Ferrocerium (or Ferro. for short) rods are a favourite tool for survivalists, preppers, and outdoors people to carry as they offer an easy, efficient, and quick way to start a fire under almost any circumstances. They work very well, even after being submerged in water. They are made of metal so they are not subject to moisture buildup, or damage from wear and tear.
Ferrocerium is a man-made metallic material that gives off hot sparks at temperatures of 1,650 °C (3,000 °F) when scraped against a rough surface. Many times, people who are new to practicing survival and bushcraft skills will often purchase a Flint Steel / Survival Steel / Ferro Rod / Ferrocerium rod (they are all the same thing) and throw it in their pack for later use.
Often incorrectly called “flint”, these rods bear no chemical relationship to the mineral flint, which has historically been used to generate sparks. In traditional flint-and-steel fire-starting systems (using actual flint), it is the tiny shards of iron produced in the striking process that burn, not the flint.
While Ferrocerium functions in a similar way to actual flint-and-steel in fire starting, ferrocerium takes on the role that steel played in traditional methods. When it with the striker, small shavings are removed quickly enough that heat generated by friction is enough to ignite those shavings, converting the metal to the oxide, i.e., the sparks are tiny pieces of burning metal. The sparking is due to cerium’s low ignition temperature of between 150 and 180 °C (302 and 356 °F).
When it comes time to use the rod to start a fire, people are often surprised by the fact that almost no sparks come out of the rod when used the first few times. This is because the rods are covered by a chemical when they are produced to prevent accidental ignition during shipping. Imagine a 16m (53ft) trailer full of Ferrocerium rods tipping over on the highway!
In this short video, Wolfmaan demonstrates how to quickly and efficiently remove the factory coating from a Ferrocerium rod using sandpaper and a few minutes work.