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Posted: 10/19/2009 12:55:24 PM EST
I have been carrying around a magnesium fire starter block (with the spark generator grafted to the metal) for a while thinking it would be a good tool.

Last weekend, I finally got around to playing around with the metal shaving part of the process and have some things to work out.

In no particular order:

- the metal had oxidized somewhat and needed scraping before I could get actual shavings off
- the metal shavings were _VERY_ light and were being blown away as fast as I could make them even in light wind
- the knife (just some crappy 2 inch lockback) edge held OK, but it seemed like the force required to shave curls of magnesium was excessive
- the angle required for getting shaves off was very picky, too shallow and the knife just knotched the metal and stuck, to deep and it shaved dust or did nothing

I did get a small pile, after working at a table inside onto some newspaper. The resulting shavings did burn nicely.

Previously I had only used the spark making portion of this thing (using the back of the same knife blade) with other tinder (dryer lint, mouse nest, dry leaves).

To get the fire started, I used a different kit that consists of cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly wrapped in used candy wrappers (wax paper). One strike and I had a good flame going and was able to light my tinder, even though it was left outside in heavy dew all night.

So, unless I am doing something really wrong, I am going to get a regular striker for sparks and forget about the magnesium part of it. True, the metal won't be harmed by water, but I couldn't start a fire with it anyway so it's just extra weight right now. A spark striker rod alone will also be waterproof and I wouldn't be tempted to make shavings to get blown away, or perhaps cut myself, or whatever.

Does anybody actually USE those magnesium starters? I have seen one or two on keychains that had obviously been shaved, but never had anyone say they used it often.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 1:05:10 PM EST
I have used one in the past just to make sure I COULD do it and while it was not easy (as you now know) it was easier than rubbing two sticks together. I would keep the block around but by all means use found tinder and save the block for the times when there is no easily found stuff. SS
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Posted: 10/19/2009 2:14:50 PM EST
You just have to get used to using one. They work very very well when used properly
The better the STEEL you use to strike it the better the spark.! Also I dont carve mine as much as I scrape it. IE dont point the blade edge toward the direction you are pushing.

BTW If the wind is blowing the magnesium away you didnt make a good enough tinder nest.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 2:26:13 PM EST
There was a post here the other day with a great idea, if you have a swiss army/ multi tool with you, a file is the best way to get the magnesium. Haven't tried it yet but sound like a great idea.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 3:03:29 PM EST
depending on the wind/conditions, getting the magnesium shavings/dust to stay put is really the only tough spot for this kind of starter... the advantage is, the Mg burns extremely hot, and can ignite damned near anything if you do it right. I'm told that you can file your shavings onto a small square of duct tape (damn that duct tape is good for ANYTHING), then strike your sparks onto that, but I've never personally tried that method (haven't had any serious problems getting the Mg lit). I did the Mg bar method for a while, but once I got hooked on the ferrocerium rod, the Mg bar has stayed in my truck bag ever since.

Every aspiring wannabe caveman needs to try all the different methods they can (with natural tinder and home-brewed concoctions). If nothing else, some will give you a greater appreciation of the others...

Take a Saturday morning and do these for fun (had a race with an ex-roommate on these several years ago):
- hand spindle
- spindle with bow (bonus points if you make your own cordage from availalble fibers)
- magnifying lens
- flint and steel (for some reason I just plain sucked with this method, never got good sparks... took me a while to find and chip a good piece of flint too, which is big fail on me)
- Mg shavings
- ferro rod
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Posted: 10/19/2009 4:09:11 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/19/2009 4:09:55 PM EST by batmanacw]
I am going to have to buy another cheapo walmart magnesium firestarter, just so I can experiment with making a scraper that will peel a chip nicely. A true 90 degree angle would work okay, but I am thinking a slight scoop down the length of a small bar. Basically run a 3/4" ball end mill down the length of a 1/8" thick piece of O1 and then heat treat it and surface grind it on one side to sharpen it.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 4:43:21 PM EST
Get a ferro rod. 10000 times better.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 5:39:05 PM EST
DONT try anbd carve the mag off the block put Keep a 90* angle of the blade to the mag with the blade intersecting the mag like a cross. and SCRAPE the mag. Dont try and cut ot slice it what so ever. If you are using great effort to create the pile keep the blade straight or angled away a bit from the direction you are pushing to scrape.

When striking use pressure against the flint and with a short but deliberate push fire the spark into the mag. The mag shavings will actually catch fire even in a glass ashtray with out tinder.

If your knife has a STEEL BLADE and its sharp you should have great results.
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Posted: 10/19/2009 5:43:36 PM EST
I have not tried this, but I always thought it would be better to take a hacksaw and saw down the length of the bar while it was held in a vise in your garage. Then put these filings in a small plastic bag or small bottle in your kit along with your cotton balls ferro rod, bic lighter etc. You could use a trash bag under the vise to catch the shavings.

Just thinking out loud.
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Posted: 10/20/2009 4:02:06 PM EST
"The M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised." General George S. Patton Jr.,US Army
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Posted: 10/21/2009 11:05:23 AM EST
Pro Tip:

Duct tape a 3" long piece of cheap hacksaw blade to the fire starter. When you need to have a fire, unroll the duct tape and leave it sticky side up. Make shavings on the sticky side to keep them from blowing away. Spark on the shavings and the duct tape will burn hot and long. Place tape in fire. Warm hands, cook squirrel etc.
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Posted: 10/21/2009 1:54:19 PM EST
mmmmm fried squirrel
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Posted: 10/21/2009 2:29:45 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/21/2009 2:32:29 PM EST by Taxed2Death]
I've found that a piece of hacksaw blade attached to the little chain on my magnesium block makes a great way to create the shavings as well as using on the flint for making the spark. It takes almost zero additional room in my in the pouch of my survival knife sheath, and is MUCH easier to use along with saving my knife for other uses. Another great item to look at is the BlastMatch.....one-handed sparks and lots of them!! I keep both handy.

PS. If I had read the other responses before responding myself, I would have noticed that others had already mentioned the hacksaw blade thing.....so go ahead and do it already!!!
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Posted: 10/21/2009 3:24:25 PM EST
Me and the kids use our's on a regular basis. We make fire bundles and poof, they work great.
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Posted: 10/21/2009 4:02:00 PM EST
This was just covered over the weekend in another forum here.
Practice practice practice. Thats what it takes to make these work well for you. Nobody makes them work the first time out.
Scrape a good pile of shavings into a nice dry tinder bundle then strike a spark using a bit of force and pressure on the blade. Dont whittle at the striker rod.
My first time using one was in an artic survival school in the Army. I damn near froze to death. I cheated and pulled out a match when no one was looking. Once I got good and warm and a little dextarty in my fingers I sat and figured out how to work the damn thing. Now I can get them to work first time, everytime.
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Posted: 10/21/2009 4:08:36 PM EST
In light of the information in the thread, I believe that the primary reason for my inability to use the shavings was something to catch them.

I was using a flattened out piece of newspaper for that, which allowed the wind to catch them. I probably should have shaved them into a tinder nest of some kind. I will try the hacksaw blade thing, I actually have half of one sitting here for other reasons. The hacksaw blade will also lessen the risk of cutting myself during the process.
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Posted: 10/21/2009 4:41:02 PM EST
Originally Posted By cougargnw:
This was just covered over the weekend in another forum here.
Practice practice practice. Thats what it takes to make these work well for you. Nobody makes them work the first time out.
Scrape a good pile of shavings into a nice dry tinder bundle then strike a spark using a bit of force and pressure on the blade. Dont whittle at the striker rod.
My first time using one was in an artic survival school in the Army. I damn near froze to death. I cheated and pulled out a match when no one was looking. Once I got good and warm and a little dextarty in my fingers I sat and figured out how to work the damn thing. Now I can get them to work first time, everytime.


Its not cheating. Its smart! You did learn, but you got the job done anyway.
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Posted: 10/22/2009 5:04:42 AM EST
Originally Posted By cougargnw:
This was just covered over the weekend in another forum here.
Practice practice practice. Thats what it takes to make these work well for you. Nobody makes them work the first time out.
Scrape a good pile of shavings into a nice dry tinder bundle then strike a spark using a bit of force and pressure on the blade. Dont whittle at the striker rod.
My first time using one was in an artic survival school in the Army. I damn near froze to death. I cheated and pulled out a match when no one was looking. Once I got good and warm and a little dextarty in my fingers I sat and figured out how to work the damn thing. Now I can get them to work first time, everytime.



Like someone already said...it ain't cheating, it's just smart! Kinda like I always found it easier when trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together if one of those two sticks was a strike-anywhere match!!

Using the magnesium stick does take some practice, but not much. I can get a fire going with one in just a minute or two at most without any more trouble than if I was using matches. It's just slightly different, but not harder. I usually build a small donut of tinder on top of a dry leaf (or anything else that will capture the shavings, like paper, a small flat rock, etc) with the hole exposing a dime-size portion of the leaf. Then I scrape enough magnesium into the hole to cover the bottom completely...what would probably be about 1/8th of a teaspoon of shavings if you measured it. From there it's pretty easy to strike a few sparks into the magnesium pile and get things going. Make sure to have more tinder at hand as well as your incrementally larger twigs and sticks. Dryer lint also makes a good recepticle for the purpose, and a little hand sanitizer rubbed into it makes it even better.
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Posted: 10/23/2009 2:05:07 AM EST
I always wanted to find a used cheese grater and just grate the magnesium block up and keep it with other tinder for when you are dealing with wet wood or just don't want to take the time to do everything perfect in building a fire.

I agree with the hacksaw blade and I cut the magnesium block in half longways since I did not see a point in always carrying the whole thing around all the time.

Scrape the paint off the hacksaw blade when you want to use it to get sparks.
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Posted: 10/23/2009 6:34:36 AM EST
Originally Posted By Bhart89:
There was a post here the other day with a great idea, if you have a swiss army/ multi tool with you, a file is the best way to get the magnesium. Haven't tried it yet but sound like a great idea.


I was going to interject that.I bought a HUGE box of files for like 20 bucks no joke like 300 of them.About 1/2 were brand new different sizes and grits(Heavy,Med.fine).So this I plan on snapping a handle section off drill a hole in it and attach it to a Mag.bar.
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Posted: 10/24/2009 9:09:12 AM EST
"The M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised." General George S. Patton Jr.,US Army
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Posted: 10/24/2009 9:46:32 PM EST
Originally Posted By raf:
Don't snap the tang of the file, cut it with a cutting wheel. Much cleaner.

But, instead of that, the hacksaw blade is an easier, cheaper way to go than sacrificing a good file.


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Posted: 10/25/2009 1:10:53 AM EST
^^^^^
sounds like it's time you find some amish or menonites or even better a guild and start learning how to make your own knives. files are absolutelly one of the best sources of steel for d-i-y-smithed knives...

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Posted: 10/25/2009 9:03:14 AM EST
Originally Posted By Kar15:
^^^^^
sounds like it's time you find some amish or menonites or even better a guild and start learning how to make your own knives. files are absolutelly one of the best sources of steel for d-i-y-smithed knives...

K.


IF they say Nicholson, or Black Diamond, or if they are OLD. I am told some of the newer ones are case hardened, which makes them useless, and farriers files are also I believe. Just heat one end to orange, dip it in water, and after it cools, see if you can break it like glass w/ a hammer. If not, it won't make a good knife. If so, hey, you've got 300 of them!
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Posted: 10/26/2009 1:49:51 PM EST
Don't critique me to bad, I just whipped this up using my Blackberry.
If a picture is work a thousand words, a video is worth a million.
The trick is to use a blade that is high carbon steel to get a shower of sparks. The knife is a RAT-5. Works great...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsQxyRGo4bc

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Posted: 10/26/2009 4:06:59 PM EST
Originally Posted By Darkninja:
Get a ferro rod. 10000 times better.


I've got some on the way, and I think they're the ticket.

Actually, a piece of hacksaw blade is a great scraper and striker and it takes up no space.

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Posted: 10/26/2009 7:02:36 PM EST
Some others have covered some of this information, but just to get the important stuff in one post...

1. Use tape to catch the magnesium shavings and/or a tinder nest made up of natural tinders you find in the environment or #0000 Steel Wool or 100% Cotton Balls you carry with you in a water-resistant container like a tube vault. Twine marked "Jute Twine" is also a good tinder and 12 inches of Jute Twine can be fluffed up into a bird nest.

2. Files are much better than knife blades for making shavings from a magnesium block. Files from broken multi-tools work well, attach them with ParaCord and place them on the flat of the block and then wrap them with tape to keep them in place plus you will have the tape when you need it.

3. The "spark" rod that is on the side of DOAN magnesium firestarters and the similar Coughlan's is a ferrocerium rod.

4. They will work extremely well. I'm 41 years old and I remember purchasing my first one when I was about 15 years old or so from Brigade Quartermasters. It didn't work well for me because I was 15 and didn't follow directions very well. 8-)
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Posted: 10/27/2009 2:26:17 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/27/2009 2:26:53 AM EST by 3DD3]

Originally Posted By Any-Cal:
Originally Posted By Kar15:
^^^^^
sounds like it's time you find some amish or menonites or even better a guild and start learning how to make your own knives. files are absolutelly one of the best sources of steel for d-i-y-smithed knives...

K.


IF they say Nicholson, or Black Diamond, or if they are OLD. I am told some of the newer ones are case hardened, which makes them useless, and farriers files are also I believe. Just heat one end to orange, dip it in water, and after it cools, see if you can break it like glass w/ a hammer. If not, it won't make a good knife. If so, hey, you've got 300 of them!
Hmmm great idea < I knew it could be done,thanks for jarring my memory.

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