In an effort to turn knowledge into experience, I decided I'd put my fire starting skills to the test. I'd recently bought a Swedish Fire Steel, to accompany my Doan Magnesium fire starter. I'd never used my Doan Magnesium starter, and kept it in my small survival kit. If it was ever deployed, it'd be in a rare Oh Shit! scenario. None the less, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head that it's use wouldn't be anywhere near as easy as it's made to sound. I was right. Doan Magnesium fire starter.
I ran two tests, on two days, under different conditions, and while the term "field test" sounds a bit romantic, I'll be honest and admit that the field was my back yard. Under the watchful eye of Ginger, my Springer Spaniel, and I simply attempted to light a small amount of kindling in my grill. Here's what I learned.
Test one took place shortly after rain had dampened all my kindling, but survival isn't something for bluebird days, so I set forth. The first thing I discovered is that the magnesium bar doesn't shave flakes as easily as I had thought. To make it more difficult, controlling where the shavings goes is impossible. Magnesium burns very hot, but it burns rather quickly too, so it's necessary to have a sufficient pile of shavings. This is especially true if your tinder is damp, like mine was. Field test 1-FAIL.
The next day, I decided I'd try again. This time I did a few things differently. To start with, I shaved a slightly larger pile of magnesium, and I shaved it on to a thick piece of paper, which allowed me to easily collect all the wayward shavings that didn't land in the pile. The other change I made was to use a single paper towel as well as some kindling to get a fire started. My justification was that I have seldom been in the outdoors without a paper product of some kind, be it a Dunkin Donuts napkin, or a roll of TP. The combination of paper towel, magnesium, and dry kindling had me fanning the flames of a small fire very quickly. It wasn't perfect, but if I'd needed a fire, I could have grown this one with a little work. Field test 2- PASS.
Here are my conclusions:
* Magnesium will work, but make sure you've got a quality bar of magnesium
* If possible, shave the magnesium onto a large, smooth surface
* Make sure you have good, dry tinder, and lots of it. This is really what makes the fire start.
* While the Doan flint works well, the Swedish Fire Steel really throws a spark effortlessly.
* Practice before you're in a situation where you really need a fire. I'll do this drill again.
In addition to fire starting, I bought a new knife, too. I'd wanted a fixed blade knife for some time, and decided to get a SOG Seal Pup. I haven't field tested it, and don't intend to. Rather I'll just carry it, and see how it works out. When the appropriate time comes, I'll make a full report.