Suppose I am trying to teach a class of 12 children how to build campfires. I would like each pupil to have a flint and steel for the lesson. As it turns out ferrocerium rods can be acquired cheaply for about a dollar each if I bulk-buy them. That leaves loads of leeway for rods getting lost. The problem is no striker is provided.

Is there any common household item I can have the children bring in to use as a striker? My first idea was a butter knife, but after trying this to no avail I realised the knife reads STAINLESS STEEL on the side. I am aware that a carbon-steel knife works as a striker; indeed some paring knives work. But I cannot get such a knife for less than 5 dollars, and I need a dozen plus spares. Moreover if I instruct the children to bring in a knife each, then chances are half will be stainless steel anyway.

Any suggestions?

  • 1
    You could try washers. I've had luck with some of them.
    – Jeff W
    Apr 6, 2016 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


The most important thing for a firesteel striker is that it is hard and has a 'crisp', although not necessarily sharp edge. Stainless steel knives tend not to work quite so well as plain carbon steel ones.

In general when you use the back of a knife as a firesteel it needs to be ground with a well defined square edge to the spine.

Carbon steel files work extremely well and emery paper is pretty good (although a bit less durable than other alternatives) so the emery boards sold for filing nails should be a good option.

Short lengths of hacksaw blades can be effective as well.

Using an abrasive rather than a blade also has the advantage of being a bit safer for teaching.

Emery paper or boards, tend to produce more sparks and are, in some ways, easier to use than a scraper type striker (eg the back of a knife). The difference is that emery does not 'throw' big fat sparks in the same way as a scraper so a slightly different technique is required. One good method is to wrap a strip of tinder around the tip if the rod and hold it in place by gripping it near the end.

  • How about cheap metal nail files?
    – Chris H
    Apr 3, 2016 at 21:39
  • Nail files tend to be fairly soft stainless steel so the and doesn't work very well if you use the rough part but scraping with the edge can work OK. Apr 3, 2016 at 21:43
  • The hacksaw blades work a treat, and presumably the larger ones would work better. The emery paper does indeed throw sparks, but I cannot figure out how to control where the sparks go without snapping the board. I can lay the board flat and grind the rod against the surface, but this only has the effect of wearing out the rod (wow!) without setting anything alight.
    – Daron
    Apr 9, 2016 at 13:44

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