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A fire striker (or fire steel) is a piece of high carbon or alloyed steel from which sparks are struck by the sharp edge of chert or similar rock. Modern fire strikers, commonly called "artificial flints" consist of ferrocerium alloys.
From the Iron Age forward and prior to the invention of the friction match, the use of natural flint and steel was one of the most common methods of firelighting. Along with friction firelighting, percussion fire-starting was prevalent during the Roman times (100 CE), Medieval times and the Viking Age.
More recently the term "fire striker" has become one of the names used for artificial flints, metal rods of varying size composed of ferrocerium, an alloy of iron and mischmetal (itself an alloy primarily of cerium) that can generate sparks when scraped with a sharp, hard edge. Iron is added to improve the strength of the rods. Ferrocerium is also used for the "flints" used in cigarette lighters.
When natural flint and steel were commonly used, the fire steel was often kept in a metal tinderbox together with flint and tinder.
Besides using natural flint with the steel, many other hard, non-porous rocks that can take a sharp edge, such as chert, jasper, obsidian, or some petrified woods can be used.
The sharp edge of the flint is used to strike the fire steel at an acute angle. With practice, small pieces of steel are shaved off the fire steel. The friction of shaving the steel off the fire steel and the pyrophoricity of the steel heats the pieces to a molten state.
Charcloth or amadou ("tinder fungus") is usually used as tinder with natural flint and steel because they more readily catch the low-temperature sparks, which can then can be blown into flame. However many woodsmen of previous centuries had to do without charred cloth or fire fungus and kept charred plant material in their tinder boxes.
With modern ferrocerium fire strikers (sometimes called a "metal match", "ferro rod", or "man-made flint"), small shavings are torn off the rod with a hard, sharp edge—a supplied metal scraper, a piece of hacksaw blade, a piece of glass, or, commonly, the back of a knife ground to a sharp angle. These shavings ignite at very high temperatures 3,000 °F (1,650 °C) and are much more effective than sparks from natural flint and steel. They can ignite paper, leaves, or dried grass with less effort than natural flint and steel.
- "Fire from Steel - Custom forged fire steels from Roman through Fur Trade time periods". Angelfire.com. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
- "Viking Answer Lady Webpage - Viking Age Fire-Steels and Strike-A-Lights". Vikinganswerlady.com. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
- "Metal Match". Eri-online.com. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
- Ben (2009-07-09). "Bens Backwoods: Fire Skills with Ferro rods and Firesteels part 1". Bensbackwoods.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
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