Fire with the ferro rod

The ferro rod or ferrocerium is a wonderful piece of equipment that seems to have become synonymous with bushcraft.   You can buy knives with little sleeves stitched to the main sheath so you can create sparks with the spine of the knife, Mora and Light My Fire have teamed up and created “The Fire Knife” so all your cutting and sparking needs are catered for.  Great pieces of kit.  For now though I want to discuss how to use the ferro rod on its own.

Striking the rod to create large, hot sparks

Which one should I buy?

You can buy small ones, massive ones, rods that don’t spark and rods that crumble away.  To spend your hard earned money on items that simply don’t work is galling to say the least so let’s cut through all the “noise” and recommend one and only one.  In my experience, the very best rod on the market is still the Light My Fire version.  You can buy two different sizes, The Scout and The Army.  The Army is the biggest so fits in most adults and older childrens hands easily enough.  At just over £12 they will not break the bank nor will they take up vast amounts of room within your pocket, bergen or daysac.  

The claim is you can get 1200 strikes from each army rod and each spark can be 2,980 degrees centigrade.  This last little piece of data is what has created issues.  If the sparks are that hot everything in their path should simply burst in to flame, yes?  No.  Absolutely not.  As with any piece of kit you need to practice with it until the whole process becomes part of your muscle memory.  That practice needs to take place in all sorts of weather conditions with all sorts of different tinders.  We’ll chat about tinders in another blog.

Flint and steel, the grandparent of the ferro rod

So, without further ado, let’s crack this fantastic but misunderstood piece of modern bushcraft kit.   

The Ferro Rod Workout in three easy steps

  1. Gather your own materials ready to catch the sparks and start fires.
  2. Get your ferro rod in hand, remember the angles and think positive thoughts about your successful firelighting.  
  3. Engage every muscle from your deltoids to your fingertips and strike the materials with your ferro rod.

Gather your own tinder ready to catch the sparks

Gathering your own materials whilst out and about to start your fire is very satisfying.  However it must be dry and it must be fibrous enough to catch the sparks you are going to drop on to it.  The fibrous nature of the tinder  will be either present already such as down seeds or will need to be processed and this is definitely true of most inner barks.  Gather loads of the tinder as the size of your bundle really is important in regards to the success of your fire.  

Okay, so you now have a fantastic tinder bundle ready to go.  Needless to say you will have the correct kindling and fuel at hand as well but this will all be covered in a future blog. 

Grab your ferro rod,  remember the angles and think positive thoughts about your firelighting

The kit is made up of two parts; the rod and the striker.   The angle to which the striker is presented to the rod and the angle of the rod is absolutely crucial.  The end of the rod should be placed on the tinder and brought up to a steep angle.  Place the striker with the bur on the rod.  Position yourself over the rod so the action of striking will resemble the movement of a piston.  Exert as much pressure as you can on to the striker and match that pressure by pushing upwards with the rod.  Now, slowly and deliberately push the striker to the end of the rod.  Don’t go off the end as you will simply extinguish the tiny fire you will have created.  

Engage every muscle from your deltoids to your fingertips and strike

The following set of photos explains the angles of the rod and striker and how bright the sparks need to be.  I’m using some Moxa Punk Tinder (mugwort) from Beaver Bushcraft, (used to be Shark).  It takes the sparks well and then burns hot and slow so it can be introduced in to a “birds nest” and blown in to flames.

Ferro rod with striker

The two different angles. Steep for the rod and shallow for the striker.

Striking the ferro rod

Strike with controlled power

Sparks dropping on the tinder

Let the sparks drop onto the tinder and do their thing

Smouldering tinder

Smouldering tinder ready to be added to the tinder bundle

What next?

Once you have managed to create fire using your chosen tinder my advice to you is to try the using many different ones.  Try all sorts of things but remember there is no such thing as a failed experiment, it just proves that way didn’t work.

You may also try using the spine of your knife if it had been set at 90 degrees and has a bur.  That way uses the same sort of techniques but folk who are not totally proficient with knife craft should really stick with the striker to create their sparks.

Ask me questions

Hopefully this blog post will help those who have found the ferro rod a bit of a challenge.  However if you have any questions about it please don’t hesitate in getting in touch