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Old 12-10-2009, 02:07 PM
tankman1989 tankman1989 is offline
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Lightbulb Magnesium fire starters - An easier and MUCH cheaper way to get magnesium powder



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I was writing in another article of supplies for a winter car kit/bag and I wrote about how I used to use magnesium/firesteel bars to start fires at times. I often found it unnecessary to use magnesium powder on an ordinary camping trip when a lighter would work, but it was good experience.

I found a few problems with the magnesium bars and these could be monumental and have severe consequences in a survival situation.

First is the time it takes to shave an adequate pile of magnesium (which is always relative to what has to be lit, such as kindling and wood - dryness). Depending upon your location, light available, wind and temperatures, it can be a difficult task even in ideal conditions (noon light, sitting at a picnic table).

Second is collecting all the little pieces of magnesium that can fly all over the place, especially if it is windy! You can loose 70%+ to wind at times. Also, the shavings do not all fall straight down into your collection pile. They end up in a circular area surrounding your central mag strip location which makes collecting the tiny shavings even more difficult as the fine powder often sticks to the surface on which it falls, thus losing even more powder!

Wind. Even a small gust of wind can rob you of all your hard work.

Light - in low lighting it is difficult to see where the shavings are going and you may lose some, or a lot this way.

HOW TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Carry a lighter for all other situations and but powdered magnesium to carry instead of a bar of magnesium! I bought 1lb (which is about 16 mag bars approximately) for $10 at a gun show. This stuff is great and is incredible at starting fires! I'm sure you can figure out a way to package it, some suggestions are a film canister or a prescription bottle.

Weight shouldn't be an issue and even if this stuff gets wet it still lights. Pack 3-4x as much as you think you need and if you REALLY NEED it, it can start a roaring fire in a hurry. Imagine how long it would take to shred an entire bar of magnesium by hand, in the middle of the woods, while you are wet and freezing? Now if you have an ounce pre-shaved, heat is seconds away.

I'll make a video of a fire started by 1oz of magnesium and post it.

LMK your thoughts on this or if I have missed any down-sides of carrying it pre-shaved.

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Old 12-10-2009, 02:22 PM
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or do yourself a cheap and easier favor and carry vaseline cotton balls and a ferro rod. one strike from the rod and you got an instant small fire hot enough to catch the rest of your tinder and start your fire.
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Old 12-10-2009, 03:56 PM
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I have never had a problem with a magnesium firestarter, even in wet cold conditions. However, a bag of the stuff does sound usefull.
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:01 PM
tankman1989 tankman1989 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royal Dragon View Post
I have never had a problem with a magnesium firestarter, even in wet cold conditions. However, a bag of the stuff does sound usefull.
Do you not find it a PITA to shave off the magnesium? Have you had to do it in a windy locale, or with semi-frozen hands?

My point isn't that the magnesium is a bad method to start fires, just that it is time consuming and cumbersome, not to mention that the magnesium blocks are highway robbery in price!
Old 12-10-2009, 04:03 PM
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If you know how to do it, it shaves easy, so no it's not a PITA. As for wind, you just put your back to it, and you are good.

I have never needed more than a pile the size of a nickel to start a fire even in damp conditions, so it's really not hard at all once you known how.

Last edited by Vanishing Nomad; 12-10-2009 at 04:17 PM..
Old 12-10-2009, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stcavmp77 View Post
or do yourself a cheap and easier favor and carry vaseline cotton balls and a ferro rod. one strike from the rod and you got an instant small fire hot enough to catch the rest of your tinder and start your fire.
i agree. never been a fan of the magnesium blocks, its just so much easier to carry a ferro rod and other tinder like vas/c. balls, lint, alcohol pads, hand sanitizer, and i always carry a couple wetfire cubes in case conditions get bad. the magnesium powder does seem like a solution to the problem tho, ill look for some online sources
Old 12-10-2009, 04:34 PM
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The mag blocks offer thousands of fires, in a super compact space, which is why I like them. However, there is a learning curve to use them, and some skill maintenance required. Since they were originally my back up plan (I used a strike force rod), I realized they would be useless without periodic practice with them, so i just began to use them for everything to stay in practice. Once I got really good with them I found they were really easy to use so I just never went back.

My next thing will be hand and bow drills. Once I master them, The mag blocks will go back to just being emergency back up
Old 12-10-2009, 04:37 PM
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The problem with magnisum is when its a small already its way to easy to light.. and if you have air and heat you can light it in a bag... just saying but today I had a bic lighter in the car and since it was cold it wouldnt light I was suprized

thats why I carry 4 ways to get fire.. lighter.. matchs mag stick and firesteel I also carry more then 1 type of tinder sure cotton balls work but when it comes down to I need fire or I die I want options incase something doesnt work right off the bat
Old 12-10-2009, 04:38 PM
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did find some here, tho it seems kinda pricey:
http://scienceforyou.net/pyro-metals...r/prod_12.html

and they also had these, also pricey, but would be sooooo fun!
http://scienceforyou.net/exploding-r...k/prod_67.html
Old 12-10-2009, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tankman1989 View Post
I was writing in another article of supplies for a winter car kit/bag and I wrote about how I used to use magnesium/firesteel bars to start fires at times. I often found it unnecessary to use magnesium powder on an ordinary camping trip when a lighter would work, but it was good experience.

I found a few problems with the magnesium bars and these could be monumental and have severe consequences in a survival situation.

First is the time it takes to shave an adequate pile of magnesium (which is always relative to what has to be lit, such as kindling and wood - dryness). Depending upon your location, light available, wind and temperatures, it can be a difficult task even in ideal conditions (noon light, sitting at a picnic table).

Second is collecting all the little pieces of magnesium that can fly all over the place, especially if it is windy! You can loose 70%+ to wind at times. Also, the shavings do not all fall straight down into your collection pile. They end up in a circular area surrounding your central mag strip location which makes collecting the tiny shavings even more difficult as the fine powder often sticks to the surface on which it falls, thus losing even more powder!

Wind. Even a small gust of wind can rob you of all your hard work.

Light - in low lighting it is difficult to see where the shavings are going and you may lose some, or a lot this way.

HOW TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
Honestly, I think you can solve the problem by practicing the skill more. I used to encounter those problems when younger, but practice and experience solved all of those issues. Though I agree to carry a lighter at all times.
Old 12-10-2009, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haha49 View Post
The problem with magnisum is when its a small already its way to easy to light.. and if you have air and heat you can light it in a bag... just saying but today I had a bic lighter in the car and since it was cold it wouldnt light I was suprized

thats why I carry 4 ways to get fire.. lighter.. matchs mag stick and firesteel I also carry more then 1 type of tinder sure cotton balls work but when it comes down to I need fire or I die I want options incase something doesnt work right off the bat
Reply]
I actually advocate having multiple ways of startiinng fires. i just use the Mag blocks the most. My kit has

1. like 10 mag blocks stuck in everything from compass pouch, first aid kit, knife sheath to just randomly thrown in my bag.

2. A fire steel in the form of a Strike Force.

3. a variety if tinder/ignitors, from the fuel cubes that come with my strike force, dryer lint and a bunch of other things commonly found in the camping section of walmart or target, REI and such places as that.

4. Water proof matches.

5. Strike on anyting matches.

6. My trusty Zippo (that only works when i's freshly filled)

7. Like my Mag Blocks, I also have birthday candles strew about my gear all over the place, including knife sheath pockets, compass pouch and first aid kit.

One important comment about magnesium, in block form it cannot ignight. Powered in container, it not only can, but with the force of high powered fireworks. This is why Military firestarters are in block form that must be scrapped, rather than in power form.

Remember, having a large array of fire starting methods is not only essential for survival, a darn good idea, and just practical common sense, it's also a whole he!! of a lot of fun!!
Old 12-10-2009, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vicdotcom View Post
Honestly, I think you can solve the problem by practicing the skill more. I used to encounter those problems when younger, but practice and experience solved all of those issues. Though I agree to carry a lighter at all times.
Reply]
Agreed. I used to practice the mag fire block lots and lots, but now I can get one to work no matter what, under most conditions with little effort and recent prior practice. Once you get it, it's like riding a bike, you never forget.
Old 12-10-2009, 07:53 PM
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I've always been a fan of the vaseline cotton balls. I still carry a magnesium block in my pack, along with an extra container of vaseline cotton balls, but my ferro rod, a few scraps of rubber innertube, and vaseline balls are in the pouch on my knife sheath, which is always on me.

Just make sure a stray spark or ember doesn't make it's way to your container of pre-shaved magnesium. It takes a lot to get a block of magnesium to burn, the only time I've ever really seen it is in vehicle fires, since it has to get up to around 1200 degrees F to get a self sustaining burn. Getting a shaving that hot is far easier than getting the block that hot.

Junk yards could be a good place to find magnesium without buying the blocks, as there are several car parts made out of magnesium, as well as some tire rims. Late 90's and early 2000's ford explorers, and probably other ford vehicles as well, have magnesium steering wheels, and transmission cases. (see vehicle fire reference) Same with a lot of newer vehicles having magnesium intake manifolds. Generally the newer the vehicle, the more magnesium. Also some lightweight bike frames. Flares and fireworks have powdered magnesium in them as well. Old VW beetles have around 60 lb of Magnesium in them.
Old 12-11-2009, 04:16 PM
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Preshaving magnesium is a good idea. Especially if it's cold and you need a fire in a hurry to dry off. Time is of the essence.

Good call tankman1989
Old 12-11-2009, 04:22 PM
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Except when a spark form you fire somehow gets in the container.
Old 12-11-2009, 04:29 PM
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close the lid first. or, why not keep it in little single-serve foil packets you could take out one at a time?
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