Thursday, September 9, 2010

Flint and Steel Fire Starting

Recently a young man working on his eagle scout rank showed up wanting to learn some blacksmithing techniques. He will soon enter Flint Hills Technical College to pursue a program leading to welding certification. This gave me the excuse to work on a small project to use at an upcoming Missouri State Fair demonstration. I anticipated it would be hot in mid-August so a light-duty project would be in order.

A “C” style flint striker and fire starter kit was decided upon. It’s not the kind of thing I usually do but seemed fitting for someone who has mastered a lot of camping skills and a good beginner level project. We started with an old flat file and he was quickly able to learn how to start and run the coal fire, draw the tapers and scroll them. Later I did the heat treatment by oil quenching.

I also made some char cloth from an old 100%-cotton tee-shirt by cutting several approximately-two-inch squares and cooking them on the coal fire in an empty pint paint can with a pin hole punched in the lid to allow the smoke to escape. When the can stopped smoking it was allowed to cool and then opened to reveal the char cloth.

My flint was not very good but it was enough to get a few sparks and the first one striking the char cloth ignited it. We used dried grass as tinder and started a little fire. Even though I knew intellectually that this process worked it was still a bit delighting to actually accomplish it myself. No more need for matches.

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