Problems with Flint & Steel

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Snake Pleskin

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I'm curious to know if I'm the only one who has been unsuccessful at starting a fire with flint & steel. I have tried 7 or 8 times over the past few years and no luck. I first bought a cheap kit, then bought a better steel from TotW and more flint. I even bought some denim to make new char cloth, but I haven't done it yet. I've gotten a few red glows on the char cloth that came with the kit, but couldn't keep the spark alive. What's your experience?
the only luck I have had with flint and steel is the flint in my Zippo with the little steel wheel!!! : )!!
 
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my experience?
wife caught me kindling a tiny, tiny fire in the middle of the garage floor, and took my char cloth away. silly her! it wouldn't have worked anymore anyway with all of that white stuff that comes out of a fire extinguisher on it.
but before Red Adair of the north swooped in i had a respectable lick of fire going. used the spine of my patch knife for the steel and the brand new charcloth i made of 1000 count cotton sheet. most of the commercial cloth i have used was too loose of a weave.
when i throw a sparck on the tight stuff the ring of fire travel slow but steady.
i even have time to put tiny slivers of pitch pine on it and catch these a fire.
then i snuff the char cloth for further use.
i wonder if that white stuff would wash out?:dunno:
And what did she have to say about all the little rectangles cut out of her "good" sheets?
 

Flint Striker

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One thing I do to add to this is have my tinder nest right there around the char. When you get your spark you can puff on it as you drop your rock
Differnt cloths will act differnt. Denim makes a harder char, it’s harder to get it to catch the spark, but burns hotter, a little glowing sun in your hand.
Old t shirt or diaper cloth catches real easy, doesn’t glow as hot

Yep. Denim is a little more resistant than T-shirt or a bed sheet - but it’s more durable for a hamfisted ape like me. The occasional spark will bounce off without lightning. But like you said, it burns hot. Striking right into it and cutting it between the striker and the flint often gets the sparks hitting a frayed area, which makes it easier to light. I overcooked some char in an altoids tin a couple months ago, and the “ruined” parts at the edges also take a spark very easily. I’ve been using flint and steel for 20 years, and I’m as good or better with it than I am with some modern fire methods. My favorite bird’s nest material is outer bark from a wild grape vine - slow to light, but once it does it’s HOT! But dry grass, shredded bark (especially inner tulip poplar), dried seaweed - I’ve used them well enough too.
 
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And what did she have to say about all the little rectangles cut out of her "good" sheets?
naw! they were round! and the sheets were discards. i may be dumb, but not dumb enough to cut up good 1000 count sheets.
they are actually good sheets, ruined by renters of a VRBO. they use the sheets to polish their shoes or some such. they make me look like an Einstein!
also i get great towels of Turkish cotton that are ruined the same way or by someone using them to shine the sidewalls of their Prius!
 
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I’ve had good luck as tinder with.the inner bark from dead cotton wood tree limbs. Cotton woods are great trees but also have a tendency to drop limbs and branches so if you live in an area where they grow finding tinder isn’t hard.
 
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I bought a kit from a member a few weeks ago and haven't really even looked at it yet. If I can remember tomorrow I will try my kit and see if I have any better luck.
More good advice! Thanks!
I'm just getting back to you about my flint and steel set. I tried it today for the first time and had good success. I bought the set from Tom Hawks on the forum and can say it exceeded my expectations. Anyway, I tore a small strip of the provided char cloth (1/4"x1") and layed the cloth on the flint near the edge where I was struck with the steel. It took about 10 or 12 strikes to see an ember catch on the char cloth, but once it did I wrapped the cloth in a small bird's nest and got it burning after blowing a lot of hot air which I have an endless supply of. I was pretty excited that I was able to get a fire going so easily. After the bird's nest was consumed I set it up again and had my wife take a few pictures and was able to repeat the fire-starting process again. I'm not sure what type of cloth Mr. Hawks uses for char cloth, but it was almost magical.
 

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Flint Striker

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I used to use a rectangle of charcloth about 1” square, but I’ve found lately that a triangle about half that works too. I hold it by a point and use the wide edge to catch the spark. I’m usually using pretty dry stuff as tinder, so it’s well on its way or on fire by the time the char burns up.
 

Tenmile

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Red shop towels make good char cloth. The shackle from an old padlock (American made) that you’ve lost the key to makes a really good striker. The “c” shape makes a good handle. If it’s chrome plated just grind the edge off. The old ones have good steel.
 
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I've been trying to teach myself to light a fire with flint and steel, but without much success so far. Probably doesn't help that it's been rainy outside the couple times I tried it and I had a hard time finding good dry kindling. I did make my own char cloth and it catches a spark very easily, so I have that going for me.

The other day walking around in the trees I found a pine stump and happened to have a tomahawk with me, so I hacked off a couple slivers and found it was fatwood. I haven't tried using it to start a fire with flint & steel yet, but when you touch a flame to it the slivers light instantly and burn HOT. I gathered about a quart bag full of it and plan to split it into some smaller slivers for firestarting.
 
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I've been trying to teach myself to light a fire with flint and steel, but without much success so far. Probably doesn't help that it's been rainy outside the couple times I tried it and I had a hard time finding good dry kindling. I did make my own char cloth and it catches a spark very easily, so I have that going for me.

The other day walking around in the trees I found a pine stump and happened to have a tomahawk with me, so I hacked off a couple slivers and found it was fatwood. I haven't tried using it to start a fire with flint & steel yet, but when you touch a flame to it the slivers light instantly and burn HOT. I gathered about a quart bag full of it and plan to split it into some smaller slivers for firestarting.
Look it up on you tube or Rumble, and follow along, it’s awful easy.
I don’t think it was a skill the average Joe had back in the day. We have written explanations of how to. Most people kept a fire going all the time. And if it went out you could get a coal near by. Like todays buckskinner I think it was one of the first skill leaned on the frontier
 

Tom A Hawk

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The type of steel definitely makes a difference. I bought a fire steel that sparks very well when struck, but on a whim I’ve tried other random pieces of steel and barely get a spark. I assume hardened steel sparks better.
Yes, strikers need to be made from high carbon steel and properly hardened - just like frizzens.
 
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Well, with all this advice, the pressure is surely on. I'll have to step up and make some flames.
Today was the first time I tried the flint and steel and after figuring out how to strike the flint I started getting sparks. My first few strikes were either too easy or I hit the flint with too much direct force. I did break a small section off my flint because of hitting it too hard with direct force. One thing I figured out was to strike fast where the steel barely skims the flint edge if that helps you any. Good luck.
 
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Pssssst.! practice with the flint and steel, and hide a BIC in the bottom of your hunting bag :ghostly:
HC and PC are our fun, but comes to chattering teeth and knocking knees, at -10 a bic becomes very pc and hc!
Yep. It's all fun and games until somebody is found frozen to a tree while tightly clutching their rifle.
 

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