pressure to this stick to increase the friction, and thus the temperature created, between the stick and an appropriate wooden base. However, the most reliable approach to fire starting involved the use of a flint and steel fire starter.

How do flint and steel fire starters work?

In contrast to friction-based approaches, flint and steel fire starters rely on sparks as their source of high temperatures. If you've ever seen knives or other instruments being sharpened by electrically powered grinding tools, you'll undoubtedly remember the fountain of bright sparks that was produced each time the craftsman returned the blade of the instrument to the grinding wheel. These sparks are hot pieces of metal, and it is these sparks that would have been used to start fires in ancient, more primitive times. The difference, of course, was that these sparks were obtained by striking flint, quartz or other hard stones rather than by means of a grinder. Although the techniques used to obtain sparks differed as stone was used to strike iron, or iron was used to strike stone, the result did not change the nature of the sparks or that of the fire starting process itself. Hot sparks had to fall upon a particular kind of material, which would easily begin to smoulder upon contact with these sparks. Such material had to be made in advance, and it was known as tinder.

What does a flint and steel fire starter consist of?

As the name would suggest, a flint and steel fire starter consists of a piece of flint and a steel plate. This tool is also commonly referred to as a firesteel or steel striker. The metal plate cannot be made of simple cast iron, but rather, it must be made of high carbon steel. It is thanks to the presence of carbon in steel that sparks required can be produced. When positioned in a crystal lattice and liberated as a result of thermal quenching, carbon enables the shards of metal released to melt and produce sparks when appropriately struck. In he olden days, such metal plates were forged by blacksmiths, who gave them a beautiful and graceful shape. Flint and steel fire starters of different shapes were used in different countries at difference periods in history. While studying the history of Europe, archaeologists have been able to map the migration of whole peoples based on the flint and steel fire starters they found. At the same time, they could also judge the level of development of their craftsmanship and the extent of their trading relationships with other tribes and peoples.

How reliable is a flint and steel fire starter?

Starting primitive fires by means of flint and steel was very reliable, as they are not damaged by moisture, cold temperatures or strong winds. The appearance of this method of fire starting represents the further technological progress of mankind. For example, with the passage of several centuries, flintlock rifles came into being. Such a weapon is based on the same principles as the humble flint and steel fire starter, except that the descent of the rifle's hammer ignites gunpowder rather than a piece of tinder. In fact, even modern petrol and gas lighters with rotary wheels retain this principle at their core.

What's the point of using a flint and steel fire starter nowadays?

Proficiency in the process of starting a primitive fire using a flint and steel is no longer a prerequisite for our survival. Nowadays, this kind of tool has become more of a matter of art and tradition than anything else. If you are planning to go hiking or are going to cook a delicious meal over a fire, it would be much more exciting to make the fire with the help of an old flint and steel fire starter than to use matches or a lighter.

Where can I find a flint and steel for sale?

A flint and steel fire starter can never be produced by industrial means. Today, as in the olden days, they can only be made by hand. You will be able to buy flint and steel fire starters only from genuine blacksmiths.

We have all sorts of high-quality, handmade products including flint and steel fire starters for sale in our store. Our flint and steel fire starters emulate the shape of those made by different ancient peoples at different periods throughout history, so you're bound to find one to suit you. They also make great gifts for any nature enthusiast.

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