I have about eleven of these.  After buying them, in 1999, (guess why?) discovered that while they work well, they seem to have been designed to work indoors.  This page has some cautions and precautions.  Paul.


 Quote from, "Fire - A Survivor's Best Friend - Fire starters, Tinder, Stoves.."

"The magnesium block by Doan (1 x 3 x 3/8 in.) with an integral 3/16 in. flint rod glued on top (also manufactured for other companies and for the military) is still popular, at least in part because it is widely available at the consumer level.


Unfortunately, the magnesium is not necessarily as effective a tinder as you may be led to believe. While the flame from the magnesium shavings is extremely hot, this flame is also relatively short lived.


Additionally, the magnesium scraping/ shavings can be difficult to use as tinder in some circumstances because they are so light they tend to blow away with the slightest breeze.


Moreover, scraping together a small pile can be difficult at times. So, the bottom line is that they work, but the magnesium tinder has some limitations that must be understood and dealt with. "  .....



Quote from Old Jimbo--


I seal mine up in gray duct tape, during storage.  (You might want to make a little case to keep them in.)  Tape should protect them until they are needed.


If the bar does disappear then the Strike Force Fire starter I recommend will still spark on to the magnesium shavings.







A magnesium block with a round sparking insert on one side. It fits in your pocket.

1) The way these things work is you shave the side opposite the sparking insert. You do that with a knife held perpendicular, also called at right angles, to the tool.




2) You must guard your magnesium shavings from the wind. You accumulate magnesium shavings in a small pile, at least the size that would cover a quarter, and place it next to some tinder. That would be paper, small twigs, bark, or whatever.


Magnesium flakes are prone to catching gusts of wind you can not detect. Some recommend you catch them in dry leaves, or toilet paper.



3) Support the edge of the tool within one inch of the magnesium shavings. Place it at a forty-five degree angle. Scrape the entire length of the sparking insert rapidly with your knife. Use the back of the knife.


For best effect, the knife blade should be held at right angles to the sparking insert. This action will generate sparks, causing the magnesium shavings to ignite, producing a white-hot flame. The flame source is over five thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Paper burns at Fahrenheit 451, (Hence the name of the book.)


It should ignite damp, though not wet, material. The tool is moisture proof and fire proof and could be carried in your pocket. It is about the size of a butane lighter.






You must guard your magnesium shavings from the wind. Magnesium flakes are prone to catching gusts of wind you can not detect. Some recommend you catch them in dry leaves, or toilet paper.


Paul’s Magnesium Fire Starter Tricks

          Years ago, pre Y2K, I found a magnesium block with a flint back that burns at something like four-thousand degrees, in a catalog. That is, when you shave parts of the magnesium block into a pile about the size of a quarter, and light it by striking the flint block, you get a flame.

          I demonstrated it for some friends by putting some newspaper in a fry pan, shaving some of the block, and striking the flint with my knife. A flood of sparks came down, lit the magnesium, and then the paper. This was all done indoors.

          Trying it outdoors, when conditions were damp, showed up some problems. To begin with, gusts of wind you can not even detect scattered the magnesium flakes away. Sometimes you could get a few shavings, and thinking that to be enough, you struck a spark. The little bits of magnesium did light, and burn, but failed to start a fire.

          In reading I have found others had the same problems, and also complained about dulling their knives, shaving the magnesium.

          With all that, why, and how do you use them?

          1) Shaving the magnesium is not that hard on a knife. Striking the spark with the back of the knife blade works. Striking the sharp edge of the knife blade across the sparking bar will quickly ruin it. Use the back of your blade to strike the sparks.

          2) Even so, pack an extra, easy to sharpen, small knife for use with the magnesium fire starter. One good trick is to pack a razor knife. I mean the common utility knife, with extra blades stored in the handle. I have watched carpenters, for years, re-sharpen their razor knife blades, rather than replace them. Even sandpaper yields a passable edge, for shaving the magnesium.

          3) Protect your pile of magnesium shavings from the wind. Some say catch them in dry toilet paper, or the skeletons of decaying leaves, particularly Holly leaves. However you choose to, you must shield the shavings from the wind. This is no different from starting any fire from “scratch”.

          4) Some say that water and wind proof matches should not be purchased because you can not start a fire under water or in a high wind. The advantage of the magnesium fire starter is that it will remain intact even if you have been dunked in the water. One outdoors trainer is reported to cause his students to be dunked, in order to render every other fire starting method unworkable, except the magnesium fire starter. Even so, I would include every type of match you might want, and or lighter, in your kit. That way, you can use the easiest method to start a fire, for the conditions, that you have. You might, for example, save your matches for trying to start a fire in the wind. Coghlan’s, Limited, makes “Fire Lighters” that are in a pack of 20. These are really large paraffin soaked “matches” that are purported to burn for seven minutes. They should work for the laziest outdoors- person (This section is not really a tip about magnesium fire starters. It is a recommendation that you have several types of igniters in your kit.)

          5) Gather all the materials for your fire that you can, before you start lighting it. Large fires come from little flames, and small bits that get progressively larger, unless you use gasoline. Most of the complaints about magnesium fire starters seem to come from lack of preparation. If you don’t have something for your flames to burn, it does not matter what you light your fire with. Magnesium does burn at thousands of degrees, and it will light damp material.



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