Fire-pistons: start fires by compressing air

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These are great, if it’s dry-ish. Not so amazing in the damp. Compressing all that water vapor along with the oxygen seemed to muck mine up. Wonder where that even got to?


Another really nifty tool that works well, even on dampish stuff is the magnesium block with the embedded flint.

You shave off a little pile of magnesium, put your tinder over that (allowing a gap to your magnesium pile) and strike the flint into the whole wad. The hot-burning magnesium won’t last long, but will light most things, and if you shave a big enough pile of it, you can cook out a little bit of the moisture in the tinder.

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Fire pistons are pretty neat. I understand how they work, but I still find it surprising that they do.


and if you want to go with the turbo version, I’d suggest a mischmetal stick. It’s like a magnesium block on crack. If you do it right, you quite literally throw a little sparking blob of white hot burning metal.

This is where I get mine (and no, I’m not affiliated with them in any way):


These days when I’m out camping, I usually just carry around one of these, plus a pill bottle of storm matches.

Makes lighting shit on fire super quick and easy.

Yup. Can’t beat the torch lighter. I keep my mischmetal stick in an “emergency bag” in the pickup when we go camping/drive to hiking spots etc… Chances are we’ll never need it, but it’s good to have (plus, it makes lighting campfires from a few feet away super dramatic!).

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50 bucks buys a lot of matches.

I just wrap a bit of dry grass/birch-bark around my finger and then touch my ass… Sssss boom instant fire!


Why go with wood for a fire piston? it just seems like its an excuse for something to break. If you want something that’ll work no matter what get a metal one.

Do you smoke after sex?

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How to make one yourself.
Although I’d recommend modifying his procedure in such a way that you’re not risking grievous bodily harm due to tool misuse.

Also, video of somebody demonstrating the same sort of fire piston described in the article.

Fire pistons are neat.
But they’re a pain to use. Tinder has to be super dry. Super small. And the seals need to be in perfect shape (and they don’t last long, so plan on buying/carrying extras). And even under the best circumstances, you get a really small ember of questionable quality.
Maybe you can tell they’re not my first pick for making fire.

Yes, there are easier, less-expensive ways to start a fire, but when you think of it as a really cool science toy makes it a must-have in the classroom.

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