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Thread: Fire pistons??? Wow.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Fire pistons??? Wow.

    Has anyone used a fire piston. I just heard of them the other day while looking through the survival section of the camping section in Ebay. Unbelievable. They use compressed air to start a fire. Ancient technology used by Borneo , Malyasia and similar Pacific natives. Just put char cloth or dried fungus (Chaga is most popular) on the end of the plunger, push it fast in the cylinder and the ember is formed. I saw one of these on Survivor Man a few months ago but didnt know what it was. Lots of manufacturers here in the US. Some real nice cocabola models. Some made of water buffalo horn. Amazing stuff and very effective from what I can see. Below is a link to what appears to be the most popular manufacturer of fire pistons. Google search Wilderness Solutions and find their website. Or google fire pistons and they are on the first page also. Here are some videos of the fire pistons being used is on that page. Take a look. They also sell matching tinder boxes that look like the fire piston itself and are connected with leather rope. They hold the tinder (char cloth, fungus, what ever). You can see one with a tinder box under their custom fire pistons selection. http://www.wildersol.com/

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Novelty item

    I had a friend telling me about fire pistons just a couple months ago. He sounded about as excited at the discovery as you do. After rambling on for a little bit, and he asked me what I think, I pulled a Bic lighter from my pocket. It makes a flame in less than 1 second where your fire piston makes a smoldering ember in 24 seconds. My lighter cost a buck where your fire piston costs $80. My lighter is less than half the size and weight of your fire piston. I don't have to reload my lighter between every failed attempt to get fire. I can buy several of them and stash them in various places so I'll always have the ability to make fire. You can't afford to do that with a fire piston.

    But they are a neat novelty item worthy of the gift shops that they inhabit.

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    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Default But

    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    I had a friend telling me about fire pistons just a couple months ago. He sounded about as excited at the discovery as you do. After rambling on for a little bit, and he asked me what I think, I pulled a Bic lighter from my pocket. It makes a flame in less than 1 second where your fire piston makes a smoldering ember in 24 seconds. My lighter cost a buck where your fire piston costs $80. My lighter is less than half the size and weight of your fire piston. I don't have to reload my lighter between every failed attempt to get fire. I can buy several of them and stash them in various places so I'll always have the ability to make fire. You can't afford to do that with a fire piston.

    But they are a neat novelty item worthy of the gift shops that they inhabit.
    But you can't take your lighter on an aircraft so anywhere you fly commercial it is useless. ;D

    Vietnam - June 70 - Feb. 72
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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default lighters are back

    TSA rescinded the lighter rule last month. You may now carry lighters. I had one with me flying from Fairbanks to Anchorage this afternoon (then on to Kenai, but frankly, you could walk onto that plane with a gun and no one would know the difference).

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    Moderator Daveinthebush's Avatar
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    Default Good

    Good to see TSA relaxing a bit. My son lost his toothpaste this spring because he was .2 grams over. (or something like that)

    Vietnam - June 70 - Feb. 72
    Cancer from Agent Orange - Aug. 25th 2012
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    Member ozhunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daveinthebush View Post
    Good to see TSA relaxing a bit.
    They must be relaxed. When I flew to and from Alaska through LA, Seattle and Fairbanks, I had matches (not strike anywhere) and WetFire fire starters as well as four LMF Firesteels and they never took any of 'em. And I know they looked at my survival kit cause the stuff was all jumbled up in the Pelican and they left their calling card inside my bag, inbound and outbound.

    I looked at the fire pistons on the web only a couple of days ago, they seem pretty cool, but I think I will stick with my LMF's and Spark Lite's and wind/water proof matches and lighters.

    I know I can get a fire going PDQ and I can do it with my eyes shut.

    oz
    il vaut mieux Ítre bon que la chance

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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    I've been reseraching fire pistons off and on quite a bit this year.

    The neat aspect of a fire piston comes in when considering a long term need and the basically indefinite use it provides. Assuming commonly foraged Alaskan tinder works well in the piston.

    Some of the other easier methods like lighters and even the sparklites with commercial tinder or cotton balls will run out of fuel or pre-made tinder eventually. Compared to other primitive methods (bow & drill, plow, etc) the fire piston seems to be a much quicker and easier way to generate an ember. My guess is that when faced with a sparklite with no tinder or a lighter with no butane the fire piston would prove to be an easier, faster, and more reliable fire starter - an ember compared to just a few sparks. I haven't tried making a good birds nest and lighting it with sparks, but I have done it with an ember and with enough good tinder it goes right up. I just don't think that the nest would react to sparks the same way and definitely not catch them the way pre-made tinder does.

    Now a firesteel with no pre-prepared tinder is still going to work well due to the much hotter and more plentiful sparks produced and it's going to last for a long time.

    I think the fire piston is, as JOAT stated, a neat novelty item, but with practice could be a great primitive survival tool with a nearly indefinite life span - I want one! But I want it for the novelty - if I need a fire right now - in the rain or the cold and especially in a life or death survival situation - I'm going to want something that will get it going right now no matter what, like a road flare!

  8. #8

    Default speaking of lighters

    I brought a brand new one out to the campsite this past weekend. I had it in my jacket pocket which I wadded up and used as a pillow overnight. Apparently the little lever was stuck down from being wadded up and there was no gas in it in the morning. Thankfully I found ONE match.
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    Member ozhunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martyv View Post
    I brought a brand new one out to the campsite this past weekend. I had it in my jacket pocket which I wadded up and used as a pillow overnight. Apparently the little lever was stuck down from being wadded up and there was no gas in it in the morning. Thankfully I found ONE match.

    You probably know now, but a rubber band wrapped around the lighter will help stop that very annoying habot that lighters have

    oz
    il vaut mieux Ítre bon que la chance

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    Member Rod in Wasilla's Avatar
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    Now... if a guy could find a way to reliably make one in the field and didn't have to carry it with him all the time, that skill could come in handy if the matches got wet, the lighter fluid ran out, and the sparker was in the pack that fell over the cliff...
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    Member akjw7's Avatar
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    It must be possible, but a while ago I read a few articles on making one and quickly decided that it was too much for me in the field. The idea of carving out a close tolerance cylinder and piston just seemed beyond my cababilities with a leatherman, at least for anything with more than an inch or two of stroke. I'm still working on reliably starting a fire with a bow drill...one thing at a time!

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Fire pistons...

    I agree that my lmf and maya dust would be my choice in a real survival situation. Also glad to hear about TSA allowing lighters. They are by far the best thing for lighting my MSR Whisperlite International. Glad to hear I wont have to mail them up or try to get them in Kotz, Dilly, or where ever. One less thing to forget. Ferrocium is hard to beat. Magnesium is reliable as well. Cotton balls in Vaseline. Who could argue. We all know these things work. But long term, the fire piston would be of great use. If you know how to make char cloth in a tin, you have a near endless supply of fire starter. In all fairness, I bought three different models from different makers. Given the physics involved, there is no way that everyone is making them of equal effectiveness. I will find out which one works best and integrate it into my pack list. All the models I bought store chaga (dried fungus from birch trees) in one end. That way the fire piston is a "complete kit". Without tinder, they are useless. The history alone is fascinating. This device has been used for hundreds of years. Said to have inspired the diesel engine. Which was not invented until after we found natives in the Pacific using fire pistons. Aside from the coolness of starting a fire with compressed air in a tool that will last forever, what will the world be like when we replace all the old ways of doing things with new things. Like Bic lighters. Not exactly the archealogical discovery I want to be remembered by in a few hundred years. Which item would you rather receive from a parent/grandparent? What would your son/daughter rather get from you one day? How much fun would it be to take your son out and teach him how to use his new Bic lighter. Hmmm.

    "The path of least resistance is what makes both men and rivers crooked"

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Thumbs up First fire piston used...

    I received a fire piston today (my first). With some doubts, I put some tinder on the end of the plunger and pushed it in. Out came a red hot glowing ember. I was very surprised with how easy it was. I thought there would be a bit of technique involved. Did it again on the second try. Then the third. A bright red ember was formed with the simple push of the fire piston each time. Still not quite sure about the physics involved. Compressed air = fire. Very cool stuff. The fire piston was bought on Ebay for $36. This is the regular price and is a new fire piston. That is just what he sells them for. If you wanted to see some fire pistons, Ebay has quite a few. All new of course. Go to Sporting Goods, then Camping, then Survival, Emergency Gear, and type in "fire pistons". About 20 will pop up. The name of the exact item I received is "Camper's Bushcraft, Ultimate Survival Fire Piston" sold by ebprimitives. He is one of the better known makers of fire pistons. It came complete with tinders (tons), replacement/maintenance parts, instructions for care and use, and other accessories. A complete kit to say the least. Just wanted to pass that on in case anyone was interested in trying one out. Best $36 I have spent in some time.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    ...Still not quite sure about the physics involved. Compressed air = fire...
    It is actually very simple. Compressing a gas produces heat. If you compress it far and fast enough, you'll produce enough heat to ignite a combustible material. I expect that if you had an appropriately sized drop of diesel fuel in there, you would ignite it the same as a diesel engine and send the piston (and your hand) flying back out with much force. Disclaimer... don't try it.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default fuel...

    I actually heard that someone put fuel of some sorts in a fire piston. It was read under warnings on one of the fire piston makers website. Just as you suggest, it blew up. People cease to amaze me. A small device made out of wood, but lots of compression. Apparently.

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    Member AKGUPPY's Avatar
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    Be that as it may, You'll need at least 3 things to start a fire, 2 of which are challenging in a survival situation. The Fire Piston, that's an easy one; dry tinders and dry secondary tinder are the tricky ones.

    Wetfire or an equivalent and a Bic, that's my ticket.

  17. #17
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Wetfire...

    Cant argue about using the wetfire. That stuff is amazing. While living in Nome last year, I had a flight up to Kotz. We were going up to float the Kugururok River. I had the TSA peckerhead cut open my vacuum sealed survival pack (for my vest) and he took all my wetfire. I understand why he cut the vacuum sealed package (in hindsight), but had no idea why he took the wetfire. But then again, 20 minutes after that, they took my bag of sourkraut and a plastic jar of pineapple. It was the day after the liquid explosives where found in the airport in England (or something like that). I got caught unaware of all that as it had only happened hours earlier. Luckily my buddy who was flying up from NC had plenty of tinder. It would have been a long 13 days on the Kug with no fire starter. Not much up there to use in places. And it rained like hell for the first 4 days to make matters worse. I have since learned to stuff some wetfire in all my bags. That way they are less likely to get it all. They will have to work hard to get my wetfire on future trips. The one weakness of the fire piston is exactly what you said, it needs dry tinder, and a tinder bundle. The tinder that is ignited in the fire piston can be stored in the fire piston (in a compartment made to house it) quite nicely. More than you need even. It only takes a tiny piece to fire the fire piston and make an ember. The more challenging part is storing the materials for the tinder bundle. A popular choice is jute twine. People unwind it and make it bushy and it is used as the tinder bundle. Works very well apparently. But it, as other tinders, has to be kept dry. The wetfire would make that easier. You could use the ember formed in the fire piston to light the wetfire. Crumbled about a bit, the wetfire would easliy catch from the red hot ember the fire piston creates. Much easier/more reliable than carrying around pine needles, drier lint, char cloth, etc... Good idea. Old technology meets new.

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    I bought the equivalent of the wetfire GI surplus for 20 for a buck, I think I got 10.00 worth. That was in Wasilla at that outdoor clothing place across the road from the train station. They had a barrel full of them. I think you could burn snow with the stuff.

    I'm kind of a believer in it's what you have on you when you go over board that makes the difference. I've always got my folder on my belt and a pouch for possibles there too.

    I know one thing for sure, no matter what you carry you need something that does not need any high level of hand dexterity to get your fire going.

    Just experiment with nearly frozen hands to prove to your self what will work in a pinch!

    Been there, done that. The hard way, sucks!

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    I really like the idea of this and went to ebay to look at them, but noticed that they all use rubber O-rings. that seemed like an area for failure to me. what were your thoughts? my blast match or swedish match aren't as easy to use (blast match maybe) but how long will an O-ring last? a year or two? I really like the idea. it does seems to me that if it creates that much heat, it could dry out wet tinder with a few more pops, versus sparks which need dry tinder period, so that's a plus, right ?

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod in Wasilla View Post
    Now... if a guy could find a way to reliably make one in the field and didn't have to carry it with him all the time, that skill could come in handy if the matches got wet, the lighter fluid ran out, and the sparker was in the pack that fell over the cliff...

    This why I always have: A FireSteel rod, and Magnesium bar around my neck, 24/7/365.

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