Murphys Law, I post a gripe (30 seconds ago) about Ray Mears site being way too pricey But for fire steels I think they are a good price £8.50 can't remember if they have postage on top of that, they didn't used to but??
I picked one up last week from our local surplus shop in the end as I just happened to be in there
I gave it a quick try out at the weekend, what lovely sparks :-D
I will have to practise some more as I could not get the tinder to catch but was just doing it in a hurry as I was in the (small) back garden at the time and if my wife catches me lighting fires on the patio I will be for the high jump :-D
I may be telling you to suck eggs :-? but.....Make sure it is the fire steel you draw across the steel, if your using a knife hold it steady, bearing down a little on the firesteel, then pull the firesteel, you will find you can aim the sparks much easier and there is little chance of you knocking into your tinder with a moving knife!
I got my last two Large fire steels from Bagheera on BF, he's a great Dutchman to deal with, all funds going to his local Scout group. A month ago I got two large firesteels for 15.00 inc carriage and he threw in five good sized lumps of Maya wood and some french wax impregnated paper tinder as well.
sounds to me like the tinder is too big and maybe not dry enough. Leaves and twigs are no good, although I suppose if the leaves were really dry and then crushed up they might work. You really need something very fine. If the twigs are dry you might get it going if you were to scrape them to form some dust. Have you got any birch around where you can peel some of the loose strips off, they go up well.
It really does need to be fine to take a spark, or something like char cloth, tinder fungus etc.
To get more control of your sparks try only using the end 1/4 - 1/2 inch of the fire steel, hold the steel as close to the end as you can allowing just enough room for the blade to scrape.
A good way to get used to the fire steel is to practice on cotton wool - this will ignite easily.
If your tinder is well prepared the sparks should catch ok - one thing i see alot is students sparking on to tinder from to far away or leaping back as if expecting it to explode - take your time and dont panic or be afraid of getting burn because you wont - the initial flame is very small and only grows when fed.
Once you have the technique mastered then move on to natural tinders - peelings of silver birch work well but be careful not to gave paper birch instead as thats hard to ignite with a spark.
Downy seed heads work well but flash over so mix them with grasses or similar.
Finely shaved feather sticks and even candle wicks can also be lighted but that takes finesse and practise.
If you use char cloth or tinder fungus remember these only smoulder and need to be blown to life in yor tinder bundle.
Yup... wist the stick round each time you use it and you'll get a nice even wear rate ( if its a portion that has never been struck before you'll need to run your striker along it a few times to remove the protective coating. BTW if you don't intend to use your steel for a while then a quick coat in nail polish will protect it as they are VERY prone to oxidize in a moist enviroment).
I've only just joined bushcraft so sorry if this thread is a bit old.
I just received a fire steel from ray mears £8.50 inc. post making it cheaper than ones on ebay.
Having been playing with it without too much success I tried it on the serrated blade of my leatherman wave (the back of the blade of course) and it works like a dream!! Also I got a nylon sheath to keep the leatherman in with a slot for a AAA maglite, now due to some leaky batteries the maglite is dead but guess what the firesteel looks like it was made to fit. It even takes upside down shaking and stays put.
I have recently acquired one of the larger model fire steels. Initial experiments were dissapointing, however after reading your comments regarding the use of your knives I have now discarded the supplied scrapper and have been using the back of my Gerber saw with much better results. Also, following Tones advice, I have found that shreds of yellow birch bark ignite quite easily. I have also been able to ignite fine wood shavings, but not as reliably. Fine fibers such as oakum and flax ignite in a instant ball of flame.
The BCB "flint and steel" comes with a striker very much like a small hacksaw blade, which I always thought was a good touch for a survival item. The actually flint rod is not as good as the Swedish ones, though.