The first flint striker I ever used was the back edge of my official Boy Scout pocket knife, a prize I received for winning first place in a Spring Camping obstacle course. For a long time I was under the mistaken impression that any ole knife or other piece of steel would work. Not so. But maybe it was understandable for me to have such an impression. Many, if not most knives, were then made of High Carbon Steel, which is what you need to get good sparks. I think a lot of farm implements and everyday tools were made of the same when I was a kid.
A lot can happen in a lifetime. At least a lot has happened during the years that have coincided with my lifetime. High Carbon Steel, HCS, is a lot harder to come by these days. It may be stylishly desirable to have a fancily crafted heavy steel striker for sparking rocks for flint & steel fire starting. Indeed, I have fashioned a few of my own. But a few decades ago, when I was in a pinch to make sparks without having such a specialized striker on hand, I started picking up various steel tools to try against a nice piece of flint I had picked up. One of the most effective items that I found for sparking rocks turned out to be an old rusty putty knife–once I had struck it sufficiently to get the rust off. I have found these to be effective quite a few times since–though ome of the newer ones are not.
Realizing that this post repeats some previous information, I thought it might best serve those who look at this video clip of the striker making sparks to have a recap here with the clip.
In my experimentation with various items, I discovered for myself that some old hacksaw blades make good sparks. That first one was a dead give-away because I could still read the HCS emblem emblazoned on the side of the blade. It was already broken and hard to hold onto. I put it into a pair of vice-grip pliers for a handle and started striking my flint. It took a few tries to get to the unrusted steel, but when I did, I was surprised and gratified to see a lots of long slow-dying sparks. Since that first instance I have often used old hacksaw blades as a go-to source for strikers, wedged or tied or glued into sticks and various makeshift or crafted handles to make fire. For a handle you need something of substance to both protect your fingers and to enable you to fairly wallop the edge of the flint with enough grazing force to get good sparks.
It seems like a lot of the new, more expensive blades don’t work very well for this. Some won’t spark at all. And I have also found that in efforts to clean the blades up with a grinding stone, the heat can easily ruin the temper of a good sparking blade. You can overwork or out think yourself on this. It is best to find the cheapest old blades and embed them into a slot and go with them as they are. This is what led me to the Fire ANTler design.
A piece of annual deer antler shed can be sawed easily enough to slot it to fit just such a piece of saw blade. It makes a good handle for the blade and protects your fingers. I secure the blade tooth side inward with a tight fit and bee’s wax, so that it can be easily removed and replaced. When removed the tooth side doubles for sawing and scraping and notching to prepare spindles and tinder and a fire board as well for bow & spindle. The antler point provides a perfect tool for knapping or sharpening a piece of flint that has lost its optimum sparking edge. As I have referenced in earlier posts, there is good evidence that prehistoric peoples commonly used antler points exactly so.
To maximize the antler’s fire making utility, I like to drill an indent in one side of the antler handle to use as a socket for bow & spindle fire making, too. The antler will not heat up and catch fire like a wooden socket tends to. It is hard and slick and works really well for this.
And if you are making fire among scouts or bushcrafters, the Fire ANTler makes an impression and a cool-looking conversation piece. It is a good Idea. Just FYI, I have learned in the ensuing years since my saw blade striker discovery, that I am not alone in this discovery. These HCS blades are cheap and effective. With the antler handle, they may make the best strikers yet. (An another advantage of the saw blades is that you can snap off a two or three inch piece of blade to easily fit in your wallet and always have a striker on hand.)
The brief video clip at the link above shows how well the Fire ANTler striker makes sparks. I can often catch a spark with one strike, and I claim no particular expertise. I think pretty much anyone can do so with just a little practice and good char cloth. Realizing that not everyone has access to deer antlers–I may make provisions for those who want them. I only have a limited number that I find shed on my property or that friends give to me–but as always I will try to accommodate followers of this blog where possible.