Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Batteries and Steel Wool - Burning Metal!

I've decided to make January fire month! What an awesome name for a month. I love fire! This is the third post in a series on ignition sources.

You cannot make fire without an ignition source. For the next few posts I am going to highlight the most popular ignition sources. I will also review a few fire making tools, show you some novel ways to make fire, and give tips for using all of them.

If you watch survival shows or read survival forums you have probably heard of starting a fire with a battery and some steel wool. If you haven't tried it you need to. It is a lot of fun! Now lets be honest, how often do you think you are going to run across some steel wool in a survival situation? As silly as that is, with some forsite you can turn your flashlight into a fire making kit.

To do this you need some very fine steel wool, size 0000 worked great for me. The finer the steel wool, the less of a charge required to set it on fire. Heaver steel wool will work, but only if you have a fully charged battery. (A rarity for me.)

You will also need a nine volt battery or TWO D, C, AA, or AAA batteries. Nine volt batteries are the easiest to use, but none of my flashlights use nine volt batteries. You need two of the other types of batteries because they do not have enough voltage to over heat the steel wool by themselves.

When using two batteries you need to make a long "rope" out of the steel wool about eight inches long. Stack the batteries on top of each other, negative to positive. Set negative terminal of the battery stack on one end of the steel wool. Touch the positive end of the battery stack with the steel wool. If you batteries are fully charged the steel wool will immediately light. If your batteries are weak, it may take some coaxing. Nearly dead batteries will not work.

The steel wool will burn quickly, like a fuse. Immediately place it in a tinder bundle and blow on it. The tinder should catch quickly.

There are some serious flaws with using this as a fire starting method. While being lightweight, the steel wool takes up a good bit of room. Your flashlight batteries must be fairly charged to work. Forget using this method in the dark (your flashlight is missing batteries now, remember?) Steel wool is surprisingly NOT waterproof. It soaks up water and almost immediately rusts after being exposed to water.

I do not recommend adding this to your fire making kit or depending on it. If you flashlight has a small compartment to store spare bulbs or lenses, it makes sense to put some steel wool in there. Just do not depend on it as your sole source of fire!

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