Cheating with Magnesium and Ferrocerium Fire Starting Kits

by PapaD

Popular as it is, not everyone knows about this method of fire-starting. The first video shows how a magnesium bar is scraped into a pile of super tinder in preparation for being ignited with high temperature sparks from a Ferrocerium rod.

Using Ferrocerium and Magnesium to Start Fire

Okay, for me this one is marginally acceptable as an alternative method because it is using a kit containing Ferrocerium, a man-made product that was developed expressly for fire starting, although not of itself a lighter. It was originally comprised primarily of the elements Iron and Cerium. It has undergone several incarnations since. The modern substance has several other additives to make it spark brighter and burn hotter and longer. Even so, it is worthy to count as a method that works without matches or lighters, and it should be discussed if for no other reason than to dispel a few misconception that my young’ns may encounter. It is sad to me that when I say flint and steel, someone usually pipes up and says, Yeah, I have one of those.

Flint is one name sometimes incorrectly applied to Ferrocerium. Firesteel is another. It is often called the flint when referring to the sparking part of a lighter. It is even sometimes called flint and steel when used with a steel striker. (While I am at it, a stick of Ferrocerium is also referred to as a Ferro Rod.) So, it is reasonable that this method is sometimes mistaken for the real flint and steel method of fire starting. Ferrocerium has been around just over a hundred years. Flint and Steel has been starting fires more millennia. It was patented in Germany in 1903 by Baron Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is still widely referred to as Auermetall in Europe, which is taken from the name the Baron went by. (Flint has become a defacto word to refer to any rock or substance that makes sparks when struck with steel; even much of the so-called flint used in real rock and steel fire-starting is not technically flint, but it is generally very similar. Ferrocerium does nto occur naturally.)

Ferrocerium can be used by itself as a sparker to ignite tinder or it can be used to ignite magnesium scrapings which can then even more easily  start the bigger tinder bundle since it burns so hotly.

Whatever you call it, it is the stuff that makes the sparks in lighters for torches and fireplaces and in cigarette lighters. Ferrocerium has extremely good sparking qualities (pyrophoricity) and it sparks at the very high temperatures required to ignite the scrapings from bar magnesium, which also burns extremely hot; this makes quick fire even in windy and wet conditions and will light a larger tinder bundle. Thus, Ferrocerium and bar magnesium are often sold together as a fire-starter. Both Ferrocerium and Magnesium are relatively inexpensive in such small quantities.

There are two video clips to show this process at the extended post on my other fire making blog. Ferrocerium


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