My inexpensive nail clippers are chrome plated steel. All the keys on my key ring are brass or some other non-ferrous metal (I checked with a magnet). The nail clippers have that small nail file built in. I have read a few blog posts that talk about using a nail file as the steel for starting a fire, and I wonder if it is possible with the small nail file in the nail clippers.

We already know that the battery in my key fob is not going to work to start a fire

Can I start a fire with the file in my nail clippers?

  • Why not carry this? It weighs almost nothing and occupies very little space, and will certainly work better than nail clippers.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 14:06
  • @ab2 I assume you mean the pencil-eraser-size replacable flint not the whole device? That does seem like an amazing amount of value for weight...
    – mmcc
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 18:50
  • @mmcc Actually I meant the whole device. I was cleaning out a box of old stuff and I found my Bunsen burner lighter, which made a lovely, large spark. It didn't have flints, and weighed even less than the object I found on the internet. It was just steel scraping against steel. And fool proof.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 20:40
  • @ab2 it is like 8 or 10 inches long and designed to light flammable gases. I am not even sure you could start a fire with it. Yes you might get a spark to take if you put your tinder in the cup, but transferring the smoldering tinder to bigger tinder pile would probably put it out. Lets find out Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 23:28

2 Answers 2


Nail Clipper file is very likely made of stainless steel, which cannot produce spark. Same analogy in stainless knife vs. carbon steel knife. Even it is high carbon steel under the chrome, you have to break the coating off first (could take forever).

You can certainly use the file to scrape ferro-rods to get sparks and start fire but you can do it with other material for the flint, too.


Yes if one of these tiny replaceable flints from a gas welding torch lighter lives on the chain of your nail clipper as well.

The flints are so small this is reasonable. Apologies couldn’t find a picture that showed scale but the flints themselves are about the length of the eraser on the end of a pencil but smaller diameter (the whole spark striker—-the wire and cup device pictured—-fits in your hand it’s about can-opener size).

Thanks ab2 for the suggestion in your Bunsen lighter comment.

As far as an attachment method, perhaps a lanyard made by enclosing the whole thing in a section of heatshrink tubing, 3/16” / 5mm diameter or so, to be peeled off for emergency use.

Note that you’d need to test this with your particular file, there are some made of such soft steel cut to such a dull edge you might be polishing the flint as opposed to making any sparks. It is also possible (as another answer indicates) that the clipper is made or plated with a material that will not spark.

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  • Stole one of your images for the new related question. Commented Sep 16, 2018 at 23:28
  • You’re welcome to it. Interested in the answer also.
    – mmcc
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 1:09
  • You know, when you're already attaching new stuff to your keyring, why not just attach a lighter? ;)
    – fgysin
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 8:59
  • A lighter, or maybe a -40C sleeping bag... I initially thought the “survival nailclipper” was posted a joke but now I’m kinda enjoying the idea of what’s so small, cheap and air-travel appropriate that it can just live in your pocket always. The flint at $0.25 and negligible weight and size is kinda cool.
    – mmcc
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 14:19

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