Top Tips direct from The Tribal Way‘s Big Muckamuck and British Bushcraft Expert, Josh Hemmingway.

I love Firesteels. They never run out, they work in the wet and the wind, they can be used to light lots of different tinders, and because they make sparks not flames, children can be safely taught how to use them.

Learning to use a firesteel can be a challenge, and people often tell me “It’s impossible,” but with the right approach and, crucially, the right attitude, you can master the skill easily. Follow my top tips for a bright, hot shower of sparks.

1. USE THE RIGHT TINDER

Make sure your tinder is dry and well fluffed. The finer the fibres of your tinder bundle the easier your spark will catch. Try practicing on cotton wool (like we are in this demo). As your technique improves, move on to more difficult tinders, such as birch bark, cedar bark and feather sticks. When you can light a candle, you have become a fire Jedi

2. USE YOUR STRIKER

Some people will tell you to use the back of a knife instead of a striker. Having seen a lot of cuts like this, I teach people to use the striker supplied with the firesteel. The aim is to use the striker to scratch off the soft metal of the rod. As the metal is shaved away it becomes hot. The harder we scratch, the hotter the sparks.

3. FOLLOW THE RULE OF THUMB

Follow the rule of thumb. Make sure your thumbs are in the thumb depressions on the striker and the ferrocerium rod. I’m right handed, so I put the striker in my right hand as this is my strongest hand.

4. PLACEMENT

Place the striker over the centre of your tinder bundle, exactly where you want the sparks to fall.

5. YOUR GUARDIAN ANGLE

Your guardian angle. Place your rod under the striker, then lean the striker forward at about a 30º angle. Press down hard with your thumb. The harder you scratch, the hotter the sparks.

6. PULL, DON’T PUSH

Pull the rod from under the striker, and, at the same time, press down with your thumb. You should be treated to a shower of hot sparks.

Have fun, but be safe.

When lighting any kind of fire, always have water, a first aid kit and a responsible adult with you.

COMMON MISTAKES


1. PUSHING THE STRIKER DOWN THE ROD

This seems like the best way, but you will often knock your tinder away with the moving hand, or worse, bash your knuckles into the ground. Remember to pull the rod, not push the striker.

2. KEEPING YOUR HANDS TOO HIGH

The sparks are very hot to start with, but they cool down almost instantly. Get close enough to strike the sparks into the bundle before they lose their heat.

3. PLACING THE STRIKER ON AT 90º TO THE ROD

This angle won’t scratch the rod deep enough to produce sparks.

4. NOT PREPPING THE TINDER BUNDLE

Make sure your tinder is well fluffed and dry. Not prepping the tinder bundle. Make sure your tinder is well fluffed and dry. Lighting a little cotton ball is much harder than spreading your cotton wool out into a big fluffy target.

Go wild and learn bushcraft skills direct from the expert by booking onto one of our The Tribal Way courses. Open to all ages – absolute beginners welcome!

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