Before lighters and matches, people used a flint and steel to start fires. This involves striking a hard, shiny piece of flint against a piece of rough steel to produce a spark. Users aimed the steel so that the spark would fly from the metal and land in a pile of tinder---small, dry, flammable material. Ancient tinder boxes contained an elaborately etched C-shaped piece of steel and a piece of flint that fit easily in the hand. Some of them also contained flammable materials. Others did not, requiring the user to find small bits of dry, seasoned wood for tinder.
Today, wilderness guides and campers usually carry matches or a lighter. However, lighters can break and matches may get wet. Flint and steel is useful no matter the weather or situation. A flint and steel kit for your car or backpack is easy to make and could come in very handy in an emergency.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Small metal box
- Camera film tube
- Plastic zip-top bags
- Steel object
- Flint stone
Find a small metal box, about 6 inches long by 4 inches wide by 2 inches deep, with a tight-fitting, hinged lid. You can purchase one at most craft or camping supply stores. Wash and dry the inside of the tin thoroughly to remove any debris from previous contents.
Look for a small, steel object. Anything from a steel carpenter's rasp to a steel pocket knife will do, though you can also purchase the traditional C-shaped steel. Make sure the steel is no larger than about 4 inches long and easy to grasp at one end. A knife may be longer than 4 inches when unfolded.
Purchase or find a rectangular piece of flint. Flint is a hard, rough stone that contains shiny, clear flecks of quartz. Your flint should be about the same size as your steel, with a narrow, flat end or a point for striking. Rub away sharp edges that may cut your hand on another piece of stone or coarse sandpaper.
Obtain tinder for your box. Tinder is any dry, flammable substance, though the best materials are dry sawdust, densely packed dryer lint and raw cotton. Pack any of these materials very tightly into a film can, pressing until you can push no more material into the tube. Cap it and set it aside. Film cans are the small plastic tubes that camera film comes in.
Put the steel and flint into a zip-top bag, press the air from the bag and seal it. Wrap excess plastic around the flint and steel and set them in the bottom of the tin. Place the film can into the tin, and shut it tight. Place the tin into a zip-top bag, press the air from it and place it in your car or backpack.
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