Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Alternative Ferro Strikers

Ferrocerium rods are a wonderful tool to have around. They last virtually forever, they really don't care if they get wet, and they weigh almost nothing. If there's one weakness to a ferro rod, it's that the strikers that ship with most of them are less than stellar. They work well enough, but there are better options out there. These options warrant some exploration.

The characteristics that make a good striker are:
  • a hard metallic tool with a sharp edge
  • enough handle space to grip effectively.
Certain materials and shapes work better than others, and all will provide improved results with practice. Some of the more effective alternative striking tools are as follows.

"Hard tool with a sharp edge" pretty much screams knife. Knives actually make excellent sparks fairly easily, especially carbon steel blades. However, striking a ferro rod is hard on a knife's cutting edge, and I'm not really a fan of tearing up a knife if I don't have to. If the spine of your knife has a sharp 90° angle, that will work nicely; otherwise, use a knife as a striker of last resort.

Carbide Tools
Commonly found as knife sharpeners, carbide cutting tools make wonderful sparks. They have a very hard, durable edge and a good handle, making them easy to manipulate. Carbide is so tough that it can strike many times on a ferro rod without taking the kind of damage that a knife blade would take. In addition, they work great for sharpening your knife!

Hacksaw Blades
Your end result should look something like this.
Pieces of hacksaw blade are an old favorite of mine, and are actually what I learned to strike a ferro rod with. They work so well, in fact, that some ferro rod makers ship them as the factory striker. In addition, they're incredibly cheap.

The cheapest blade you can locate works wonders and will make 3-4 strikers.
  • Cut or break the blade into roughly 3" sections, using metal snips, pliers, or whatever other tools you have at hand. 
  •  Even clamping it into a vise and bending sharply will work. 
  • The mounting holes in the end pieces make a dandy place to attach a cord to hold your rod and striker together, and holes can readily be drilled in the pieces that don't have them.

All of these options present an upgrade to the basic ferro rod striker, or a ready replacement if a striker is lost. With a bit of practice, they make fire as easily as a match will, and in (nearly) unlimited quantity.


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