How To Make a Striker
for a Flint and Steel
Fire Kit

Fire is one of the blacksmiths most fundamental tools. Every day we use it in one form or another to make our coffee so we can get out to the workshop! Yes once in our shop we need it to also heat our steel.

Today we use our matches and Bic lighters to start our coal or gas forges and hardly think anything of it. Before the invention of matches our best option for lighting a fire was with a flint and steel.

At the end of this article I have included a link to a short video of the process of making a striker.

This primitive method of fire making is actually surprisingly easy to master and works well even in windy conditions. The creation of the "striker" and its use is the focus of this article.

For a complete set of fire making tools you need the striker, the flint, and char-cloth.

The striker is a piece of hardened tool steel in a convenient shape to have the flint cut sparks off it. Strikers come in all shapes and you can be quite creative when you design one to make. They all have a long straight side that the flint can easily cut the sparks off.

Common styles are C shaped or J shaped. But I have seen historical examples in the shapes of snakes or dragons or laminated, or with punched holes etc.

The striker I describe is of the simple J shape.

Files that can be used to make strikers. The Large flat one is a lot of work to stretch out a thin shape such as the C shaped one in the picture. I used the middle Rat-tail file in the video demonstration.

This is the flat bar with the sharp point. Width of the flat bar is about 3/8th of an inch.

Method of Construction of the Striker
Use an old file for your tool steel. I used a worn out rat-tail file. I have also had good success with spring steel and W1 or O1 tool steel.

  1. Forge 6 inches into a flat bar shape 1/8 inch thick and 3/8 wide.
  2. Create a long tapering sharp point on the end.
  3. Curl the tip to a small 1/4 inch round circle. Done over the edge of the anvil.
  4. Reheat and quench the curl in water then hammer over the horn to create a hook shape. This is done on the hard axis of the flat bar ( you are bending the rectangular shape against the wide axis to leave the 1/8 thick edge as the striking surface).
  5. Tighten this curved hook so that it will fit comfortably in your hand.
  6. Reheat and use the cut off hardy to cut the piece off from the parent bar so that from top to the cut is 4 to 5 inches long.
  7. Refine the cut portion so that the corners are tucked in (like a popsickle stick).
  8. Take an over all low orange heat and let air cool to room temperature. This is called normalising and helps reduce some of the stress of forging the steel.
  9. Heat the steel to just beyond the magnetic temperature (usually a dull orange but may be different for your piece of steel).
  10. Pull the striker out of the fire holding it in tongs by the curl. Test it with a magnet until the straight striking edge just starts to pull with the magnet.
  11. Quench the whole striker in the slack tube. Swish around until cold.
  12. Grind one side to bare metal ( this is the wide side and over the whole tool).
  13. Take a large bar 1 inch square and heat to a bright yellow.
  14. Take the large bar out of the forge and rest on the anvil and hold the straight edge of the striker on the hot steel. The unground side should be resting on the hot bar.
  15. Watch for the temper colors to appear. You want a light to dark straw color on the working edge. Once you reach that color quench to lock it in.
  16. Repeat the tempering on the handle portion of the striker. Here you can go darker to red or blue. Quench again.

Now your striker is ready for testing.

This is the char cloth can. You can see the pieces of towel and cotton yarn that have become charred.

How to Use Your Striker
Your stiker is ready, now you will have to find the right type of stone that will be hard enough to throw sparks from your striker. Flint is the best. Chert works as will quarts. I have had good luck with iron pyrite as well.

You may have to try a few different types of stone. You need a clean fresh break and a sharp edge of the stone that will shave the steel.

You use the striker by striking the flint with a sharp glancing blow. Try it a few times and you should get a spark. You can also strike the steel with the flint.

To Start a Fire
You will need a tin can with a tight fitting lid and some cotton cloth (old towel cut into strips works well). You will need to put this cloth in the can with the lid on it and heat it up until the cloth chars. You don't need a really hot flame so your forge may not be the best solution. A campfire works well. It will smoke a bit so do it out doors.

Once your cloth is charred and the can is cool to the touch you can try starting a fire.

  1. Take the lid off the can.
  2. Have your tinder ready (birch bark, strips of newspaper, cedar bark etc.)
  3. Take your striker in your left hand and strike with the flint in your right hand.
  4. The striking motion should direct sparks into the open can of char cloth.
  5. After several strikes a spark should catch on the cloth as a small ember.
  6. Have your tinder ready as you slowly blow this ember into a small flame. Once you have flame light your tinder which then lights your main fire.
  7. Cap your char cloth can immediatedly to smother the ember or all of your char-cloth will burn up.

This is nice little project and if you do historical re-creations or demonstrations what better way to light your forge.

These are some different styles of strikers I have made over the years. The middle one is the J shaped one I made in the video. Use your imagination for designs.

The video is a largish file 55 Mb It will download in a few minutes with highspeed but if you have dialup be prepared for hours. The video itself is about 9 minutes long.