Some people do not realise that there is a difference between a ferrocerium rod and a traditional fire steel used in flint and steel fire lighting. With this short article I hope to correct this misunderstanding so that new comers to 18th century living history are not misled.
The Ferrocerium Rod.
(1) A ferrocerium rod is not made of steel. Despite being advertised as a "fire steel", it is NOT a fire steel. A ferrocerium rod is made from manufactured flint material, much like the flint in a cigarette lighter.
(2) A person will learn little of fire lighting lore from using a ferrocerium rod unless they study other fire lighting methods. A ferrocium rod will light any small kindling material providing it is dry. It will not light a candle.
(3) If a ferrocium rod is dropped, it can break. The shorter the pieces of broken ferrocerium rod, the less affective its capacity to make fire.
(4) Skill wise, using a ferrocerium rod requires no more skill or knowledge than using a cigarette lighter or matches.
(5) Ferrocerium rod users often carry a limitied supply of cotton balls and other types of prepared kindling materials. When these are used, they cannot be re-used. This type of kindling is not readily available in a wilderness situation.
(6) The use of a ferrocerium rod relies on having a piece of steel or a knife in order to create sparks.
The Fire Steel.
(1) A fire steel is made from carbon steel and creates sparks when struck correctly by a hard sharp edged rock such as flint; chert, agate, quartz or other similar rock types.
(2) Using flint and steel leads to learning more about plant tinders and fire lore in general. The method of using flint and steel for making fire goes back several hundred years.
(3) If you drop a fire steel it is not likely to break, but if it does it can still be used for making fire.
(4) It takes a certain skill to use a flint and steel for fire lighting, it also requires some knowledge of plant tinders and different kindling types. Users of flint and steel tend to be more dedicated to research and experimentation and are better prepared for making fire in all weather conditions.
(5) Tinder is always carried along with a flint and steel. Tinder can be used to light a candle and a lit candle can be used to light damp kindling.
(6) Tinder plants are found in the outdoors and they are easily prepared. By using a tinderbox the tinder lasts longer and if you collect a fresh supply of tinder plant material whenever you see it you will never run out.