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Thread: What's the deal with Flint and Steel?.

  1. #1

    Default What's the deal with Flint and Steel?.

    I found myself at a Scout Camp this summer and couldn't help but wonder why they didn't teach fire by friction. I sat working on a leather sheath watching a poor young scout try, and try, and try... to make fire using flint and steel. The thought occurred to me... "Even if he does master that method I wonder if he'll ever have a shot at using it in his life. It's a little too advanced. (In the early days It was the "advanced technology", but many used basic fire-making techniques.) If they'd teach him fire by friction at least he'd have the materials if he should ever desire to make fire that way. A shoelace or less is all it takes. Good luck finding flint and steel in a hurry."

    So my question... Is this simply a "minimalist" notion (I tend to gravitate towards the "less is more" in survival) or should we focus on teaching skills that are easily practiced with easy to find/make materials?
    Last edited by survivalnut; 08-12-2008 at 02:04 AM. Reason: Missspelling ;)


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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    i agree with your reasoning, insofar as it's the place i'd advise a person to start, possibly following magnesium firestarting [due to it's ease, and greater chance of encouragement]. truth be told though, i'd advise a scout to master all methods they can. it seems to me that aside from many types of personal enrichment, scouting is about the desire to learn how to be ready for anything.
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    I'm with Canid on this. Learning many different methods will give young boys and girls confidence in their abilities. Bow-drill and plough should definitely be included in their learning. When a young person (or old one) can accomplish a task in a variety of ways, then they often learn a variety of ways to do many things.
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  4. #4

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    You guys are right: best to learn a variety of methods.

    Flint and steel is to fire by friction as matches are to flint and steel. They all work, and everybody should learn how to use them.

    Oftimes one can come upon usable "flint" and high carbon steel, if not in nature then in human castoffs which virtually cover the planet. So its a good skill to know.
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    Tracker Beo's Avatar
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    Flint & steel is a good wilderness survival tool to learn, but I see your point. Has he been shown how to use a fire bow drill? You could take the lead and teach other methods and different tools to use. He11 when doing primitive trekking I sometimes put a dab of my flintlocks blackpowder (say 10 grains) on my char and kindling and start it with the spark from my flintlocks hammer to save time, this was a method used by Simon Girty and other frontiersmen to quickly start a fire. Other than that I use flint & steel and it takes my say 10 to 15 minutes to get a fire going, but that's just my way.
    Last edited by Beo; 08-12-2008 at 07:31 AM.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

  6. #6

    Default Flint and steel reply

    I did show him how to make fire by the bow and drill method. He seemed quite enthusiastic. When the camp staff saw me they asked me to teach a class, which I did. (I had the majority of leaders and camp directors present!) I appreciate the comments about the need to learn everything as it is all valuable.

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    Senior Member Ole WV Coot's Avatar
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    Let's not forget first you need to learn what it takes to make a decent fire with a match. I would think that the scout first needs to learn about tinder, how to start small and feed a fire, best size wood for the fires purpose and safety. Then let him learn to move up the ladder. I don't know about you but I've seen many folks pour a quart of starter fluid on charcoal to fire up the ole grill in a park. In other words he needs to learn to get his ducks in a row the easy way, and that includes gathering his wood first before starting a fire then running around trying to collect wood. I know it sounds dumb but lots of adults, city born and raised read a book, grab the gear the author swears by and hits the woods with his family for, if they are lucky just a miserable weekend at the best. My opinion is start small, work up.
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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Coot, as usual, is right on the mark. The thing that struck me when I read your post is why did he have such a hard time with flint and steel? What type of tinder was he using and what type of material was he trying to start a fire with? I've seen folks try to start a fire with finger sized sticks and unless they are coated with gasoline it's a bit hard to get the stuff started. So back to Coot. Knowing what the components of a fire should be, tiny twigs and up. How much wood needs to be gathered. Folks always...always under estimate the amount of wood that is needed for a fire to burn all night. What kind of wood to gather and how is where the learning needs to start. How to place the wood to start the fire and so on.

    Cudos to you for teaching the class bow and drill. Perhaps I can sit in on the next one. I'm pretty bad at it. BIC lighter and flint and steel for me!

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    Survivalnut,
    sounds like ya took the reins and drove the team home, great job. I would do as Coot said and teach another class, perhaps a few hours and start with natural tinders, char cloth and what not, move on to the different types of fire starting including the modern techniques and then you'll be known as "The Fireman" It is always rewarding when I teach my son and some of his friends and others youngsters about the wilderness, have at it and have fun.
    There is no greater solitude than that of the Tracker in the forest, unless perhaps it's that of the wolf in the wilderness.

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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    a few more points i would make:

    in the vein of flint and steel: as was mentioned, iron compounds about in most areas, either as human artifacts [trash, discarded tools, etc] and more rarely, as mineral natural deposits. high hardness stone/rock is all the more common, as granite, quartz, flint, chert, etc. and this knowledge can better the chances of encountering suitable materials if the need where to arise.

    i had great results with fire by friction hand-spinning, and like the way that softer materials can be used when proper woods where hard to find, such as the flower stalks from cattail, mullien, bear-grass, etc. and the main stalks of dock and a few mustards. i like this because it is often quicker and easier than making/procuring cordage for the bow and it can allow a person to start a friction fire when the only vegetation around is herbacaeous plants.

    these are some of the practical reasons i feel that a diverse knowledge of firemaking skills is valuable, and the understanding that sometimes one method or another might not be possible re-enforces the sense of security and confidence.

    i know this doesn't exactly pertain to the subject of where to start, upon which i've already given my views, but it seemed pertinent enough to include.
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    Senior Member Ole WV Coot's Avatar
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    Rick & Beo, your check's in the mail.
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    I humbly appreciate your patronage. Condescending or otherwise as long as money is involved.

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    Coming through klkak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by survivalnut View Post
    I found myself at a Scout Camp this summer
    Am I the only one wondering why a grown man found himself at a boyscout camp? I would hope its because his son was at the camp and not for some depraved reason. He never said. KLKAK's thought is: If you don't have a child in attendance then you have no business being there.
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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    way to rain on the parade there. A+

    careful, or you might throw the grading curve out of rick's favor.
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    missing in action trax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klkak View Post
    Am I the only one wondering why a grown man found himself at a boyscout camp? I would hope its because his son was at the camp and not for some depraved reason. He never said. KLKAK's thought is: If you don't have a child in attendance then you have no business being there.
    Yeah.....the whole thread just got a little creepy kind of didn't it? Please come back and tell us you're a parent or a scout-leader of some kind there survival nut....
    some fella confronted me the other day and asked "What's your problem?" So I told him, "I don't have a problem I am a problem"

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    Coming through klkak's Avatar
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    As I was reading his post I got creeped out. I know when I'm at the grandkids football games and I see a stranger there I ask which kid is theirs. If they don't have a kid there I run them off. I'll call APD in-a-heartbeat if they don't leave.
    1. If it's in your kit and you don't know how to use it....It's useless.
    2. If you can't reach your kit when you need it....Its useless.

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    Super Moderater RangerXanatos's Avatar
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    Do you all think that maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt? He may have a kid/grandkid there, tagged along with another person that had a kid/grandkid, or he may have been friends with one of the leaders and tagged along. Whatever the reason, if he showed up out of the blue for no reason, I'm sure someone would have asked him to leave.
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Some people DO get involved with scouting without having kids involved. I remember my old scout master - retired army colonel. He just loved passing along knowledge.
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    Junior Member gourdhead1997's Avatar
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    Whether he has a son in scouts or not, has no bearing as long as he's not a pedophile. I am an eagle scout so I speak from experience. If he cares about helping young men become better citizens the scouts is the place to be. We had adults in our troop when I was in scouts that did not have kids and they were some very fine men and they were not pedophiles.

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    Coming through klkak's Avatar
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    They were not pedophiles as far as you know.

    I know of a couple of priest that were not pedophiles until many years later when someone finally spoke up.
    1. If it's in your kit and you don't know how to use it....It's useless.
    2. If you can't reach your kit when you need it....Its useless.

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