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Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:54 am
by TXyakr
I would be interested to try what you consider to be a 100% or very close to it magnesium bar or rod. I gave several that I purchased for about $1 - 4. Not convicted any are actually 100% magnesium but alloyed with something else. They are all easy enough to scrap with various sharp objects, piece of hacksaw blade, spine of bushcraft knife, large washer, even a sharp rock. Mostly I just use one if everything is very moist and air is humid, waste of time if it is dry. Pine fat wood has a limited shelf life (learned the hard way years ago), but magnesium bars can outlast me and my great, great grand kids, especially if I rarely use them.

The only reason I post on any forum is in hopes it may help someone and to learn more myself. Occasionally a dialogue is interesting and people post links to sources and articles that my own Google searches did not find, so that is worthwhile. But most of the time if all someone wanted was just "how to" they could do multiple internet searches for it and save time. Just my personal opinion.

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:33 pm
by DuxDawg
TXyakr wrote:I would be interested to try what you consider to be a 100% or very close to it magnesium bar or rod.

Not sure who sells pure magnesium these days. Can show you the characteristics we need to look for in this vid by Dave Canterbury.

At 12:45 he starts scraping on his snowshoe that he says is made of pure magnesium. Note long, easy scrapes with little pressure. At 13:30 we can see what we are looking for in the curls. Long spiraled curls such as is common of lathe tailings in a machine shop. Little to no dust. At 15:13 as he ignites it, note how long it burns, how high the flames and how long the pile of magnesium glows. About 15:33 he dumps the still glowing pile of magnesium into the fire. Compare with magnesium alloy's much briefer flame and glowing coal. Also its much shorter (height) flame.

Using pure magnesium to start a fire is like catching ferro sparks with a cottonball. Using magnesium alloy to start a fire is like catching ferro sparks with a green oak log.
They are all easy enough to scrap with various sharp objects, piece of hacksaw blade, spine of bushcraft knife, large washer, even a sharp rock.
I and many others have found magnesium alloy to be a royal pain to scrape. Long hard work to get even a quarter sized pile (all dimensions the same as a quarter) which is the least I would bother putting a spark to. We're talking 15 minutes. Heck fire, in 15 min with F&S I can be drinking coffee that has cooled down enough to drink from a full rolling boil.
Pine fat wood has a limited shelf life (learned the hard way years ago)
I have heard that yet never experienced it. While I have no idea how long the fatwood was in the forest, I do know that some of it has been in my shed for 12 years and still works as good as the day I found it. The resin naturally hardens upon exposure to air forming a protective layer that keeps all of the resin underneath it fresh as day one. That crusty layer is generally about 1/16" thick.

I store my fatwood the same as any fire wood, under a roof or tarp outside. Shade or sun don't matter though I suppose UV light and water break down 'most everything. From 4' long 12" diameter logs to use sized pieces. For use I cut it down to 1"x1"x6" or 3"x3"x12". Mostly White pine yet also Red, Jack and Scotch pines, Colorado Blue spruce, Eastern Red cedar and Paper birch. Yup, each of those species can have resin rich primo fatwood.

What species is yours? How do you store it? What sizes?
magnesium bars can outlast me and my great, great grand kids,
I wore out two and got a good start on several more when I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out why everyone likes magnesium alloy bars. My only use for them now is to throw them in campfires to amuse kids. They glow green for a long while before they burn and glow white.
The only reason I post on any forum is in hopes it may help someone and to learn more myself.
Absolutely! Hopefully that is why all of us are on forums. I am a walking encyclopedia on a lot of outdoors subjects. (paleo/primitive/aboriginal skills, Fur Trade Era skills, wilderness survival, long term wilderness living, homesteading, dog training, etc) Yet I am well aware that what I know is only a drop in the bucket of all that can be known about the outdoors. Even a total noob has something he can teach me.

I believe we should be like rivers, not stagnant ponds. Always taking in, always sharing. Another good way to put it is, ""Watch one, Do one, Teach one."
Occasionally a dialogue is interesting and people post links to sources and articles that my own Google searches did not find, so that is worthwhile.
Yup. Every once in a while someone will post a link to something awesome that may be several years old and I am left wondering, "How did I miss that?" A surprising number of times we were exploring the same aspects of the same task at nearly the same time. Would have been great to have been bouncing ideas and experiences off each other back then.
But most of the time if all someone wanted was just "how to" they could do multiple internet searches for it and save time.
Yepper. Most just want the quickest version so they can do it once and move on. I am ever hopeful of running into that rare person who wants to dig deeper.

Thanks for the enjoyable conversation. Happy Trails!!

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:27 am
by TXyakr
Helpful video from David Canterbury, he is an interesting character...

Most of the items I have ordered from eBay and Amazon are fine but there are a few that are junk or down right frauds this video demonstrates it better than I can say in words. I believe some folks are selling bars of mostly aluminum or magnesium alloyed with far too much aluminum to be useful. Better to buy a name brand (99+% mag) you can trust or know some one else had good luck with it or that you can easily return it. Most important thing is always test out all your gear before! you go camping. That should be obvious, but I have been camping with folks who did not and was watching them struggle for as long as I could stand it (so they would learn) before I finally assisted... Perhaps not a bad as that lady in that book/movie "Wild" about Cheryl Strayed on PCT.

As far as I know the $8.50 made in USA bars at REI are about 99% mag, DOAN at Amazon or eBay is about $11, and several others from Harbor Freight and Wal-mart I am not sure about. They switch to the lowest bidder from time to time so quality is not consistent at vendors like them. Probably just fine but I would keep my receipt and return just for the purpose of keeping them honest if it does not work well indicating it may not be very close to pure magnesium. 95% of the time I have no need for a mag bar. Ferro bar stuck on feather stick/strips of bark etc. works in 30 seconds or much less. But when I do need a Mag bar or quality dry non-metal tinder of some sort I sure as heck hope the bar I carried is mostly mag and not a hunk of Chinese aluminum... that would ruin my day. ha ha ha

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 3:29 pm
by DuxDawg
Very well said. That is a classic vid that I often refer people to when discussing magnesium (alloy) bars.

Would be fun to play with something I know for sure is pure, or very close to pure, magnesium. From what I saw in Canterbury's vid, the material those snowshoes are made of would be worthwhile for those who want to use artificial tinders. Yeah, he is a character for sure. He shares a lot of good knowledge, but then again there are plenty of things he does the hard way for no discernible reason. Might be holding some stuff back from his vids so he can wow people at his classes. Still, he has probably done more for outdoors skills, wilderness self reliance, "bushcrafting", etc than any other individual in our lifetime.

I have used the ferros from magnesium (alloy) fire starting bars (aka MFSs) for PSK and EDC kits. Fits inside a matchsafe with some cottonballs. Though IIRC, had to cut them down a little. Know at least one person who carries one of those ferros in his wallet. Soak in hot water and they come off the MFS fairly easily.

Yup, most of the time eBay and Amazon stuff is fine. Most of the time. Speaking of, can get a 1/2"x5" ferro for $4 shipped on eBay these days. That is a huge ferro for pennies on the dollar compared to most places. Works as well as any. Last most a lifetime though my two year old one of those is almost half gone now. I do love experimenting with different materials, especially expanding the envelope with marginal materials. Wet green wood still dripping sap in Spring is my classic example.

Have had a couple MFSs that had so much aluminum they could not be lit. Coleman and HF. Some of the Harbor Freight MFSs worked, as well as any MFSs work, (which is not well) and some did not. Depends on the batch. With those that did not work I tried up to 100 good scrapes with a ferro on a pile the size of three quarters stacked yet no go. Heck, wet green wood of some species will produce flames with less scrapes than that!! Anyhow, Bic for 10 seconds, nope. Piled the MFS scrapings on top of a cottonball, lit the CB... CB burned out... still no go.

Very disappointed Doans does not sell pure magnesium bars. At least the three Doans bars I have tried were obviously alloy. Much higher price (used to be $2 for an HF and $15 for a Doans) yet no discernible difference when using. Shame on them. Sure the price would go up and sales might go down a little - for a time. Once people tried them side by side, I bet the pure magnesium would carry the day. Heck, the some of the guys they would be marketing this to are purchasing $300 knives. $20 pure magnesium fire starters would fly off the shelves once word got out how vastly easier they are to scrape and how vastly better they burn than magnesium alloy bars. Would also totally eliminate bad batches by only using pure magnesium.

From what I have seen in videos, some of the magnesium rods are likely to be closer to pure than any of the bars. Wonder if science shops sell chunks of pure magnesium for a reasonable price? Have heard they sell ribbons to use as fuses. A rod would be the optimal shape. Just like with carving feathers/curls in wood and knapping flint, every time you carve/scrape a slice you create two high points to easily take off with your next scrapes.

Yup, new gear is for the backyard until tested. Even the same item from the same manufacturer. You just never know... until you put it to the test.

Good on you for letting them struggle for a bit before helping. Best thing for them and helps make the lesson stick.


Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:51 am
by TXyakr
I did not watch Discovery Channel "Dual Survivor" years ago but a friend told me that David C. exaggerated his military background and they let him go from that T.V. show because of it. Not sure if that is true, I don't watch a lot of T.V. so don't really care, his videos are fun to watch and helpful regardless. Most people do exaggerate what they did in the military, I take it all with a bit of salt. Most of outdoor life and military for that matter is standing around doing boring stuff with a very small percentage of time spent doing something exciting.

I thought Doan bars were fairly good just over priced, same with some others promoted on youtube videos. (Video I posted showed how they were better than one particular cheap Chinese bar that was mostly aluminum.) Magnesium materials sold that are super pure i.e. 99.95% or higher tend to be overly expensive and not really necessary about 98-99.0% is fine in my experience, I slightly prefer rectangular over round but not that big of a difference, doesn't keep a round surface for long after you start scraping it. Most of the rods I found that claimed to be 99.95% or higher were round.

When testing natural tinders for burn quality and actual flammability like pitch or just random tree sap and dry tree bark or feather sticks made out of squaw wood I strongly prefer to test it with a fairly good quality ferro rod rather than a liquid fuel lighter (Bic, Zippo or Peanut lighter etc.) because the heat from a Ferrocerium or even Magnesium bar is so much hotter it will get it started to burn better even if it is raining or super humid you can just stand there holding the lighter and think the natural tinder is not worth collecting (gone punky) while it is actually good just a little humid. That is just my experience, what do you think?

Edit: fixed some typos, grammar

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:57 pm
by DuxDawg
A lot of people made a big deal about Dave exaggerating his military experience. Who would pass by the opportunity of a lifetime simply because they were unwilling to pad their resume a little?? He saw the opportunity of a lifetime and took it. Good for him. He is living the dream now.

And do not think that Discovery did not play a very active part in that. They were looking for the audience draw from having "extreme" people on the show. The interviewed dozens of people for that role. Think about how they replaced DC with Joe Teti - who is such a liar he makes DC look like a choir boy and has about as much outdoors skills as DC's fingernail clippings. Neither DC nor Cody Lundin would act as they (arguing and whining) did on the show, especially in an emergency, without Discovery demanding it. TV shows are 98% make believe and 2% reality. DC's resume was 95% reality. Who is slimier??

Seemed to me at the time that most of the people whining about the whole honor thing had the least outdoors skills, no military service, and nothing but a lot of hot air going for them. Like I say, right or wrong about how he got the job with Discovery, no one can deny that DC has contributed a tremendous amount to outdoors skills. In the end, that is all I care about - that the skills are shared.

The Doans that I used (at least two) worked ok, but nothing like pure. Haven't done enough testing to know what percentage works best or has the best bang for the buck. I am far more interested in testing types of steel at different hardnesses for use as strikers with F&S than plumbing the depths of magnesium alloys. All ferros contain plenty of magnesium for me, do not see a need for more.

I think either method will work well enough. Putting your best foot forward by starting with your best ignition method is wise. If it won't succeed with that, it's sure not going to with any other!! The next step would be to walk it down through the lesser ignition methods to find that tinder's limitations. At that point you'll have a pretty good grasp of what it is good for.

I usually use an ember for testing, but then my focus is F&S. Start the ember by any means in a known to be good material, then transfer to the new. Once the ember in the new material is 1/4 the size of a dime or so, sit back and see what it does. If it grows without tending, on to something. If it dies slowly, might be worth pursuing. If it dies quickly, probably not worth gathering. At least not as tinder.

The gold standard for tinders with ferro or flame is the ubiquitous cottonball. I process tinders until they become as cottonball-like as practicable. At that stage they should ignite readily with ferro or flame. Even when wet, though not quite as easily then.

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 5:07 am
by TXyakr
When I am in an area that I camp often finding and processing natural tinder is fairly easy because I have a lot of experience with it. The issue becomes when I am in a totally different environment for the first time and all the vegetation is different (I recognize genus/family but not the exact species). In SE Africa where several my childhood friends, that I grew up with in Brazil, now live the grasses and woods (not many are even available in places) tend to be very hard and do not light very easily. In most of northern Brazil during much of the year everything is wet most of the time and it rains almost every afternoon, in the North toward the Atlantic even during the dry season. The woods were almost all very hard, not easily made into a tinder bundle.

Here in North America there is a lot of variance, even from West Texas to NM and Arizona it can change a lot. Then in the Canadian Rockies the woods are very different, no Oak. Perhaps I travel more than the average person but I have learned to stop and test fire fuel out not just trust that I will find something when I reach my desired camping area regardless of the weather.

I am not that concerned about T.V. personalities. They all have something to teach the viewer, if the viewers want to learn. Often I am not certain if they really made a rookie mistake or if the producers forced it on them just to make the show more interesting because 99% of outdoor living (often misnomered to be "survival") is just boring especially to people who have never done it much or at all. Some shows like Discovery Channel's N&A are just full of rookie mistakes which make it painful yet funny to watch at the same time, sort of like Pop Warner or 5 year old football games.

The only T.V. outdoors show I really liked much was that "Hey Dude You'er Screwed" but I don't think it is being produced anymore. A producer contracting for Discovery interviewed me about a new show about people re-enacting wilderness scenes from the Bible with an emphasis on their knowledge of the Christian Bible. I assured him I was interested and physically fit as well has had a College education including Bible studies (12 credit hours, not a major or minor) and K-12 Christian education (many years of Bible training). I have been a conservative, evangelical Christian since a very young age. The only outdoor skills he said were necessary were those on the level of people on Naked and Afraid not David C. level so I've definitely got that having lived with indigenous people, my late father was an extremely experienced wilderness explorer/pioneer who actually survived many real not fake challenges, and I have done primitive camping for over 4 decades. But the T.V. producer had hundreds of other very well qualified people he had also interviewed so I assume my chances are very low of being on the show. Mostly I just what the show to be a success and hope to see some people with good skills, positive Christ like attitudes and wearing clothes for a change would be really nice! Period clothes and sandals would be fun. I hike in sandals often, occasionally barefooted as well. For 6-15 mile per day hikes with a 30+ pound pack I generally use light weight boots however. I am 51 years old now no longer in my 20's but young compared to Moses. Also people seem a little alarmed in my neighborhood when a long bearded, tan man wearing camo walks into a store barefooted and buys a grocery bag of vegetables... Upscale neighborhood of $250K homes and virtually no hobos just me who resembles one... ha ha ha But all the employees at the local Kroger seem to know me, occasionally a worried housewife fakes reading her phone while snapping my photo, ha ha ha. Life is Good.

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:59 am
by Abner
I've never found a magnesium bar that I liked. It is a pain in the rear to get enough shavings to do any good. You will notice that Canterbury is scraping over an area of over a foot to get that pile of shavings. Notice also it a big pile. Some time ago I bought 1/2 lb of magnesium shaving from a women on ebay. She included a couple hundred small zip lock bags. I guess I hit a good source. Maybe she's scraping surplus snow shoes. I don't know but the stuff I got works and it's not a hassle to use since it is already shaved. The thing about magnesium is that it burns hot and it burns quickly. Its good for starting fire in wet conditions, but you need a decent amount. I really prefer something that burns longer as a fire starter. Vaseline impregnated cotton or paraffin candle wax are better imho. Still magnesium shavings have their place and I carry a couple of those small zip lock bags in my fire kit for wet conditions.
BTW: A half pound of magnesium shaving is a huge bag.

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:24 am
by DuxDawg
Obviously very wise to go cautiously and check things out in new areas. There definitely can be a lot of variance from area to area. On a lesser scale, from year to year as well. Especially with wild edibles though also with tinders. I too have four decades of outdoors experience, though I have only stomped around in half the States of CONUS and a few countries in Europe. You might like Colhane's YouTube channel. Mac from PA does missionary work in Brazil. Some vids are in English and some are in Portuguese. I try to toss in something like "here in the Upper MidWest" because that is where the vast majority of my experience comes from.

TV shows are good for laughs more than anything. One episode of either BG or MWW had him talking about tinder bundles and in the next shot he walks by and "finds" a bird nest.... which looked more like an inner tree bark tinder bundle, was of a size and in a location that was nonsensical for that area. We call them bird's nests because they look similar to one. Most actual bird's nests do not work well as tinder bundles. None of my friends will watch any outdoors shows with me anymore because I "take all the fun out of it" by calling them out on each bit of idiocy.

I would be excited for that show except my concern that the producers will make a mockery of it overshadows my excitement. Hopefully not. I miss the days of hiking from before the sun came up until well after it went down. (17+ hours with just enough on my back to get me through the night and next day.) Do not miss the phase I went through where I would hike for 40 hours straight, only stopping for solid waste elimination, changing socks or boots. Everything else done while moving. Nowadays after six hours of hiking I want a nap! Lol. Miss spending months at a time in the woods. So peaceful. Love how I become "like an animal" in my movements, reactions, etc. A hiker would step on a stick and I'd be up from full sleep and moving in seconds. Be 1/4 mile through the woods before I stopped to think "What woke me? Why am I moving?" Or awake and hear a twig snap and freeze, moving only my eyes. (Most people's heads will snap towards the sound without thinking.)

Lol about people's reactions. Sadly such narrow provincial views have become the norm. Wide world out there, and nowadays it's right at our fingertips, yet so few partake.

Re: Hard vs Soft Ferrocerium Fire Starters.

Posted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:46 am
by DuxDawg
I'm right there with ya Abner! I can find good enough materials in any season or during rain, however sometimes I just don't have the time or energy to do so. Usually it takes less than an hour yet I remember one time it took me three hours. I was on a mission to accomplish fire with F&S with only the steel and char having been brought with. This was during the third straight day of rain. Anyhow when I want a shortcut, waxed or PJ'd CBs have always been more than adequate. But hey, LYOF! (light your own fire - Lol.) If magnesium works for you, go for it.

I keep plain cottonballs in a matchsafe and refill Carmex/Chapstick click tubes with PJ as backup. That way they stay safe and retain all of their multiple uses. I click until I have a 1/4"-1/2" sticking up out of the tube, smear it on something and squish half a CB into it. By the way, when using PJ it is best to consider the surface one is setting it upon. As it heats up it becomes very thin and tends to soak into the ground before burning. Therefore I put it on a chunk of wood, thick bark, stone, aluminum foil, etc.

Fatwood scrapings are the original PJ'd CB. A chunk of FW 1"x1"x6" will light dozens of fires, is waterproof, compact, easy to use. I have soaked a ferro and a chunk of FW in a bucket of water for two weeks then made fire with them in seconds. Wood scrapings from most species work well. Scrapings from all species work much better than feathers/curls from that species. F/Cs usually take 20-100 scrapes on a ferro to ignite. Scrapings usually take less than 20 and often yield flame from a single scrape on a ferro. Wood scrapings should be finer than the finest curls yet coarser than dust. The very best are almost see through ribbons, such as a very sharp block plane can produce.