How to Make a Primitive Fire With a Flint and Steel

How to Make a Primitive Fire With a Flint and Steel
Native Americans, early settlers and mountain men all used flint and steel to start their fires. The flint can be any hard, quartz-based stone, including flint, quartzite or chert. The steel can be the back of a knife blade, a broken metal file or a Boy Scout steel striker. When done right and with some practice, you will not need modern fire-making tools, such as a lighter or matches, to build a fire.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Flint
  • Steel
  • Charred cloth, extra-fine steel wool, or cotton balls
  • Tinder
Step 1
Prepare your tinder by gathering dry tree bark, grass and small twigs to build a bird's nest. Place charred cloth, steel wool or cotton balls in the center of the nest. Pull cotton balls or steel wool apart to loosen the fibers, making it easier for the spark to catch.
Step 2
Hold the flint firmly in one hand, exposing a sharp edge of the stone. Hold the steel in the other hand, between your fingertips and thumb. Strike the flint in a downward motion toward the nest of tinder. The flint is harder than steel and will knock off shards of the metal. The friction between the two generates heat in the metal. The resulting sparks will shower on the tinder nest and ignite the fuel it contains.
Step 3
Blow gently on the smoking tinder until it ignites into flame. Continue to add larger pieces of tinder to the nest. Add small pieces of wood to continue building the fire. Add larger pieces of wood as needed to grow and maintain the fire.

Tips & Warnings

Charred cloth is created by burning cloth with a high vegetable content, usually cotton, in a safe, oxygen-deprived environment to eliminate the gases within the cloth.
Use quality flints and steel for better results.
If you make a lot of fires this way, you should consider purchasing a flint and steel fire-starting kit.
Use safety glasses when practical while striking flint and steel. If safety glasses are not available, look away or close your eyes during impact. Warn others to turn away during the striking process.

Article Written By Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan is a military veteran and a professional in the safety, travel and aviation industries. Duncan has been writing since 2002 for magazines, newspapers, local business literature and on such websites as He has earned his Bachelor of Science in professional aeronautics and his Master of Business Administration.

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