Magnesium fire starters

5:10 p.m. on July 24, 2011 (EDT)
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I have had a magnesium fire starter for quite a long time. Well I was on a backpacking trip a couple weeks ago with a friend who also had one. He pulled it out and on the little chain in the hole was a piece of a hacksaw blade. At first I thought he had put it on there, but as it turns out it came that way.

After seeing him use it, it really made it super easy to get shavings. So through our conversation it turns out it came with the bar when he bought it. When I bought mine many moons ago it didn't come with anything. So I don't know if thats a staple that comes with them or not nowadays, or if its just one brand that does it. But in any case I thought I would share.

As soon as I got home I cut off a piece from an old hacksaw blade and attached it to mine. Its really a night and day difference between the blade and just a knife. I had stoped bring my mag bar simply because with just a knife it was too much of a hassle to get enough shavings in the same spot. With the hacksaw however i can get a good pile in about 10 seconds.

So food for thought. If you didn't know, check it out. Makes a big difference.

5:40 p.m. on July 24, 2011 (EDT)
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I use a LMF Mini when I solo. It came with a metal striker. I won't go out w/o 1st making sure it is in my 1st aid kit. I figured that is about the best place to keep it.

LMF-mini.jpg

I do like the idea of a hacksaw blade as opposed to beating on my knife blade.

For the cost of one of these I personally think everyone should carry one. Lets face it, Bics crap out, they get wet, the flint can pop, etc. For the $7-$8 for one of these its well worth it. The only way it doesn't work is if you lose it.

Here is a link for more info if anyone is interested:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/light-my-fire/swedish-fire-steel-mini/

10:33 p.m. on July 24, 2011 (EDT)
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I agree, I carry a lighter but will never trust it to be my only source of fire. Mine came with a hacksaw as well, cheap little thing from Canadian Tire (a hardwear store), I think it was 10 bucks? I don't use it often but when I have it's worked perfectly. I keep mine in my first aid as well Rick, mostly because I will switch out some gear dependant on the trip, but the first aid kit never gets left behind.

10:41 p.m. on July 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Jake W said:

I agree, I carry a lighter but will never trust it to be my only source of fire. Mine came with a hacksaw as well, cheap little thing from Canadian Tire (a hardwear store), I think it was 10 bucks? I don't use it often but when I have it's worked perfectly. I keep mine in my first aid as well Rick, mostly because I will switch out some gear dependant on the trip, but the first aid kit never gets left behind.

 Exactly why I keep mine there Jake.

1:31 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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this is my primary means for starting my stove, though i carry waterproof matches as a backup.  mine came with a piece of metal  not unlike Rick's, though the striker on mine has a somewhat more jagged size.  pretty easy to use, and they unfailingly issue sparks, even in the rain. 

1:47 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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The striker on the LMF only works one way. Hence the whole "up" indication on it.

2:16 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Mine didn't come with a hacksaw blade section, I hadn't thought of doing it that way, thanks a lot Rambler!

3:33 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I use one of the LMF as well

4:02 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Just so there is no confusion. I did not mean to imply using a hacksaw blade on a firesteel, like the light my fire ones posted above.

The hacksaw blade is intended only for the magnesium bar fire starters to get shavings.

4:05 p.m. on July 25, 2011 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

Just so there is no confusion. I did not mean to imply using a hacksaw blade on a firesteel, like the light my fire ones posted above.

The hacksaw blade is intended only for the magnesium bar fire starters to get shavings.

 Awe shucks, that takes the fun out of it... I could always use a machete, or the spine on the machete hmmmm...


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9:29 a.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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So I am a little confused, maybe some of you could point me in the right direction.

I have one of those fire starters that is a block of magnesium with a round "Bar" on one side.  I can get good sparks of the bar, but have never been able to get a fire going with it.  They are just to random and last less then a second.  Never tryed it on the stove though.  I tried to use a knife to shave some of the Mag. into a pile, but that to was all over the place.  

I have one of those water prof lighters that runs on Butane, it has a "torch" about a inch long, I could solder with it if I needed to.  I also carry back up matched, though I have never need them.  Although sometimes I use then as a fire starter to get damp wood going. 

So what is the trick to using these and do they really work, or do you need something that is very easy to light to get them going? 

Wolfman

PS:  Rick, Nice pocket knife!  I need to get me one!

10:16 a.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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the fire starters (firesteels) can easily light a stove b/c the gas ignites so easily.  the sparks are 'random,' but they are very hot. 

firesteels can also start a campfire if you have the right tinder - as you observed, something that's easy to light.  i'm sure you could search prior posts for discussions of this, because there are many homemade solutions for flammable tinder that people like.  for me, the ultimate quick/dirty tinder is a crumpled piece of toilet paper splashed with white gas; if i think ahead, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly (vaseline) light up quickly too. 

10:51 a.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Starting a fire without a 'flame' is challenging, and it is to say the least an aquired skill. A skill that every woodsman should practice often enough to stay proficient.

Now to address the magnesium fire bar use specifically:

1) You need to get shavings from the bar either using a knife, or as per my original post in this thread with a piece of a hacksaw blade which by far the easiest and most effective. You cant be in a hasty rush to do this, because you need a pile and not throw them every which a way.

2) You need to concentrate those shavings into a small pile. I find putting /shaving them onto a leaf, a piece of paper, in an altoid tin(my favorite) etc to work well.

3) gather as dry of tinder as possible. Tinder material should be small, and as fibrous and 'fluffy' as possible. A few examples are a old dried and dead cattail, pull apart the inside of a piece of dried dead bark, use a knife to make long skinny shavings from a piece of dry wood, sawdust, shredded birch bark etc. Even pine needles or dry leaves will work, but they dont provide flame for very long. Experiment with plants in your area, you will be surprised what kind of things you can find to use as tinder in the wild. But yes, you can bring things like cottonballs etc from home.

4)Make a little birds nest out of your tinder and then place or dump your shavings into the middle of the nest(the indention in the middle).

5) use the flint on the mag bar or a flint and steel to make sparks, get a single spark to hit a magnesium shaving and it will immediately ignite at 4,000*F+, this is hot enough to ignite even slightly damp tinder as long as it is fluffy and fibrous enough.

**Note** the mag shavings only burn for a few seconds, so you need to have your tinder ready to immediately feed it, but don't just dump alot on top of it or you will smother it.

Yes, you could just as easily just use a lighter, or a match to start a fire. However, if your lighter fails because its too cold out or its wet, or your matches get wet or blow out before you can get a fire going it can be a lifesaver being proficient with a fire steel or other fire starting method that does not require a flame.

It is sometimes very easy under ideal conditions, and other times it weighs on the verge if impossibility. But practice practice practice until you have this skill perfected, because it could very well save your life. If you do any winter hiking, this needs to be a skill you have.

5:56 p.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for the tip rambler.  I've never seen the hacksaw blade attached to the mag. bar before, and I've seen quite a few.

10:55 p.m. on July 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Well it looks like I have some practice to do!  :D  I have heard of the cotton balls and jelly, and a few other things for fire starters.  I also have lots of old hack saw blades and will break one to make a short piece to add to my fire bag.  (Old blue Crown Royal bag)  :)

Would you "Scrape" with the teath of the blade or "saw" a bit to make the shavings?

Being in the PNW (Western Washington) knowing how to make a fire is something I practiced lots of times as a Kid and when I was younger, but I never used the magnesium fire bar.  I got one probably 10 years back and tried it several times with little luck.  But I do understand the importance of being able to make fire.   Given that I wear glasses I normally always have one way handy, well at least if their is some sunlight.   :) 

Thanks for the Detailed instructions Rambler, I am going back out to the coast the first part of August and will fry out several different ways to get a fire going.  Including the magnesium fire bar.  I will also do some searching here and a few other places to update my skills.

Thanks again,

Wolfman

5:11 a.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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I found actually sawing gently into the bar worked well, point is that the teeth on the saw blade make it much easier than actually shaving the bar with a knife.

So saw, grind, rub that hacksaw blade until you get shavings. Seriously only takes about 5-10seconds to have a pile big enough.

7:42 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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IMAG0028.jpg

Blade that came with mine. I find it easier to shave off pices with the hacksaw but spark with my knife.


 

7:52 p.m. on July 28, 2011 (EDT)
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As far as actually getting the fire started the Rambler spelt it out as straight forward as possible. That said, it is difficult and an acquired art. Birch is my favourite natural tinder, tons of it here in Ontario. Bonus is it smells great. Building lighting a fire is something only learnt through trial and error, hopefully in safety of your backyard, providing it is safe to do so of course. I remember being young and stupid, not that I'm not young and stupid now, just younger and stupider, and not taking a stove into the backcountry and thinking I'll just cook over the open fire. Couldn't get a fire going, and this is in Northern Ontario's winter, cold and wet, woulda been nice. Luckily in was only a two day trip and I had some clif bars, nuts, etc. Live and learn eh?

5:40 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Now I have only ever seen one style of a mag bar, that that is the coglan? think thats the brand. It's about 3 or 4 inches long with the flint bar built into the top side of it.

Jake W, that looks like a flint and steel, that's a mag bar? Just never seen one that looks like that. Have to ask because people sounded like they were going to taker the hacksaw blade to their flints earlier in the thread!

And I agree, don't strike with the hacksaw blade, it's only their for shavings.

8:04 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Just for a little clarification, this is what I have.  Like The Rambler said it's all in one. 


23131.jpg

The main block is Magnesium and on the side it the strike bar (Flint?) you just use your pocket knife, or now, a Hack saw blade and a pocked knife. 

I am going to try some stuff this weekend and I will let you all know how it goes. 

Wolfman

9:21 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Actually the backside of the hacksaw blade should work.  Its high carbon steel.  I'll try it tonight when I get home.  That would save some wear on your knife blade.

10:09 a.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I've read, from folks who do more of this than myself, that the brand to buy is Doan.

http://www.doanfirestarter.com/

I believe this was the original.  

I tried this recently with a knife and found it difficult to shave the bar, I am going to try a hacksaw blade next.

2:05 p.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Sorry, I just reread my post.  I meant to say, The backside of the hacksaw blade should be able to do double duty as a striker for producing sparks.  The harden high carbon steel should produce good sparks.

2:32 p.m. on July 29, 2011 (EDT)
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I take the time out on my walks to practice starting fires. I use just the striker, I have not tried the mag block. Using an old bird nest is a easy way to get one going. I have also cut into some 22 cal shells and used the gun powder. In the fall you can gather the tops of those fuzzy plants that have seed pods, they lite very well. The best stuff is the scrapings of bamboo I get when I do final work on my bamboo fly rods. I have saved several bags of that stuff.

8:15 a.m. on July 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Tried the hacksaw blade as a striker last night.  It worked great.  Shaving the mg block block was so much easier than with a knife.  I had a pile of shavings in no time.  Great tip Rambler! No need for dulling your knife for any part of the deed.

I think some folks believe the mg starter to be a "use every time fire starter."  The only time I use the mg block, is when every thing is wet.  The 5,000 degree heat will get damp materials going like nothing else can.  It does take a little practice, but when the weather turns wet on you, the mg block can really make a difference.

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