Fire Starter: A Traditional Fire Making Tool

fire starter

If there's one thing that separates us from any other animal on a primordial level, it's that we humans have mastered the control of fire. In fact, almost every aspect of our modern way of life is underpinned by the manipulation of fire to achieve all manner of goals, whether it's the production of steel or heating water for washing in the home. Despite its obvious importance, many of us remain unaware of what it means to produce fire using a traditional fire starter kit.

We at Flint & Steel are dedicated to producing and teaching people how to use our hand-made fire starter kits, so that anyone can go out into the woods and enjoy a camping trip, safe in the knowledge that they can get a fire going whenever necessary. Leather has been worked and steel has been wrought by our family of artisan craftsmen for at least the past four generations. In this time we have perfected a great range of fire making components to provide the wider world with individually produced fire starter kits of the highest quality.

Using Flint and Steel as a Fire Starter

Nowadays we are spoilt for choice when it comes to methods with which to make fire. We have matches, lighters, ferro-rods and more, but none of these tools are completely foolproof. When using an instrument of any kind, the most important character is reliability. This is particularly important when you might be faced with a cold and hungry night in the forest instead of a warm and satisfying evening under the stars. Many agree that the best compromise between modernity and reliability in terms of fire starter kits comes in the form of flint and steel.

The ‘steel’ in flint and steel refers to a high carbon, hand-forged fire steel that can be used to strike a sharp rock like flint in order to generate sparks. These sparks are actually tiny globules of molten metal that have been shaved off the surface of the striker. Although they are of a lower temperature than those produced by a modern firesteel, they are plenty hot enough to light a fire and this kind of fire starter can last long enough to pass down through the generations.

Using the Flint & Steel fire starter method, these sparks are made to land upon a piece of charred linen fabric known as char cloth. This material produces a glowing ember upon even the slightest contact with a hot spark, meaning that you will have obtained the beginnings of your campfire with a minimum of effort. The smouldering piece of char cloth is placed in the center of a nest of jute twine kindling and blown upon gently. Lo and behold, your kindling will have burst into flame!

It can take a little while to get the hang of using this kind of fire starter, but once you've cracked how to do it, it will remain a skill for life. We have produced a number of instructional videos demonstrating a step-by-step method for flint and steel fire lighting that we have used to successfully teach even the greenest of novices how to make fire with ease.

Using Different Kinds of Tinder

One of the main advantages of using a flint and steel as part of a fire starter kit is that you can substitute the char cloth tinder and jute twine kindling for other materials, depending on what you have at hand. Generally speaking, you can use all manner of charred organic material as tinder. This is because the charring process results in the production of pure carbon, which easily catches the orange sparks generated by striking a piece of flint with a high carbon steel striker.

If you live in the appropriate climatic zone to find them, you can even use certain types of fungus as part of your fire starter kit. The most commonly used is a hoof-shaped fungus known simply as ‘tinder fungus’ or more formally as ‘fomes fomentarius’. Typically found growing on birch trees, tinder fungus can be processed to create a fluffy tinder material called ‘amadou’ and you won't even need to char it first. This approach to fire lighting has been around for at least 5,000 years, with amadou having been found in the European Alps on the frozen corpse of Ötzi the Iceman.

While the use of tinder fungus is all well and good, it can be somewhat harder to find than other kinds of tinder suitable for use with a flint and steel fire starter. Probably the easiest kind of tinder to use is punk wood which can, of course, be found in any wooded area. The only thing is that you will have to char it first.

The aforementioned alternative tinder sources are great fun to find, process and use, but for the sake of reliability our fire starter kits come with linen char cloth. While our Iron Age ancestors would not have used fabric, a rare commodity, to make char cloth, nowadays we can make a reasonable compromise between faithfulness to the ways of our forebears and a more modern approach.

The History of Flint and Steel Kits

The first fire making methods ever developed by mankind were friction-based. You can surely imagine Boy Scouts rubbing two sticks together with a great deal of effort and a modicum of frustration. In time, our ancestors progressed to using iron pyrites (Fool’s Gold) and flint stone to generate sparks. You can already see how this approaches the method that our Iron Age forebears favored.

Aside from the modern use of char cloth, we aim to provide a traditional set of equipment that differs very little from what an Iron Age inhabitant would recognize as a fire starter kit. To this end, we have scoured museums and archeological sites throughout Europe to ensure that our steel striker designs are as authentic as possible. This endeavor has been helped by the fact that our own forefathers kept records and examples of their own Slavic designs.

Through this combination of knowledge passed down in our family and a little extra research, we have developed a range of steel strikers suitable for inclusion in the fire starter kit of pretty much any kind of camper, hunter, hiker or outdoorsman or woman. As this technology was concentrated around medieval Europe, we offer styles ranging in origin from England in the west to Scandinavia and Russia in the northwest.

Why Bother with Making a Real Primitive Fire?

You might be wondering why it's worth making a real primitive fire using the same kind of fire starter that our ancestors would have used. On the other hand, you might have your very own personal reason as to why it's something you would like to undertake. For us at Flint & Steel, it's all about respecting the struggles and achievements of our forebears and keeping alive the ancient connection that we have with them when we emulate the way they would have lived from day to day. There's just something quite magical about setting a fire in the traditional way, and then going on to do something traditional with the fire itself.

Of course you already know that fires are great for keeping you warm on a cold night under the stars, as well as driving off predators like bears and wolves. Perhaps you've even ventured as far as to forage your own food and then cook it up over or even within the coals. There's nothing quite like a fresh piece of fish cooked slowly over the still hot ashes of a campfire.

Many of us enjoy a cup or three of tea or coffee in the mornings to get us up and at ‘em, and there's no reason why things should be any different when you're out on a hunting or camping trip. A fire starter like flint and steel opens up all kinds of possibilities. If you're prepared well in advance, you can dig up some dandelions from the garden and use their dried roots as a reasonable substitute for coffee.

If you're more of a tea drinker, on the other hand, there's plenty for you to discover in almost any climate. All manner of leaves and berries can be used to flavor a pot of boiling water. While you should always make sure that you can positively identify everything you forage, there are some things that are really very simple to recognize and then use. If you find yourself in the forest, one of the easiest, most delicious and vitamin-packed things to boil up into a refreshing drink is the ever-present pine needle.

In fact, pine needles are something of a secret hidden in plain sight. They'll give you a real taste of nature alongside a dose of more vitamin C than you'd ever find in an orange. Pine needle tea even has anti-septic qualities that can be rather helpful when you're out in the middle of nowhere.

Even if you have nothing with which to flavor your water, the use of a fire starter means that you can always be sure that any water you've collected can be made safe to drink. On average, you might survive around 4 days without water in the wilderness so you really need to make sure that all the water you drink is completely safe to consume. A flint and steel fire starter can help you to do just this.

Take a Look at Flint & Steel Fire Starter Kits

We are passionate about our work and it's our goal to spread the word about traditional kinds of fire starter kits. You will find all kinds of kits as well as their individual components in our online store.

In an effort to help you learn how to use our fire starter kits effortlessly and with confidence, we have produced a fully illustrated set of step-by-step instructions for each kit. That's not all, as we have also put together a number of demonstrative and instructional videos to assist you in getting the most out of your new flint and steel kit.

Don't forget: if you're still having a hard time making a fire the flint and steel way, you can drop us a line and we'd be glad to be of help.

See What Others Have To Say About Our Fire Starter Kits

Don’t just take our word for it. Over the past year or so, we have been working extensively with a number of experts in the field of bushcraft to get their opinions on our flint and steel fire starter kits. We've received honest and constructive reviews from well-known bushcrafters from all over the world, including people from the US, Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Hong Kong.

Check out our external reviews page, where you can find links to all the video reviews and field tests that our products have undergone. You can find out more about us and see our latest photos and videos by following us on Instagram @primitivefiremaking and on our Facebook page @PrimitiveFireMaking.

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