How to quickly and easily start a fire with a fire steel (instructions + video)

With these 2 foolproof tricks you quickly and easily ignite a bushcraft fire with your fire steel Ignite your tinder effortlessly.

from Martin Gebhardt | Bushcraft | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 30 June 2023 71.395 views 98% found this guide helpful
How to quickly and easily start a fire with a fire steel (instructions + video)

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • A fire steel is an essential tool in bushcraft and survival that helps you quickly and easily ignite a fire.
  • The first method to ignite a fire is to use shavings from your fire steel as an accelerant and concentrate the sparks on your tinder.
  • The second method is to draw the fire steel over a fixed scraper, causing the sparks to fall directly onto the tinder.
  • As tinder, birchbark, Fatwood, and charred cotton are the most suitable. Make sure your tinder is extremely fine to catch the spark.
  • The lifespan of a fire starter depends on its size and material. Small fire steels produce about 3,000 sparks, while larger models can produce up to 20,000 to 40,000 sparks.
  • Practice makes perfect. If it doesn't work the first time, keep practicing. With the right techniques and some practice, you will be able to quickly and efficiently ignite a fire.

The modern fire steel as a fire starter is part of the basic equipment for Bushcraft and survival.

You have probably already managed to create sparks, which is effortless.

But how can you quickly and easily start a fire?

How does it work even without Tinder? Only with wood, for example?

I will now show you two very efficient and successful methods to use your Firesteel.

How does the fire steel work?

The fire steel is a fire starter made of carbon-rich steel. Modern fire steels are made of Auermetal III, an alloy of iron, cerium, and other rare earth metals.

So as not to cause any confusion - I am referring to the modern Firesteel. As seen in the picture here:

A modern fire steel with scraper
A modern fire steel with scraper

The fire steel serves as a spark generator. You just need to rub quickly enough against the fire steel with a scraper and sparks will be created.

A scraper can be your knife or a metal plate (see image). It is important that the scraper have a sharp edge so that you can scrape off something from the fire steel.

The sparks you generate with the fire starter reach up to 1500 °C.

Here are my two recommendations:

Here is a video review of the Light My Fire Scout Firesteel:

Reading tip: Also check out my list of my favorite Firesteel.

Normal use of the Firesteel

As a beginner in Bushcraft, one immediately gets a fire steel. (Read my Bushcraft Beginner's Guide here.)

The method of making fire is one of the basics that one wants to master.

Anyway, that's how it was for me some time ago.

I scraped from top to bottom on the fire steel and after some practice it sparked strongly.

Great. Now I can make fire with the sparks. That's what I thought.

But nothing happened. My tinder did not ignite.

Alright, then it worked out after all.

After 20 or 30 ignitions!

With charred cotton, it went quite well, because it catches almost every spark and smolders immediately (Make it yourself here).

But bringing tinder fungus, birchbark or even normal wood to burn? And that in a short time? No chance!

My method was not good

What am I doing wrong, I asked myself. And why (damn it) do some Bushcrafters light their tinder with ONLY one or two strikes?

I immersed myself in the topic of fire starters, online and in books. And I asked like-minded people.

And maybe that's why you're here now.

I found two solutions and since then, I have not used any other methods.

Method 1: Sparking as an Accelerant

Now I will show you how to ignite your tinder with just one or two ignitions.

First, I would like to recommend my video to you. There you can see how I successfully ignite tinder made from birchbark, Fatwood, and regular wood using this method.

There are two necessary facts that you must remember for the method:

  • Use shavings from your fire starter as a fire accelerator
  • Focus the sparks on your tinder

Wood shavings as an accelerant for the fire starter

Fine shavings from your fire starter ignite as soon as they come into contact with sparks.

You take advantage of this and scrape shavings from your fire steel into your tinder.

Make sure to shave off these chips slowly; otherwise sparks will be created.

Scrape at least ten chips off, so that a small portion is on your tinder.

Using shavings from the fire steel as an accelerant
Using shavings from the fire steel as an accelerant

Focus the sparks with the fire starter

When you scrape your Firesteel from top to bottom, sparks are created, but they fly in all directions!

Usually, the sparks don't fly onto your tinder or there are simply too few.

Now that we have an accelerant, we only need to scrape once or twice. The sparks are more than enough.

But how to scrape correctly?

Start your scraper from the bottom and create only a few sparks on the shavings and tinder.

With this, you shoot the sparks concentrated and bundled onto your tinder.

By setting the scraper far down, you can shoot sparks more precisely
By setting the scraper far down, you can shoot sparks more precisely

You will see that the method is foolproof!

Even small fine wood shavings can be lit with it (as seen in my video). You don't even need to collect tinder or make it yourself.

Method 2: Pull the Firesteel, not the Scraper

The second fire starter method works differently, as your scraper stays in place, and you pull the fire steel over it.

And here's how:

  1. Place the scraper in front of your tinder and hold it firmly.
  2. Then pull your fire steel at the correct angle over the scraper.

You will see that the sparks land exactly on the tinder.

With this method, I am usually very successful in igniting a fire with a Firesteel.

Watch the video here:

Or here is another video that illustrates the method:

Which Tinder to Use for the Firesteel?

As the fire steel produces hot sparks, birchbark, Fatwood, and charred cotton are the best tinder. Make sure your tinder is extremely fine to catch the spark.

Read more about Tinder here: Survival Basics: Collecting and Making Your Own Tinder

How long does a fire starter last?

The number of sparks depends on the size and material of the fire starter.

With small and lightweight fire steels, such as the Light My Fire Scout, you can create 3,000 sparks.

Normal-sized fire steels produces approximately 10,000 sparks. With XXL versions, you can produce between 20,000 and 40,000 sparks.

The question is: How many do you need and how heavy should your Firesteel be?

Just calculate it: You may need ten sparks per fire. You make a fire once a week. Then you make 520 sparks per year. With 3000 ignitions, your fire steel lasts about 5.7 years. With 20,000 ignitions, it lasts more than 38 years.


Ever since I learned the method with the fire accelerant and the concentrated sparks, I do nothing else.

Both fire starter methods are very effective, and I use them with great pleasure. I have packed them into a detailed e-book.

You now know how it works and can try it yourself. My videos show you the methods with the fire starter exactly.

And if it doesn't work the first time, then you have to practice a little.

I assure you, however, that you will be thrilled with it.

Do you already know the method or have you become curious now?

Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

Take care, Martin
Sources for the guide

Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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