Fire Piston Heaven


I have mentioned in previous posts, my discovery of a new transparent material that is used for such applications as windows on the Space Shuttles and jets and for bulletproof glass. I didn’t really discover discover it. Only discovered it for myself and my own purposes. It is a proprietary Polycarbonate strong enough to withstand the extreme pressure of compression ignition required to make fire with a fire piston, but I don’t know exactly what it is called or what the formulation is. I do know that acrylics and other regular plastics will shatter or even explode under pressure. I was fortunate to acquire a limited supply of this stuff. I just don’t know if I will be able to get any more after this is gone. As folks used to say, I’ll make hay while the sun shines. This stuff has opened whole new vistas when it comes to fire piston possibilities.

This brief video clip shows the PapaD Woodsman Clear model Fire Piston handheld use.



Those who know me, understand that I can’t easily turn off any subject that really piques my interest. I took an interest in alternative fire starting more than half a century ago and it still has not run its course. Within that interest, a sub-category has emerged. Fire Pistons. After a bumpy start, I persisted in trying this and that and have by now pretty much mastered them as a reliable method for making fire. Now nothing is safe. If it is somewhat cylindrical and shows promise as material for making a fire piston, I am apt to try it. Pictured are a few of my most recent efforts. I have been offering a few of these to blog readers (and others) via eBay. I can’t keep up with demand. (The demand is not huge, but I have been limited in time to devote to making them of late.) You can find these as well as quite a few other fire pistons for sale on eBay.

I need to upload some additional video clips to YouTube to show these in action. They all make embers, but some work more reliably than others. I have already made the video clips, but must find time to upload them. When I do, I will provide those clips here. Until then, let me just post a couple of still photos to show the possibilities.


Okay, so this batch is a little heavy on ammo cartridges. I like guns. I reload ammo. So, I have a lot of such items on hand. But that’s just this batch. I have made working fire pistons out of many other  things cylindrical.

Another cool thing about the clear space stuff is that you can see the flash, or lack of, at the point of ignition. This is amazing. More importantly, it allows the user to determine whether or not a particular tinder is not really potential tinder–or really does have potential as tinder. It also helps to perfect technique. With a reg’r ole fire piston, you never know what might be almost working or why it is or is not. The transparent cylinder changes everything.

The Papa D Woodsman model combines the primitive (hardwood) with the lightweight polycarbonate material–he stuff that the Space Shuttle windows are made of. This is not acrylic–which shatters or explodes under  the extreme pressure of compression ignition required to make embers with fire pistons.

So, it is lightweight, but super tough. This space stuff can be covered with virtually any exterior skin–Wood, brass, leather, bamboo, fiberglass, deer antler. I’ve tried them all.

And if you have a kit that allows you to make your lightweightsuper-space-age-non-exploading cylinder look cool with one or more skins of your choice motif, which can be removed as desired to view the flash when necessary, wa-la. A good thing it is.

From a post a while back, these are a few of my earlier attempts. I have boxes of others, as well.


Remember Stone Tinder

I would be remiss if I did not once again credit my friend Pierre Coutu, who invented and now markets Stone Tinder. Stone Tinder is a special fire piston tinder that is mess-free, odorless, and has a very low ignition temperature. It is amazing stuff. Fire pistons obviously can be made to work with natural tinder of various kinds, but Pierre’s formulation makes it a cinch to get fire from them, providing users and experimenters a perfect benchmark when working with fire pistons.

Pierre sells it on eBay. I am intentionally not providing links to commercial offerings including my own in this blog in order to keep it noncommercial, but if I did or when I do, Stone Tinder will be among the first links I add. It is great stuff! Just do a search for Stone Tinder one eBay if you want to buy your own bundle of Pierre’s amazing invention. For fifteen bucks you get enough to last one person pretty much forever.


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