How to Start a Fire With Flint & Steel

How to Start a Fire With Flint & Steel
Making fire using a flint and piece of steel is the most iconic method of making a fire, and it has been taught to Boy Scouts for decades. It's also an important survival skill for anyone interested in preparing themselves for the outdoors. Using a flint and steel takes time to turn a spark into a full-fledged fire, and the timing and feel of it can also require some practice before an individual gets the hang of the process. But if you know how to use your flint and steel, you can make a fire just about anywhere in the wild.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Flint
  • Steel
  • Tinder
  • Knife
Step 1
Assemble a pile of tinder. Dead plant materials work best for this, and the smaller, the better. Dead grass and twigs are ideal, and you can also create shavings from dead tree branches using a knife. Some people also use small strips of cotton fabric and lint as tinder, since these materials are easily burned, and newspaper works if you have it--tear the newspaper up into very small strips.
Step 2
Hold the flint and steel in opposite hands, with the flint held extremely close to the tinder--almost touching it. With your other hand you will strike the steel against the flint, tearing off small pieces of steel that will burn quickly. You want to be close to the tinder so that the sparks can hit the tinder burning as hot and long as they can. When you strike the steel to the flint, follow through in the direction of the tinder so that the sparks are more likely to fly in that direction. Continue doing this until a spark hits the tinder and creates smoke.
Step 3
Gently blow on the smoldering spark, giving it fuel to continue burning. As you do this, place a small amount of the finest burning materials you have on the pile. Lint is ideal for this, but very fine pieces of organic plant material will also suffice. When the extra materials are placed on top of the smoldering spark, blow slightly harder and continue blowing until the spark either expires or produces a flame on the tinder. If it extinguishes, you're back to square one. If a fire starts, you're on your way.
Step 4
Continue feeding twigs and grass to the fire, helping it to grow in both size and temperature. As it grows, start placing larger combustibles onto the pile, progressing to larger twigs and sticks and eventually broken up branches and logs. Make sure to prop the branches against one another and create space underneath them so that air can move freely throughout the fire--this is key to building a sustainable fire. A common, simple method is to choose a center point for the fire and continually place branches extending out from that center, piling on top of one another at the center point and rotating out around the center point to create a circular fire.

Tips & Warnings

Don't bother with using leaves to start your fire, even dead ones. Leaves smolder but almost never set on fire and don't get you any further along in the process of building a fire.
Make sure the location you build your fire at is on rocks or dirt that won't catch fire. If you try to build a fire on grass you might start a fire that burns out of your control and becomes a wildfire.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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