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How to Use a Magnesium Fire Starter Safely

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It’s hard to believe that the Ferro rod wasn’t the first type of firestarter that uses combustible elements to start a fire.

using a ferro rod to ignite magnesium shavings block and striker behind the birch bark

Magnesium has been used to start fires for hundreds of years. It’s the seventh most abundant element in the world and is usually found inside the earth’s crust.

How exactly do you turn a solid compound into something to start a fire? Well, the answer it turns out, lies in science…

This guide will explain the fundamentals of a magnesium firestarter and how it still reigns supreme in the world of combustibles.

What Are Magnesium Blocks and Strikers?

Magnesium is a chemical element that burns hotter than a Ferro rod and lasts a lot longer, making it more suitable for starting a fire in adverse conditions.

It is commonly used by survivalists, preppers, and the military as they are economical and reliable. Most keen outdoor enthusiasts will keep one of these in their kit as a backup when all else fails.

You won’t find magnesium as a free element in nature, it is highly processed and weighs about ⅔ the weight of aluminum. This extreme weight reduction makes the transport of this compound very easy.

While the block itself isn’t flammable, the shavings and powder are, creating brilliant white flashes that are resistant to being extinguished.

When ignited, the shavings can reach temperatures of 3100 degrees Celsius.

Often companies will incorporate magnesium into their Ferro rods manufacturing process, boosting their ability to light a fire.

This is why it was popular in incendiary bombs during World War II since it was bright, could produce high temperatures, and couldn’t easily be put out.

The Components of a Magnesium Firestarter

There are many variations of a magnesium firestarter available on the market.

The most common version is a block of magnesium for scraping and a built-in Ferro rod that can cause the spark to ignite the shavings.

What To Look For in a Magnesium Firestarter

They are simple tools to use but manufacturers love bringing value to their customers so there are some features that you might want to keep an eye out for when you go to purchase one.

1. How Many Strikes it Can Manage?

Expect to get around 3,000 strikes for your average magnesium firestarter, although the bar itself can last for longer.

High-quality products can go beyond 10,000 strikes. If you have a Ferro rod available you can just order the blocks and use the rod to start the shavings.

2. If it’s Easy to Grip

A block of magnesium is easy to hold yet can be cumbersome when trying to shave parts of it off.

Additionally, the Ferro rod in some of the blocks can be difficult to strike if you don’t have a nice straight edge on the back of your knife.

3. Other Handy Features

Survivalists are always on the lookout for tools with multiple uses and manufacturers have recognized that.

Look for additional bonuses such as a compass, lanyard, or emergency whistle.

How to Start a Fire With A Magnesium Firestarter

Ready to get started using your magnesium firestarter? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get your fire started.

1. Gather Your Resources

Ensure you have all of your tinder, kindling, branches, and logs squared away and ready to use.

The magnesium shavings won’t burn forever and they might go out as you’re scrambling to get the wood you need. It’s best to lay them out in piles of increasing thickness for easy addition to your fire.

2. Prepare the Tinder

If you’re using birch bark as your tinder you want to fluff it up or scrape it with the back of your knife to expose as much of the little fibers as you can.

More fibers mean that they will take a spark a lot easier which leads to less of the magnesium bar being used.

spine of the knife shaving magnesium shavings into a pile

3. Magnesium Shavings

The next step is to carefully take your knife and scrape shavings off the bar into a little pile on your tinder.

Magnesium is very soft and will shave easily, even keeping the dust in the pile is advantageous as it will all ignite.

Try to keep the size of the pile between a nickel and a quarter-sized. Remember to block any wind since it can blow away your shavings before you can light them.

using a ferro rod to ignite magnesium shavings block and striker behind the birch bark

4. Ignition

Once you have your magnesium, and tinder ready to go it is time to use the attached Ferro rod to shoot sparks into the pile.

Using the knife’s spine, you can scrape it along the Ferro rod to create sparks. Make sure the edge is sharp as a rounded spine won’t work.

Some magnesium bars come with handy scrapers that can make the job easier.

birch bark and magnesium shavings on fire

4. Build the Fire

Once you hear the sputtering and crackling as the shavings ignite you’ll notice a bright white light coming off it.

It does require a little work to get a good amount of sparks off the rod so don’t be shy. The tinder should catch and you’ll be able to work your way up the wood pile afterward.

Pros of Using A Magnesium Firestarter

As with many firestarters you want to balance the good with the bad. Luckily, magnesium is so versatile that there is no reason not to have one in your kit.

1. They Can Get Wet

You can use them in the rain without any issue starting them. even if you submerged the block in a lake and tried starting a fire with the shavings you would have no issues.

2. Burns Extremely Hot

Even with a slightly damp tinder, you can still get a tiny flame using sparks from your bar.

3. Stable as a Block, Unstable As Shavings

You will have a difficult time lighting a magnesium brick on fire and that’s why they are so great to keep on your person.

Don’t shave the block before you need it as the shavings could catch on fire and cause some damage.

4. Portable and Compact

You’ll never complain that a magnesium firestarter is too heavy to take in your pack.

The weight itself is the same as comparing aluminum to thin steel. There is a lightness to it that belies what it looks like.

5. It Has a Long Life as a Tool

With a minimum of 3,000 strikes, you’re guaranteed a lot of use out of it even more so if you are only starting fires every so often.

Cons of Using A Magnesium Firestarter

Although there are a lot of pros, some factors don’t make them ideal in every single situation. Let’s have a look at those.

1. The Shavings Are Very Light

Some might say too light as a gentle breeze is enough to send your pile tumbling. Make sure to have some sort of a wind block in place before you start.

2. It Requires a Striker of Some Sort

Unfortunately, you’ll need something with a sharp edge to strike your flint or Ferro rod. In the wild, you can use something like a sharp rock and some flint to generate the spark you need.

3. It Takes a Little Bit of Elbow Grease

Since you need such a significant pile of shavings to get a good flame it does take a few minutes to shave off enough for it to work. Additionally, striking the flint or Ferro rod isn’t guaranteed to work the first time.

Final Thoughts

An old concept and tool revitalized by the new generation, a magnesium bar is a guaranteed way to have an ignition source available if you need a fire.

A combination of the bar and a Ferro rod in your kit will ensure that you will never be without a way to start a fire on your next adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

We love answering your questions; these are some of the most popular ones that people come across if they’ve never used one before.

Will a magnesium bar work at all altitudes?

Yes, unlike fuels a magnesium bar will still ignite at higher and lower altitudes.
However, your fire may have difficulty starting at higher altitudes since there is less oxygen.

Can a magnesium bar go bad?

No, magnesium bars do not suffer from oxidation or other elements that could disrupt their fire-starting capabilities.
Most outdoor enthusiasts will keep them in their car or pack them year-round with no issues.

What is the best substitute for a magnesium bar?

A ferrocerium rod is the best substitute for a magnesium bar as a lot of them contain trace amounts of the element inside them.
Alternatively, a lighter will do the job just fine but is prone to not working in adverse climates.

How long does a magnesium firestarter last? 

The inexpensive magnesium firestarters will last you around 3,000 strikes. High-end products can last 10,000 strikes and up.

Can a magnesium firestarter get wet? 

Yes, you can sink your firestarter in any water source, pull it out, and be able to shave scrapings off it; these shavings will still ignite with no problem.

magnesium fire starter pinterest

Source link: https://www.survivalsullivan.com/using-magnesium-fire-starter/ by Perrin Adams at www.survivalsullivan.com

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Featured

Wilderness Survival Skills That Can Save Your Kids’ Lives 

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Teaching children wilderness survival skills can be an enriching and empowering experience, fostering their confidence and independence while instilling a deeper connection with nature. However, it’s essential to prioritize safety and age-appropriate learning experiences when introducing children to outdoor skills. 

It’s important for a prepared parent to find age-appropriate wilderness survival skills for children. These skills should emphasize hands-on learning and the importance of supervision.

Shelter Building For Kids

Building a shelter is a fundamental survival skill that children can learn and practice under adult supervision. Start with simple shelter designs using natural materials such as branches, leaves, and tarps. Teach children how to assess their surroundings for suitable shelter locations and how to construct sturdy structures to protect against the elements.

Identifying Edible Plants For Kids

Teaching children to identify edible plants can enhance their foraging skills and knowledge of the natural environment. Begin by introducing them to a few common edible plants in your area, emphasizing safety and the importance of proper identification. Supervise children closely and guide them in harvesting and tasting edible plants responsibly.

Fire Safety and Fire Starting For Kids

While starting a fire may seem like an advanced skill, children can learn basic fire safety principles and techniques under adult supervision. Teach them about fire safety rules, including selecting a safe location, clearing the area of debris, and using proper fire-starting tools such as matches or fire starters. Demonstrate how to build a small fire and maintain it responsibly, emphasizing the importance of fire management and extinguishing techniques.

How Kids Can Signal for Help

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In emergency situations, knowing how to signal for help can be a life-saving skill. Teach children basic signaling methods such as using a whistle, mirror, or brightly colored clothing to attract attention. Practice signaling techniques in a safe outdoor environment, and discuss the importance of staying calm and alert while waiting for rescuers to arrive.

Hands-On Learning Experiences

Encourage hands-on learning experiences to reinforce wilderness survival skills and build confidence in children. Plan outdoor activities such as nature hikes, camping trips, or wilderness outings where children can practice shelter building, plant identification, fire starting, and signaling for help under adult supervision. Provide opportunities for children to apply their skills in real-life scenarios, fostering a sense of self-reliance and problem-solving abilities.

Teaching children wilderness survival skills can be a rewarding and educational experience, fostering their appreciation for nature and their ability to thrive in outdoor environments. By introducing age-appropriate skills such as shelter building, plant identification, fire safety, and signaling for help, children can develop valuable life skills and a deeper connection with the natural world. Remember to prioritize safety and supervision, and encourage hands-on learning experiences to empower children to become confident and capable outdoor adventurers.

How do you teach your children survival and preparedness skills? Share your thoughts on how to teach children in the comments below. 

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Knife Skills for Preppers: Mastering Essential Techniques

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In the realm of survival preparedness, few tools are as fundamental as the trusty survival knife. However, owning a high-quality knife is only half the battle; mastering essential knife skills is equally crucial for any prepper. This tutorial is designed to guide preppers through fundamental knife skills that will enhance their ability to navigate and thrive in diverse survival scenarios. 

From safe-cutting techniques to carving methods and practical tips for shelter building and food preparation, these skills will prove invaluable in the face of the unknown.

Safety First: The Foundation of Knife Skills

Before delving into specific techniques, understanding and prioritizing safety is paramount. Follow these foundational safety tips:

  • Proper Grip: Hold the knife with a firm yet comfortable grip. The index finger should wrap around the handle, ensuring control and preventing accidental slips.
  • Knife Inspection: Regularly inspect your knife for any damage, including chips or rust. A well-maintained blade ensures safer use.
  • Clear Workspace: Create a clean and organized workspace. Clear away debris and ensure good lighting to avoid accidents.
  • Body Positioning: Pay attention to your body positioning. Keep your non-dominant hand and fingers away from the cutting path to prevent injuries.

Basic Cutting Techniques: Building a Foundation

Next, it’s important to learn basic cutting techniques. Without knowing these cutting techniques, you have no chance of performing more advanced techniques with your knife. 

  • The Rocking Motion: Ideal for chopping and slicing, the rocking motion involves moving the knife’s blade back and forth while keeping the tip in contact with the cutting surface.
  • Draw Cutting: Drawing the knife towards you in a controlled manner is effective for precision cutting, especially when creating fine slices or making detailed cuts.
  • Tip Control: Mastering control over the tip of the knife is essential for intricate tasks. Practice guiding the tip with precision for accurate cuts.

Carving Methods: Precision in Action

A man is cutting mushroom with a knife.

Carving is one of the most important skill sets you can have with a knife. The basic carving methods are as follows:

  • Whittling: Whittling involves carving small, controlled cuts to shape wood or other materials. It’s a useful skill for crafting tools or creating tinder for fire starting.
  • Feathering: Feathering is a technique for creating fine curls of wood, often used in fire starting. It requires controlled slicing with the grain of the wood.
  • Notching: Notching involves carving small grooves or notches into materials, a skill useful for creating traps, shelters, or tools in a survival setting.

Practical Tips for Survival Scenarios: Beyond Cutting

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Once you go beyond cutting, there are a number of things that you can use a knife for that will keep you alive in survival scenarios. 

  • Shelter Building: Use your knife to process materials for building shelters. Master techniques such as notching, carving stakes, and shaping branches for a secure and weather-resistant shelter.
  • Food Preparation: From gutting and filleting fish to processing game, a well-honed knife is essential for procuring and preparing food in a survival situation. Practice efficient and safe cutting techniques for various food sources.
  • Fire Starting: In addition to knives with built-in fire starters, use your knife to prepare firewood by splitting or feathering. Mastering these techniques ensures a reliable fire, a crucial element for survival.
  • Tool Crafting: A versatile knife can be used to craft essential tools in the wild. From fashioning cordage to carving simple implements, having a repertoire of tool-making skills broadens your capabilities in the field.

Continuous Improvement: Sharpening and Maintenance

Even the most skilled preppers need to maintain their knives for optimal performance. Regularly sharpen your knife using your preferred technique, whether it’s a whetstone, rod, or sharpening system. Keep the blade clean, dry, and well-oiled to prevent rust and maintain its longevity.

Knife skills are the unsung heroes of the prepper’s toolkit. By mastering essential techniques, preppers enhance their ability to navigate and conquer diverse survival scenarios. From safe-cutting practices to carving methods and practical tips for real-world applications, continuous improvement in knife skills is an investment in preparedness. 

As you embark on your journey to master the edge of survival, remember that the knife is not just a tool; it’s an extension of your capabilities, a versatile ally in the face of the unpredictable challenges that may lie ahead.

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Family

Prepping with Kids: Teaching Your Children Survival Skills

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In the world of prepping, involving the entire family is not just a practical decision—it’s an essential one. Teaching children survival skills not only imparts valuable knowledge but also fosters a sense of resilience and preparedness. Balancing age-appropriate information with practical skills is the key to making prepping a family affair. 

Getting Started Teaching Your Children About Survival Skills

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Start with age-appropriate discussions about preparedness. Tailor the information to the child’s understanding, focusing on the importance of being ready for unexpected situations. Avoid instilling fear but rather emphasize the empowerment that comes with knowledge and preparation.

Conduct family emergency drills to make the learning experience tangible. Practice fire drills, evacuation procedures, and basic first aid. Make it a game by timing each drill and celebrating successful completion, turning what could be a stressful experience into a positive and empowering one.

Teach basic navigation skills through fun activities like treasure hunts or geocaching. Introduce the concept of using a compass or map, turning it into a game that enhances both navigation skills and the ability to communicate effectively in the wild.

Making Survival Skills an Adventure for Children

Plan family camping trips to teach children essential outdoor survival skills in a controlled environment. Teach them how to set up a tent, build a fire safely, and cook simple meals. Use this time to introduce concepts like Leave No Trace ethics and respecting nature.

Involve children in gardening and foraging activities to impart sustainable survival skills. Teach them about edible plants, gardening techniques, and the importance of self-sufficiency. This not only provides practical knowledge but also instills a sense of responsibility toward the environment.

Cooking can be an excellent way to teach children practical survival skills. Demonstrate how to prepare meals using non-perishable or long-lasting ingredients. Discuss food preservation methods like canning or dehydrating and involve them in the process.

Engage in do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that build preparedness tools. Create emergency kits together, incorporating age-appropriate items like a flashlight, whistle, or small first aid supplies. This not only imparts practical knowledge but also instills a sense of ownership over their preparedness.

Use Your Words to Teach Survival Skills to Children

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Incorporate storytelling into the prepping process. Share survival stories, both fictional and real-life, to emphasize the importance of quick thinking, resourcefulness, and preparedness. Discuss the characters’ actions and decisions, encouraging critical thinking in different scenarios.

Create an open environment where children feel comfortable asking questions and expressing curiosity. Encourage them to share their thoughts on preparedness and discuss any concerns they might have. This fosters a preparedness mindset and reinforces the importance of ongoing learning.

Prepping with kids is not just about imparting survival skills; it’s about building resilient families. By balancing age-appropriate discussions with practical activities, families can turn the prepping journey into an engaging and empowering experience for children. 

From outdoor adventures to DIY projects, every activity becomes an opportunity to instill a sense of preparedness, responsibility, and the importance of working together as a family. As you embark on this journey, remember that teaching survival skills to children is not just about preparing for the unknown; it’s about shaping resilient, capable, and confident individuals who can navigate life’s challenges with strength and resourcefulness.

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