Our first flint and steel fire. (c) J.S. Reinitz

Our first flint and steel fire. (c) J.S. Reinitz


If at first you don’t succeed, keep showering sparks.

After a few attempts, we started our first primitive fire this week. My 11-year-old son and I used an old time steel striker with a piece of flint to scrape sparks onto a bed of dry leaves and dryer lint inside a tower of twigs.

It didn’t take off right away. Only one in every three or four passes generated a single spark, which fell onto our tinder pile and immediately winked out.

When we tired of the flint, we moved on to a modern version, a Gerber Strike Force. It works on the same principle but produces a greater yield of sparks.

Still nothing took (I’m guessing the dryer lint has a high concentration of fire-resistant cat hair), so we added a small char cloth tinder patch that came with the striker when I bought it years ago. Finally, a spark caught the patch, which slowly smoldered. We nursed it with hay and leaves until the fire began to burn on its own, then we kept adding leaves until the twigs caught.