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flint and steel tips

Wave Man

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Sent me you address wave man I send you some bits.Interesting thread I too was under the impression that there was no natural flint in Australia.Seems that there is some but I never seem it for sure..!!

mate I tried to PM you and it comes up as blocked, that you aren't receiving PM's.
 

Bartnmax

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I've had mixed success with flint & steel.
I have one nice piece of flint that works well when it is struck down against the steel to throw sparks onto charcloth placed below.
I have another piece that fails miserably if that methods is tried, however if I place a piece of folded char cloth on top of the flint & then strike the steel down against the flint I can manage to get adequate sparks to the charcloth.
I think a bit of experimenting needs to be done with each individual piece of flint & differtent types of steel.
One method that works with a particular piece of flint/steel may not necessarilly work with different pieces.
Quality of the flint also seems to make a big difference.
I have also found that whatever piece of flint is used a good sharp edge is required.

Bill A.
 

Bartnmax

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Very interesting week end just past.
Saturday I travelled up to my GFs house in the country to give her a hand with some burning off of old garden branches/offcuts, etc that she wanted to get rid of prior to summer.
We had arranged to combine a good sized 'burn off' with a bush BBQ/evening around the campfire in her front yard (fairly spacious country house).
I had also decided it would also afford me a good opportunity to practice some of my bushcraft firelighting skills.
Only prob was the weather decided it wasn't going to co-operate too well. Drizzle started about 10am & kept up throughout the day.
I was determined that this fire was going to be started via flint/steel, within the outdoor arena (no creeping back under cover of the patio to get it started, etc) with no outside assistance from modern methods/components.
So, first of all I scrounged around within the pile of fuel for suitable tinder.
With much work I managed to split some of the drier wood to make a few feather sticks & also managed to find some drier grass, leaves, etc.
I then also worked at scraping dry tinder from the inside of various pieces of bark, etc.

So, I had managed to build a nice tinder bundle I thought would work ok.
Making sure the tinder bundle was nice & dry inside my pcket I then set about organising kindling & various other items of heavier fuel, & again built a temporary cover over them to try to keep the weather off em.
So, the moment of truth had come - & so had the drizzle. Not heavy mind you, but just steady light drizzle that some unknown daeity had designed just to make fire starting as difficult as possible.
Well, I can definitely tell you, no matter how easy guys like Le Loup, etc make starting fire by flint/steel look, once there's a bit of drizzle about it is bloody hard.
Just goes to demonstrate the ability of Le Loup & his fellow 'fire gods'.
They make a very difficult task look so easy.
Yep I got plenty of sparks from the flint/steel.
I also managed to keep my tinder reltively dry by building a small 'shelter' within the fire material bundle (although it was not 100% completely dry which was damned near impossible).
However, transferring spark from flint/steel to tinder in cold, drizzling conditions is not easy & it took damned near 20 miniutes before I finally managed to get my tinder bundle lit (damned near threw a party when it did finally burst into flame).
Building the fire from the flaming tinder bundle was the next challenge & again it took an incredible amount of time & intense care.
Sloooooooooowly adding tiny pieces of kindling, one at a time until they had adequately 'taken' flame & then building, building building.
Another 15 minutes finally saw a reasonable flame capable of receiving heavier kindling.
Once I got to that stage I started building a larger cover of materials over the small fire to faciliatate drying of the wet fuel.
Over the next 1/2 hr the timber slowly started to dry adequately enough to also take flame.
I was constantly adding more dry material to the fire & replacing it with wet stuff to dry that out as the fire built in size.
All the while the drizzle continued.
After more than an hr of hard work I finally had a useable 'campfire' & another 20 minutes saw it progress into a good 'burn off' blaze.
Eventually the flames died down & a beautiful pile of coals allowed the BBQ to be heated up prior to cooking.
At about 5pm, just as the storm hit Melbourne following the running of the Cox Plate at Flemington, we finally started cooking with the drizzle now having subsided.
We ate dinner outside in the cold mountain air, warmed by the fireside which continued to burn until nearly 10pm that night as we constantly added more fuel from the 'scrap wood' pile, accompanied by a tumbler or two of soothing 18yo Scotch.
It was an extremely satisfying experience for me as, although I have started fires with flint/steel previously, I have not had to do so under such adverse conditions.
It was far harder then I thought it would be but I believe I was successful in the end due to attention to minute detail regarding preparation & care of the tinder bundle. It really is the key element with firemaking I believe. Unless that tinder bundle is 100% perfect it is damned near impossible to get from spark to flaming kindling when working under such conditions.

Now, back to the Bic & PJ cotton balls I think.

Bill A.
 

Hairyman

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Thanks for sharing that Bill. Makes me contemplate how easy we have it these days.
 

Bartnmax

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Oh, yeah. It's not until you give it a go when the weather's against you that you find out how bloody diffcult it can sometimes be.
Also makes you appreicate the skill of those that make it look so bloody easy.

Gas torch next time ;-)

Bill A.
 

Dutchy357

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Geez Bart

No more horror stories. You will put me off primitive fire lighting :risatonaD:

Seriously; I think you should be commended for sticking to it. Most would have given up for the soft option. But it does make you appreciate the skills our forebears had. Particularly when lighting a fire in inclement weather could have been the difference between surviving or perishing.

As Stewart said, I have been test driving some of his Steels. One works really well. I have only been testing the ability to get a spark and Flint works very well. I have also tried some quartz. The first bit I tried gave reasonable results but that quartz seemed to fracture and break up alot. I found some really hard quartz on a beach only walking distance from home. That works really well. I got a piece of Jade from a rock hound friend, no good at all.

For the hell of it I fossicked an old chisel (not a good quality one) out of the shed and tried that as the steel. I got sparks with both the flint and the quartz, but it did not spark as well as Stewarts steel. A better quality chisel will probably perform better.

Regards Dutchy
 

Bartnmax

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Ok fellas (& gals), I'm looking for a bit more information from you lot that have a better insight into such techo things;
Just what is it that defines whether a steel will be a goodun or not?
Is it the actual metal composition?, carbon content?, somefink else?
Just what is it in the recipe that defines whether I should use this piece of metal & not that one?

Thanks all.

Bill A.
 

Dusty Miller

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The spark is generated by removal of steel from the surface of the firesteel, it is hot if the hardness is high, so soft steels (dead soft mild steel) won't give a good hot spark. If the steel is too hard, it may simply break the rock (which has a similar hardness to files and tool steels), again no good sparks. If the steel is a little softer than the rock, but not much, it takes a lot of energy to rip it from the surface, which manifests as heat, when it flies throught he air at high temp. you get a good spark. Some very hard but untempered steels can be used too, since they contain a lot of internal stresses and fragments can break away with high energy.
S9nce hardness in simple carbon steels is related to carbon content (up to a point) low carbons dont work, very high carbons maqy not work but middle range steels with appropriate harden and temper can give good high energy sparks wihtout breaking the rock. High chromium steels (including stainless) are unsuitable, as the chromium forms an oxide seal over thhe steel, although if you file a fresh surface, it may spark for a few hours until it becomes passivated. High speed steel contains molybdenum or tungsten, and has a very cool spark, even from a grinder (dull red) this fact is used to test unknown steels thought to be HSS. It is also unsutiable.

I have read that motor mower blades, when heated to cherry red and then quench hardened in water, but not tempered give very good results, owing to the highl stressed material.
Failing that some o1 or w1 carbon steel (gauge plate or silver steel rod etc) should give a good spark on tempering to appropriate hardenss. You can retemper at higher temperatures until you find the best temp too, since tempering at lower temps gives a harder steel, you can keep upping the temp until the rock doesn't break.

You can flame harden a peice of mild with a oxy torch, but it isn't deep and wont last long. Same for case hardening in kasenit
 
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Aussie123

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The spark is generated by removal of steel from the surface of the firesteel, it is hot if the hardness is high, so soft steels (dead soft mild steel) won't give a good hot spark. If the steel is too hard, it may simply break the rock (which has a similar hardness to files and tool steels), again no good sparks. If the steel is a little softer than the rock, but not much, it takes a lot of energy to rip it from the surface, which manifests as heat, when it flies throught he air at high temp. you get a good spark. Some very hard but untempered steels can be used too, since they contain a lot of internal stresses and fragments can break away with high energy.
S9nce hardness in simple carbon steels is related to carbon content (up to a point) low carbons dont work, very high carbons maqy not work but middle range steels with appropriate harden and temper can give good high energy sparks wihtout breaking the rock. High chromium steels (including stainless) are unsuitable, as the chromium forms an oxide seal over thhe steel, although if you file a fresh surface, it may spark for a few hours until it becomes passivated. High speed steel contains molybdenum or tungsten, and has a very cool spark, even from a grinder (dull red) this fact is used to test unknown steels thought to be HSS. It is also unsutiable.

I have read that motor mower blades, when heated to cherry red and then quench hardened in water, but not tempered give very good results, owing to the highl stressed material.
Failing that some o1 or w1 carbon steel (gauge plate or silver steel rod etc) should give a good spark on tempering to appropriate hardenss. You can retemper at higher temperatures until you find the best temp too, since tempering at lower temps gives a harder steel, you can keep upping the temp until the rock doesn't break.

You can flame harden a peice of mild with a oxy torch, but it isn't deep and wont last long. Same for case hardening in kasenit

In summary, either the steel is too soft, or too hard, or the rock is too soft or too brittle … and perhaps technique !

There is nothing like an expert !

But, seriously, this is good info. I hadn’t realized that the steel could be too hard.
I have a steel which I’m having difficulties with and I suspect this could be the issue, it’s an old file, re-worked and re-hardened, and its very hard.
It seems to just crush the edge of the flint.
 

Stewart Townsend

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Another post reminded me of this post.

I ended up going to Port MacDonnell during my "tour" of Victoria and SA.

A lot of the white rocks in the photo have a black layer inside which is flint.

PortMcDonellflint640x480.jpg


I had some of my forging tools on the ute and hit some of the black parts with my forging hammer and got sparks (interesting the hammer is 4140)

I went to Dutchies place and gave him most of the flink I collected (just half a shopping bag) and we got spark out of all of the fire steels.

DutchysFireSteels.jpg


The 1075 leaf was still better than the other 3 made of Sop9 (5160)
 

Dusty Miller

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A lot of the spring steels including 5160 (and transformer or electrical steels too) have silicon added, I wonder if this is a disadvantage in this application. There is a little chromium in 5160 too. The straight carbons may be the best here looking at these results. Have you tried anything that has only been work hardened, not heat treated?
 

Stewart Townsend

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With the heat treatment, I just heated them in my gas forge to non-magnetic and quenched them in veg oil (part of the same process as making a knife). They would be a touch harder - possibly 61R (not sure just quessing)

I can never work out what is cherry or the other colours.

1084 is supposed to be the "best" steel because the iron and carbon molecules are in a good "mix", apparantly. So with any other elements it will/can effect the carbon/iron matrix.

Dusty Miller LOL I am a "knifemaker" I am just using my heat treating process for knives for the steels. ;)
 
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Bartnmax

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Yeah you're probably right Keith.
It does throw sparks ok but it also requires correct technique.
Using it one way works ok with one piece of flint whilst using it another doesn't.
I think a lot of it possibly has to do with the shape & purity of the flint vs the actual steel content.
I've also been testing myself a bit in using it in adverse weather conditions.
First time I tried it was in the garage - protected from the elements, etc.
With a bit of experiementation I managed to get it sparking reasonably well nearly every time.
Certainly working adequately well to be able to start a fire within about 5 minutes on 95% of occasions.
However, taking it out into the elements was a very different story altogether.
That really made me work at ensuring that all aspects of the process were as close to perfect as I could et them.
I found that when there's a bit of wind & especially some drizzle about, making that transition from spark/coal to flame was a very procarious process.
Had to make sure the tinder bundle was as close to perfect as I could get it & really had to play 'mother duck' to protect it once the spark was dropped into the tinder. Losta hard work but very enjoyable & a great learning process also. Really makes one appreciate the end results when you have to work like buggery to get it going.

Bill.l
 

GTVi

John McDouall Stuart
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Just got back from Port Mcdonnell on the way back from a family trip to Melbourne. I found plenty of Chert/Flint amongst the limestones deposits on the beach. Had my true fire steel with me, and was able to throw good sparks from the bits and pieces I had gathered. For anyone interested there is an easy location to get to at the "Car Park" rest area just East of PM....Google Map co-ordinates are -38.054877,140.739895 or us the following link and put in the coords..

https://maps.google.com.au/maps?oe=...gl=au&ei=f7FbUcH3Gs-ciQeDyYDgCA&ved=0CL8BELYD
 
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