The problem with ferro rods (ferrocerium rods) is that people are quick to add them to their kits but when the time comes, they are unable to get a fire going due to lack of knowledge and practice. Believe me, it will be much better to learn now than have to try and work it out in a survival situation.
What is a Ferro Rod?
In simple terms, a ferro rod is a small piece of equipment that can be used to quickly get a fire going even when it’s wet. You may see them going by other names such as fire steel, metal match, and a whole bunch of other names. They can produce sparks of over 3,000 degree Fahrenheit by simply scraping the metal rod with something like the edge of your knife. Many on the market already come with a striker but if not, almost anything with a sharp edge works.
Most ferro rods will come with a set of quick instructions that go something like this:
- Hold the ferro rod close to the tinder at about a 45-degree angle.
- Place the scraper near the top of the rod (so it makes solid contact with the rod).
- Pull the rod back (away from the tinder) with a slow and steady motion.
Now, while those instructions are certainly correct, it is too little information for a new user to get right. When they can’t get a fire going that easily, they will not understand what they are doing wrong.
When you first purchase a ferro rod, you will notice that it has a black coating on the rod. This is added to prevent corrosion and to stop them scraping against each other during manufacture and transport. Before you can make sparks, you need to remove the black coating. You will notice the rod become shiny once the coating has been removed.
The Correct Fuel
Success in fire building relies heavily on having the correct fuel. Whilst these rods may produce sparks of over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they aren’t going to set everything on fire. You have quite a few options here but some of the easiest include:
- Using dry grasses and natural plant-based materials for your tinder.
- Consider making some char cloth.
- Cotton balls soaked in vaseline make great fuel for a fire.
Don’t Move the Scraper, Move the Rod
This can take some practice as you automatically want to move the scraper but it works best when instead moving the rod. Because you want to hold the rod close to the tinder, moving the scraper can just lead to you knocking the tinder around as you scrape the rod.
Imagine that you are pulling the cord for your lawnmower and holding the scraper in place, pull the rod back.
You Get What you Pay For
As with anything popular, there are many cheap versions available but in most cases, you get what you pay for. Many of the cheap Chinese versions (not all) just don’t work efficiently. The label will usually tell you how hot the sparks will get.
Practice with Your Ferro Rod
Like with any piece of gear that could potentially save your life, you need to get plenty of practice in. Try with different types of fuel and practice building a fire over and over until you become proficient. You should quickly get a better understanding for what will work and what won’t.
Have any more tips for our readers? Please share them in the comments below, we’d love to hear them.