Bushcrafters and survivalists alike both consider tools like the flint and steel to be the ultimate fire-starting tool to have in the backcountry.
However, Ferro rods have grown in popularity in recent years as an excellent alternative to the classic fire starting tool.
If you are an avid camper or prepper, then you know the value of having one of these in your main kit as well as your backup kit.
Using a Ferro rod does require a bit of technique to master, but there is nothing quite like throwing a shower of sparks onto some dry tinder only to be greeted by the familiar crackle of the woodland material turning into a flame.
For many, myself included, it is a sense of accomplishment to turn a simple action of striking a Ferro rod into a roaring fire to keep you warm and safe.
This guide will give you some handy information on what a Ferro rod is, plus tips and tricks on how to use this tool to throw off massive sparks.
First, let’s look at what a Ferro rod is and how it differs from a traditional flint and steel.
What Exactly Is A Ferro Rod?
Ferro is actually the short form of the word Ferrocerium and it is a combination of metals to make an ignitable alloy when struck by something hard.
Often called fire steel or mischmetal it can get pretty easy to confuse this with other products.
Ferrocerium was first discovered in the early 1900s by an Austrian man named Baron Carl Auer von Welsbach.
He was experimenting with combining different metals and noticed that certain rare earth elements, such as cerium, would ignite when mixed with iron and struck by something hard.
Cerium is known as a low ignition combustible, meaning that it didn’t require much friction to generate heat.
With Ferrum being the Latin for iron, it made sense to call this new material Ferrocerium. A Ferro rod is also something not to get confused with a magnesium fire starter.
Even though a Ferro rod generally has a little bit of magnesium in it, there are pure magnesium bars that you can purchase. These you can shave down and ignite using a Ferro rod, but are completely different things.
By composition, a Ferro rod generally consists of a percentage of iron, cerium, and lanthanum.
Each company has its own formulas which can affect performance, but I’ve never had a Ferro rod that didn’t start a fire. The sparks are so hot that they can reach up to 5000 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Use A Ferro Rod
Using a Ferro rod can be a tricky technique to master right away as it requires proper angling of the striker and enough pressure to give you sparks.
The type of striker you use matters as well, softer metals like aluminum won’t give you any sparks, however, carbon steel is excellent for spark generation.
Most people find a lot of success using the spine of their knife blade.
Here are the steps in using a Ferro rod successfully:
- Lay out your dry tinder in a little ball or next. This is important because you want your sparks to hit the tinder as they leave the Ferro rod.
If you’re using something like birch bark, make sure to rough it up a little so it receives a spark better.
If you don’t, sometimes it takes a little more effort to get it lit. Don’t forget to have your dry kindling right next to you ready to go because tinder goes quickly.
- Put the tip of the Ferro rod inside of the tinder, almost resting it on the ground at this point. In fact, it’s common to see the end of the Ferro rod almost disappear into your tinder pile.
- Angle your striker at roughly 45 degrees on the Ferro rod. This will both scrap and ignite the shavings to cast the spark.
You’re going to want a good amount of pressure when scraping the Ferro rod, otherwise, you won’t get maximum “sparking” (an adequate descriptor for sure).
- Make sure to run your striker down the full length of the Ferro rod. If you don’t have a larger Ferro rod, multiple smaller scrapes can still achieve the same effect.
I have a Ferro rod necklace that is tiny and it almost requires the same technique as using a flint and steel to get sparks.
- Be patient with your Ferro rod. You most likely won’t be able to light a fire with one strike (you might get lucky though!) until you practice.
The old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying, applies here.
- Once you have successfully lit your tinder you will have to work quickly. Place the dry kindling on top of your tinder and let your fire do its thing.
Some Ferro Rod Suggestions To Get You Started
Not all Ferro rods are the same, with some having a different percentage of metals or different lengths. Companies have become innovative in their formulas and how people can use them.
Here are three Ferro rods that are excellent choices to help you get your fire started when you need it.
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Überleben Leicht Fire Starter
This is a Ferro rod that I keep around my neck at all times and it’s more of an emergency fire starter than your day-to-day fire starters.
It’s tiny, almost weightless around your neck, and starts fires just as well as any of the full-length Ferro rods.
This is one of those Ferro rods that requires a lot of patience as it’s quite a bit smaller than the normal size.
The fundamental technique of using a Ferro rod still applies here and is made a little easier with the included paracord.
überleben Zünden Fire Starter
One of the first Ferro rods I ever purchased and I still use it to this day. It’s been a great addition to my kit and I recommend it to anyone looking to start their own fire-making kit.
It has an ergonomic handle and a lengthy Ferro rod that is easy to create a lot of sparks with.
The striker comes attached to the wooden handle and it also has a handy bottle opener and ruler attached to it.
GobSpark Armageddon and Palm Scraper
This website is full of awesome Ferro rods, but this one stands out from the rest. It has an innovative handle that lets you rest the Ferro rod against your palm for maximum stability.
They boast a proprietary handle and a scraper made from a hardened alloy that gives you the ability to deliver strong sparks.
It comes with a protective case and people have seen success using them with gloved hands.
They have other products as well, some of them being the thickest Ferro rods I’ve seen on any website.
Ferro rods should be in everyone’s fire or emergency kit. They are weatherproof and unaffected by altitude, which means they are indispensable in any situation.
I would even go as far as to say that a Ferro rod is the most important aspect of my fire kit and if I had a choice of items to have with me in a survival situation, it would be a Ferro rod.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.
1 thought on “A Simple Guide On How To Use A Ferro Rod”
It has been my experience that pulling the fero. rod back toward the user, instead of driving your striker into your bundle, is a better technique. This way you don’t scatter your tinder bundle all over place and risk losing your spark or your bundle