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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?

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    You could try washers. I've had luck with some of them. – Jeff W Apr 6 '16 at 0:17
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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 '16 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. – Chris Johns Apr 3 '16 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 '16 at 13:44

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