Your time to fire(steel)?

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If you wandered into the woods with just a firesteel, how long before you had a wee fire started?

  • <5min Piece of pee - less than five minutes, easy!

    Votes: 6 46.2%
  • 5-20min Within 20 minutes (on a dry day with dry materials?)

    Votes: 5 38.5%
  • 20-40min I’d want ½-hour or so, to be sure

    Votes: 3 23.1%
  • >40min It might take a while, but I’d get it done eventually

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • unsure If I’m honest, I’m not confident enough with a firesteel to know that I’d succeed every time

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    13

Chance

Nomad
May 10, 2006
485
3
54
Aberdeenshire
Background: I’ve just got my call-up papers as a reservist for the local paramilitary youth group, where post-lockdown training kicks off with “Firesteels”. I’m not 100% enthusiastic.

Don’t get me wrong - I think firesteels are great, and they’ve saved me from embarrassment on several occasions when I couldn’t use a lighter for some reason. But I treat them as a(n essential) back-up to more convenient methods if you just want to get a brew on without an audience.

Before instructing ferrocerium, I think it’s more important to teach kids how to get a small fire going. Too often, I’ve seen a firework burst of light from a handful of thistledown die down to reveal a pitiful scattering of green twigs scattered over a patch of mud.

I blame clever editing by the television* buschrafters. You know the scene: a beautifully posed tinder pile - two strikes of the firesteel - cut to a roaring fire... where the shadows seem to indicate that the sun sped up significantly while the flames were catching?

I also suspect the involvement of cotton ball manufacturers. Possibly in black helicopters. But can't say more in an open forum.


*Television was like a bit like streaming, but there were only four vloggers, and every webisode was a premiere. Phones were phablet-sized, but they always had to be on charge, and you had to share them with the rest of the family.
 
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TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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Background: I’ve just got my call-up papers as a reservist for the local paramilitary youth group, where post-lockdown training kicks off with “Firesteels”. I’m not 100% enthusiastic.


" reservist for the local paramilitary youth group " - ??? Pray tell??

I think that teaching them how to get a decent tinder nest , feather stick , natural tinder materials , improvised manmade tinder , kindling, logs etc IN place before they try to start their fire is also very important.

Kinda heart breaking when one works hard to get a random Ferro rod to catch a bit of combustible material to then realise you need to zoom around the location for more suitable wood to feed it and get it stable.
 
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Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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I'm with TeeDee on this. It's easy to start a fire with a fire steel, if you have the rest of fire materials sorted. Otherwise it's just a flash in the pan.

M
 
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gra_farmer

Nomad
Mar 29, 2016
456
240
Kent
With practice you can saw up a bit of dead wood, split and feather, then fire with a file steel in less than 5 minutes.

I'll do a video at some point, timed

This thread was fun

 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,771
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I'm confused - I consider the ferro rod the most reliable way of lighting a fire! It works because the 2000 deg C sparks are directed onto well protected tinder and kindling without any fear of a flame or an ember going out in the wind and rain before reaching it.

Searching for the right material to start and getting enough fuel together to make sure your fire stays in is likely to take more than 5 minutes but if you mean how long to get a flame into some small kindling I'd be very disappointed if I didn't manage it in less than 5 minutes.

However, as TeeDee and Toddy have said, the most important lesson about firelighting has to be preparation.
 
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TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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I can't really answer the Poll unless we agree what a 'wee fire' is and how long thats supposed to last.

I tend to think Fire making benefits from ' having the end in mind' - what sort of fire do you want? and for me most of the time that's an established type camp fire suitable for cooking upon - as such I would spend a good 30-45 mins going collecting suitable firewood for once its established to feed it - Don't enjoy leaving a burning fire to go looking for extra wood - especially in the dark.

So the answer for me would be either 5 - 20 mins or 45 mins plus.

Soz to throw my mental spanner in .
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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I can't really answer the Poll unless we agree what a 'wee fire' is and how long thats supposed to last.

I tend to think Fire making benefits from ' having the end in mind' - what sort of fire do you want? and for me most of the time that's an established type camp fire suitable for cooking upon - as such I would spend a good 30-45 mins going collecting suitable firewood for once its established to feed it - Don't enjoy leaving a burning fire to go looking for extra wood - especially in the dark.

So the answer for me would be either 5 - 20 mins or 45 mins plus.

Soz to throw my mental spanner in .
Agreed :)
 

Chance

Nomad
May 10, 2006
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Aberdeenshire
This got over-complicated faster than I'd planned.

I have no intention of submitting the data to a scientific journal; but, to be clear, I mean: from scratch (T-zero = the start of foraging for materials) to a small fire. What you do after you've started a small fire is up to you (please, no arson).

I originally specified firesteel (and striker) only, but I'll allow you a saw if you need one.

If you can do it with no knife in less than five minutes, I need to sign up to one of your classes. Or move to Fatwood Featherstick Forest.


[The unnamed organisation is one with Bear "Instant Fire" Grylls as its figurehead.]
 
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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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The most difficult bit in this damp country - starting from scratch without pre-planning - is finding good dry tinder that will take a spark. Mesolithic man did not wander around all day and then decide he would look for firelighting material when he needed a fire; he collected material when he saw it and prepared it in advance. However, if there's birch in the wood, wet or dry, I stand by getting a flame from a ferro rod in under five minutes. But, if you have to search for good tinder - 5 to 20 minutes. So, depending on the wood and the resources, 5 minutes to 20 minutes.

In typical British conditions I would still use a ferro rod rather than mess around with matches; admittedly, a good firelighter can be used to light even damp twigs.
 
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TeeDee

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This got over-complicated faster than I'd planned.
Maybe because the initial question was too simplistic and vague.

People will act accordingly in response. We cant read your mind and anticipate what you're seeking answer wise.



I have no intention of submitting the data to a scientific journal;
Good. They may question the subjectivity of it. :)

but, to be clear, I mean: from scratch (T-zero = the start of foraging for materials) to a small fire. What you do after you've started a small fire is up to you (please, no arson).
You mean I can't use Petrol as a Tinder? Gutted !!!



I originally specified firesteel (and striker) only, but I'll allow you a saw if you need one.

If you can do it with no knife in less than five minutes, I need to sign up to one of your classes. Or move to Fatwood Featherstick Forest.


[The unnamed organisation is one with Bear "Instant Fire" Grylls as its figurehead.]
Scouts are Paramilitary now? WOW!! Times have moved on. I knew doing all those random domestic related tasks - Ironing , Sewing , Cooking was an underhand way to get me to learn Military skills.

:)
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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McBride, BC
I need fire goods at least pencil-sized and bigger.
Always stop moving and make the camp before 4 PM.
Always optimize the camp fire circumstances first.

1. We have Betula papyrifera = paper birch. Great sheets of multilayered bark, always dry and always waterproof from the suberin wax in the bark. Usually dead logs lying about with good bark. I have a big handful in every pack I own.
That's how I can avoid harvesting anything more than the smallest scraps off a living tree. No, it is not regenerated.

2. We have nothing but Taiga coniferous forests as the climax veg. Patches of birch. I'll take handfuls of the fine dead twigs from a spruce, closest into near the main tree trunk is always the driest. Pound them into divided fiber. That's the real paleo part, kind of fun to do. Also, the twigs have lots of ducts filled with flammable resins.
= = =
My ferro rod has a block of magnesium metal attached. Shavings of magnesium are always a great way to "salt" a tinder pile. Tinder prep might take a while because it's so important to get it right the first time.
Then it becomes a game. Always less than a minute.

Mom taught us on camping trips, 60 years ago. Flint & steel.
 
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Toddy

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It depends where you are.

If it's the woods around here, there's endless birch, and that means fomes as well as birch bark, it also means massive amounts of fire crackle stuff...dry stem, etc., hollow that help draw a fire, and there's also loads of dry leaf litter, if you know where to find it.
A knife and a firesteel and fire in under five minutes is very do-able.

Try it in the middle of a dry-ish sandy soiled woodland though, and maybe no' so easy.

A little prior warning and time to wander and quietly fill pockets with stuff like thistle down, reedmace heads, birch bark and the like, and under five minutes is easy, even in the middle of that sandy wood.

Sorry @Chance , I feel like I'm raining on your thread, but I think you maybe need to tie it down a bit for us.

M
 

punkrockcaveman

Full Member
Jan 28, 2017
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yorks
Yep agree with a lot of the above. You walk into pine and collecting can be very quick, broad leaf not so much, and every time it's a different situation. I put down 'about half an hour' in the vote as I was thinking you meant from scratch. I also try not to rush it these days. That's when I burn loads of calories for no reason and you know what they say about preparation and performance :)
 
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Background: I’ve just got my call-up papers as a reservist for the local paramilitary youth group, where post-lockdown training kicks off with “Firesteels”. I’m not 100% enthusiastic.

Don’t get me wrong - I think firesteels are great, and they’ve saved me from embarrassment on several occasions when I couldn’t use a lighter for some reason. But I treat them as a(n essential) back-up to more convenient methods if you just want to get a brew on without an audience.

Before instructing ferrocerium, I think it’s more important to teach kids how to get a small fire going. Too often, I’ve seen a firework burst of light from a handful of thistledown die down to reveal a pitiful scattering of green twigs scattered over a patch of mud.

I blame clever editing by the television* buschrafters. You know the scene: a beautifully posed tinder pile - two strikes of the firesteel - cut to a roaring fire... where the shadows seem to indicate that the sun sped up significantly while the flames were catching?

I also suspect the involvement of cotton ball manufacturers. Possibly in black helicopters. But can't say more in an open forum.


*Television was like a bit like streaming, but there were only four vloggers, and every webisode was a premiere. Phones were phablet-sized, but they always had to be on charge, and you had to share them with the rest of the family.
Chance, are you talking about a real fire steel, or are you talking about a ferocerium rod?
Keith.
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
3,771
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Mid Wales
Chance, are you talking about a real fire steel, or are you talking about a ferocerium rod?
Keith.
Yep, that was what I originally wondered but his description later suggested strongly of ferro rod. A true fire steel (without prepared tinder) would take me all day :) - I should practice!
 
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Yep, that was what I originally wondered but his description later suggested strongly of ferro rod. A true fire steel (without prepared tinder) would take me all day :) - I should practice!
Yes Broch, you should practice, it should only take seconds to make fire with flint, steel & tinderbox :)
Take care & stay safe.
Regards, Keith.
 
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Tengu

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Jan 10, 2006
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But, if you have a firesteel/ferrocerium rod...logic suggests you will have tinder with it.

And if you have not or are running out, you will be like Brochs hypothetical Mesolithic man, be getting in a supply if you see something viable.

(And of course if he knew the territory, he would know where to find some having taken note of it earlier).
 

Chance

Nomad
May 10, 2006
485
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Aberdeenshire
OK, I'm going to have one last go....

A question positing a HYPOTHETICAL scenario, which I am directing more towards bushcrafters* than towards preppers and reenactors:

"If you** went into your local*** woods on a sunny day with only**** a ferrocerium rod (complete with striker), how long, on average, do you think that it would take you to forage materials and light a small***** fire?"

OR
"If you reached the bank after the capsize to find you only had your firesteel******, ..."

* Bushcrafter (my pro tem definition for the purpose of this survey) means someone who enjoys wild camping without feeling a compulsion to rough it every time.
** Yes, you the correspondent, not your thawed Alpine friend.
*** If you don't have a local woods, pick one of the places that you like to visit. You can have a head start by starting near that birch tree / pine needles, tar pit / WWII ammunition dump.
**** Shod and clothed, but with no fluff.
***** Large enough to give you time to forage any additional fuel that you need. Please don't be wasteful - think hobo stove, not bonfire.
****** UK usage (aka ferrocerium rod)



By all means, pick more holes in my questions, but please don't expect me to respond. I'm genuinely interested in your answers, but not interested enough to argue the definition of roughing it or to listen to more lectures.
 
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