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#109113 - 10/19/07 04:00 AM Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter
hiker1 Offline

Registered: 10/17/07
Posts: 79
Loc: Missouri
Maybe I just don't have the patience to use Magnesium blocks for a fire starter. It seems like it takes forever to get enough shavings to do the job right. They dull a knife blade in no time and the wind tends to blow away most of the shavings anyway. The shavings do light in an instant, get hot in an instant and are gone in an instant.

Does anyone have successful experiences with these and would care to share? Got any tips?

#109114 - 10/19/07 04:12 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: hiker1]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
They do work, in pretty much perfect circumstances. Number one, don't use your knife blade to scrape mag from the block, use something like a short section of hacksaw blade, pre-shortened and attacked to your mag block by the little chain it came with. If you must use your knife, hold the blade at a right angle to the mag bar, and scrape shavings off, don't try to cut them off. As far as the wind goes, block it the best way you can. If possible, catch the shavings in/on something like a plain ole cotton ball, then ingnite them from there. Again, the saw toothed edge of a hacksaw creates a huge shower of sparks. Really eats into the ferro strip too, so don't practice this toooo much. Have LOTS of small stuff, kindling for lack of a better word, handy, if possible position that cotton ball under a bunch of it before you light it off...

#109115 - 10/19/07 04:13 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: hiker1]
SoarnEagle Offline

Registered: 10/17/07
Posts: 13

In the bush I almost exclusively use the a ferro rod (I have a few mag blocks and also a Strike force), But I Almost NEVER use the magnesium, just the ferro rod. There are a few techniques (primitive & prepared) that you can try...

#1 - Put a cotton ball under your tinder.. with or without vaseline doesn't matter, but if you impregnate it with vaseline it will burn longer. This is useful if your tinder is a bit damp.

#2 - Get a few cattail heads. Use a generous amount (remember that a little goes a long way here). They will burn almost as fast as the magnesium, so you have to impregnate the cattail into your tinder. Pine needles work best here.. or dry grasses.

#3 - Other good incendiaries would be Dandelion, Goatsbeard, or Milkweed pod fluff. Use them as the Cattail.

#4 Fine dry punkwood will also catch the spark and it will glow like a "bow drill "coal". Keep adding more punkwood dust, then small pieces and finally larger ones until it breaks into flame.

Others will probably have other great ideas.. Hope these help you for now.

- Soarn

Edited by SoarnEagle (10/19/07 04:14 AM)

#109117 - 10/19/07 04:24 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: SoarnEagle]
hiker1 Offline

Registered: 10/17/07
Posts: 79
Loc: Missouri
I use homemade firestarter such as the vaseline impregnated cotton balls as well as a half candle wax impregnated cotton balls. They light easily and burn for a while. Triox will really go to town in a hurry.
I was trying to understand why the mag block was so commonly found and so popular. But given the idea of getting the shavings into a cotton ball makes good sense, as well as using a shortened hack saw blade. I wanted to keep the mag block in my BOB, but I just wasn't sure it was worth it. I'll give it another try.

#109118 - 10/19/07 04:42 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: hiker1]
Alex Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 1034
Loc: -
Well. It was discussed many times on the forum...
But here is my tips collection in one place:

-Add a short piece of hacksaw blade (for steel work) to the magnesium bar to save your knife. Use the saw side to shave the magnesium (pulling is the best, so add a wide key ring to it);

-Keep everything in a ziplock (freezer) bag. But not only for water protection. Shave/saw the bar right inside the bag (no problems with rain, wind, or shaking hands).

-Be patient shaving. You need something like 1/2 of teaspoon of shavings (otherwise it wouldn't produce heat long enough for the job).

-Fill up some cavity (make it with your knife as necessary, it's a must if the wood surface is wet) in a piece of wood with the magnesium dust, put it under your pile of kindling, and spark on it.

-That first piece of wood must became a stable coal in an instant, so just treat it as such after that. The kindling will dry a bit as a bonus if not ignite instantly. The rest is a standard fire-starting procedure.

Edited by Alex (10/19/07 04:48 AM)

#109119 - 10/19/07 04:55 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: Alex]
Alex Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 1034
Loc: -
Wow, so many people don't sleep yet smile
I agree with SoarnEagle. If you have a piece of cotton or something like that, and the weather is dry - the magnesium is not necessary ingredient at all.

Edited by Alex (10/19/07 04:56 AM)

#109120 - 10/19/07 06:01 AM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: Alex]
aloha Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/16/05
Posts: 1047
Loc: Hawaii, USA
Instead of magnesium, I usually use a little fatwood when the wood is really wet. Of course, preparation is the key. On our last camping trip, I just made a bigger tinder bundle using eucalyptus bark. I love that stuff. I didn't use any fatwood despite the wet conditions. Eucalyptus bark ,feather sticks and split wood was enough to get the fire going great pretty fast.

When I see eucalyptus trees, I note the spot and gather some bark before heading out. But I always carry some fatwood in my fire starting kit.

#109139 - 10/19/07 12:45 PM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: aloha]
Juddzilla Offline

Registered: 03/19/06
Posts: 15
Loc: Central California
I "pre-shave" mine. First I take a wood screw and run it through the lanyard hole and into a piece of wood with my drill. I put the wood/attached mag block into the upturned lid of a cardboard box. Then I take the drill and systematically reduce the block into curls and shavings (you have to experiment to see what size drill bit works best for you). When I'm finished I simply take the lid (now full of magnesium shavings and saw dust) and dump it into a plastic container.

I've carried these wood/magnesium shavings in a small ziplock and I've added them to my Vaseline cotton balls...both ways work great.

A variation I've wanted to do would be to cut the mag bar lengthwise, preserving the lanyard hole/striker bar side and then clamp and drill the other half. this would be the best of both worlds: mag shavings and a homemade mini mag bar.
"Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare!"

#109143 - 10/19/07 01:37 PM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: Juddzilla]

I carry one in my camping box but I've only ever been able to get the shavings to ignite in the controlled environment of my kitchen. The bummer is that you need a HOT spark to light them...the flame from a lighter won't cut it.

#109147 - 10/19/07 01:52 PM Re: Magnesium Blocks for Firestarter [Re: Juddzilla]

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 1802

i carry that block also,but i see it as a last ditch method
when everthing else is wet or gone..and i think thats what
they were made for in the first place and not routine fire
lighting...i have tryed mine just too see what it took to
work and with all the hassle and time it took i would use it
to just light one big fire while i was waiting for rescue.
if you are going to carry all the gear it takes to catch the
spark and get a flame you may as well carry a Bic and heat
tabs...a fellow i worked with at a Veterans hospital told
me that they would light the entire block to signal
aircraft--he called it "lighting the candle"..anyone ever
tryed that????????

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