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Thread: Which steels throw the best sparks when making a fire steel??

  1. #1

    Default Which steels throw the best sparks when making a fire steel??

    I am currently working on a project to forge my own fire steels.
    I recently cut a piece of 5160 and hardened it for a fire steel and bow drill. However it didn't throw the kind of sparks I thought it would while striking a flint, or ferro rod for that matter. It works but not efficiently. So my question to all on this forum is what is the best steel for fire steel?

    Here is the fire steel. This was made to test out 5160 on its spark throwing capabilities.
    2015-07-13.jpg
    ----NSFH

    Proverbs 28:4-5 KJV
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    5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.


  2. #2

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    I use old files from fleamarkets to make mine - throws great sparks !

    After looking at the picture, I notice you are using it with a ferro rod. Just make sure it has a good square edge to scrape with and the ferro rod will spark well. I just use the spine of my knife blade on my ferro rods, but My fire steels that I make from old files works great with true flint rock !
    Last edited by Lamewolf; 07-13-2015 at 04:52 PM.
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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    The best steel for the traditional F&S sets is 0-1 or 0-2.

    Heat to nonmagnetic (usually bright orange) and quench in motor oil or transmission fluid. Do not attempt to stress relieve.

    Files were once made from 0-1, so you can just break off a section of a file from Black Diamond, Nicolson or Sterrit, grind down on of the narrow edges smooth on a grinder without getting it hot and it will throw good sparks. If you want to forge them fancy just heat them up and do what you want, then heat to nonmagnetic and quench in oil.

    Old hay rake tines, the long sweeping tines, were also made from 0-1. They make excellent fancy forged steels.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamewolf View Post
    I use old files from fleamarkets to make mine - throws great sparks !
    W1 or W2 is usually what they use in old files. That ought to work pretty good. Very high carbon
    ----NSFH

    Proverbs 28:4-5 KJV
    4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.
    5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    I think you meant to say that you are forging your own strikers or scrapers, not firesteels. Firesteels (ferrocerium rods) are a bit different.
    A modern ferrocerium firesteel product is composed of an alloy of rare earth metals called mischmetal (containing approximately 50% cerium, 25% lanthanum, and small amounts of praseodymium and neodymium), plus iron and a small amount of magnesium
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrocerium
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoStrangeFireHere View Post
    W1 or W2 is usually what they use in old files. That ought to work pretty good. Very high carbon
    I've go a mini classic C shaped fire steel I made several years ago from a 1/4 inch square file and it sparks so well when struck with flint the sparks will glow until they hit the floor then dance a little way across the floor before they go out. I've won a few fire contest with it, I can usually get my charcloth going after one strike.
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  7. #7

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    Thank you crashdive.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Got a few from an old buckskinner blacksmith.....most "C" shaped....one has a patch knife on one end.

    He is a hay rake tine guy....but does his smithing in relation to the compass lining up the work with north and south poles....

    Of course old buckskinner blacksmiths....or even old buckskinners in general, have been known to spin a yarn or so.....????

    Do use pieces of old files.....and works well with flint/cert/ or any rock the sparks.
    Shape edge on rock shaves iron filings filing/curls off the sharp edge of a steel....that is what the sparks are..
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    Senior Member wareagle69's Avatar
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    that reminds me of something I need to try....for my ferro rod I find 1095 steel works the best....I have found several rock up here that are at least 7.5 on the mohs hardness scale.. not sure what type of rocks they are but im working on that...I love flint and steel fire starting I do that the most but I should try it with my knife as well
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by wareagle69 View Post
    that reminds me of something I need to try....for my ferro rod I find 1095 steel works the best....I have found several rock up here that are at least 7.5 on the mohs hardness scale.. not sure what type of rocks they are but im working on that...I love flint and steel fire starting I do that the most but I should try it with my knife as well
    With a ferro rod, I find that just having a good sharp edge is what really counts. Even my Cold Steel Master Hunter which is San Mai III stainless steel throws a tremendous shower of sparks from my ferro rod because of its sharp 90 degree spine, and this compares very equally with the spine of my ESEE Laserstrike's spine which is 1095 carbon steel - I can tell no difference. My ferro rods by the way are the cheap Coghlan brand I picked up at a local Dunham's sporting goods store. So, no matter what you are using with the ferro rods, just make sure it has a good sharp edge to scrape with.
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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    OK, time for another round of definitions.

    If you are using a ferro rod you are NOT making a fire with flint and steel.

    No it is not the same thing at all!

    The fire striker Crash is speaking of is not a piece of metal used to spark/strike/scrape against the ferrocerium rod.

    A "Fire striker", as he is using the term, is a piece of hardened metal that is struck by a piece of flint or chert to create sparks.

    A ferro rod should produce a heavy shower of hot sparks. It will often ignite tinder into flame directly from the sparks.

    A steel fire striker used with flint will make a smaller shower of weak sparks which must be captured on some kind of charred material and nursed into flame. It is virtually impossible to throw sparks hot enough to directly catch shavings, at least in the 50 years I have been working with F&S I have never seen it done.

    When you hear about the pioneers making fire with flint and steel they were NOT using a ferrocerium rod!

    While a ferrocerium rod will work with a piece of flint, it will also work with a piece of glass, stainless steel or any material that is harder than the ferro rod and has a sharp edge.

    The ferro rod has been with us only since 1903,

    The steel striker and flint system has been with us since around 1200bc and was one of the last ties of modern man to the stone age.
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 07-14-2015 at 09:56 AM.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Ferocerium rods contain both iron oxide and magnesium oxide that's why they produce such a high volume of hot sparks. The "flint" in your lighter is a very small fero rod.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Ayla used "fire stones" in The Clan of the Cave Bear.......Two pieces of iron pyrite when struck together sparks weakly as well.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Clan_of_the_Cave_Bear

    Of course this is conjecture as it is a novel.

    BYW, tried it with a couple small pieces.......does throw sparks.
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  14. #14

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    OK!! I am really forging a piece of high carbon tool steel to use with flint, and other rocks that will help throw sparks. I would like to make something with a sharp enough edge to throw sparks off of the ferro rod, however my old kershaw works like a dream for this....
    I have successfully used the hardened 5160 to spark charcloth, and feel with some practice I will be able to do it in less strikes.
    I have decided to start using old files, because w1, or w2 seems to work really well. When I get some extra cash I will go buy some o1 round stock and make some nice c shaped steels for sparking flint.
    Now I am just going to attempt different tempering process until I get the right one. I know if I temper the 5160 right it will work.
    Another question is the striking face on the steel for striking flint... Which is best? Flat sharp edges(that will become scratched and or pitted) or a smoother radius edge ??
    ----NSFH

    Proverbs 28:4-5 KJV
    4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.
    5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    You are generating the spark from the steel not the flint. You are removing a small curl of steel when you strike it against flint. The curl of steel is then heated to glowing from the pressure of striking it. So you need a very acute angle on the steel for the best sparks.

  16. #16
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoStrangeFireHere View Post
    OK!! I am really forging a piece of high carbon tool steel to use with flint, and other rocks that will help throw sparks. I would like to make something with a sharp enough edge to throw sparks off of the ferro rod, however my old kershaw works like a dream for this....
    I have successfully used the hardened 5160 to spark charcloth, and feel with some practice I will be able to do it in less strikes.
    I have decided to start using old files, because w1, or w2 seems to work really well. When I get some extra cash I will go buy some o1 round stock and make some nice c shaped steels for sparking flint.
    Now I am just going to attempt different tempering process until I get the right one. I know if I temper the 5160 right it will work.
    Another question is the striking face on the steel for striking flint... Which is best? Flat sharp edges(that will become scratched and or pitted) or a smoother radius edge ??
    Not trying to be rude but please separate you questions a bit, and slow down some on the experimentation.

    This is blacksmithing, not rocket science. No need to "make something work" if a simpler thing will work naturally. 0-1 or w-1 is common and cheap. I buy old rusty files by the bucket full at flea markets usually for $1 a bucket. Heat it to orange and stick it into a bucket of oil.

    "Hammering technique" has nothing to do with tempering and metallurgy.

    Fire steels can be very simple, or they can be very fancy. Keep in mind that they were daily use household items and often given away as tokens in trade deals. Very few people wore them as jewelry. Fancy ones were scarce because they really were not considered a fashion statement.

    And the average historical fire striker was not a massive item. They were usually hammered to about 1/8" thick. The only thing I insist on with mine is a loop for tying a lace onto to make them easier to handle during striking. The edge or its shape does not matter, you are going to beat the hell out of it with a rock anyway! the important thing is a good sharp edge on your stone that will shave off steel.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=stee...FceLDQodBHIMKw

    Or you could just start carrying a flintlock rifle and forget about the striker altogether. Most hunters never carried a striker, preferring to use the lock on their rifle for fire starting.

    Dump the priming charge into your birds nest, plug the barrel vent with a twig, place your char cloth in the primer pan and snap the hammer. Catch the glowing charcloth in the tinder bundle and stand back, that sucker is about to blow!
    Last edited by kyratshooter; 07-14-2015 at 04:04 PM.
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  17. #17

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    My flint striker is a piece of steel that used to be a garage door spring. Heated, straightened, bent to a C shape and quenched to harden.

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    Senior Member Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Ferocerium rods contain both iron oxide and magnesium oxide that's why they produce such a high volume of hot sparks. The "flint" in your lighter is a very small fero rod.
    To add to the answer - 5160 is not a good producer of sparks.

    5160-
    Carbon 0.56 - 0.64
    Chromium 0.7 - 0.9
    Manganese 0.75 - 1
    Phosphorus 0.035 max
    Silicon 0.15 - 0.35
    Sulphur 0.04 max

    1060-
    Carbon 0.55 - 0.65
    Manganese 0.6 - 0.9
    Phosphorus 0.04 max
    Sulphur 0.05 max

    1060 is a simple carbon steel, and 5160 is considered an alloy steel. The inclusion of Chromium and silicone make them act very differently. Chromium adds to rust resistance, and makes the steel harder. I think silicone adds to toughness, but I'm not positive without looking it up.

    1060 can be quenched in water, and 5160 can't.

    My thought process tells me That in the 1600's as the cam winding pistol came about they chose the best steel and European Flint money could buy, and put a lot of thought into it. - it lasted all the way to the Flintlock from the French of 1660's to 1800's & the Pennsylvania long rifle. I am not sure that can be improved upon as I have piece of Spanish and French Flint.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint_mineFlint Mine
    Last edited by Wise Old Owl; 07-23-2015 at 07:34 AM.
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    Default Depends on your application, conditions where you are camping/surviving

    Quote Originally Posted by NoStrangeFireHere View Post
    I am currently working on a project to forge my own fire steels.
    I recently cut a piece of 5160 and hardened it for a fire steel and bow drill. However it didn't throw the kind of sparks I thought it would while striking a flint, or ferro rod for that matter. It works but not efficiently. So my question to all on this forum is what is the best steel for fire steel?

    Here is the fire steel. This was made to test out 5160 on its spark throwing capabilities.
    2015-07-13.jpg
    "what is the best steel for fire steel?" For what conditions or application? The more time you spend camping in various wilderness areas all across North America and the rest of the world during all seasons and weather conditions the more you will learn that there is no gear that is perfect for everything you will encounter.

    So if you can make a great tinder bundle in dry conditions a typical China ferrocerium rod that is high in iron and throws a lot of sparks is probably ideal. However, if you are in extremely humid conditions where it has been raining for days and you don't have time to throw up a shelter, just fell threw thin slushy ice and are minutes from death and all your tinder is thick with no time to crush it finer (all cotton and jute balls with p.j. etc were washed down stream, i.e. SHTF and you may see Jesus, Allah or oblivion soon) perhaps you would prefer one with a higher magnesium content with slower burning sparks, even if fewer of them and rod does not last as long, wears out faster. Here is a good video where the guy talks about several rods from both ends of the spectrum from different vendors and manufacturers and then demos some strikes from each. So try both types in a driving rain or have a friend spray a garden hose on you and decide for yourself.


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    Default Make a steel striker for "flint" + "char cloth", out last others

    Never underestimate the longterm value of an old fashion, simple, ergonomic, handheld steel striker and hard rock (not necessarily just flint or abyssinian, but hard glass, quartz, coral etc. etc.) plus some charred material (also not necessarily just char cloth, but can be charred cattail bloom, bark etc. etc. buried beside fire or in discarded glass bottle, metal can stuck upside down beside fire or whatever). Key is you can hold steel striker firmly and hard rock, natural or manmade glass does not shatter easily or 2 pieces of steel. This video by Mitch from History Channel's TV series "Alone" is better than all my verbosity. Bottom line: time in the wilderness or backyard trying out techniques are more valuable than most expensive gear you can buy or make.


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