Continuing my Heat and Light Series, today we’re going to look at an alternative way to start a fire – with Steel Wool and Batteries. Like I’ve said in previous posts in this series, this is probably something that every old Boy Scout and every long time Prepper already knows. The point of this series is to get back to basics and cover things that new Preppers will need to get up to speed on – and to remind some of you about the skills and knowledge you have that you may have forgotten. :)
Very fine Steel Wool will act as a conductor and will carry the current from the positive to the negative end of a battery. It ignites because it isn’t designed to hold and carry that current. It doesn’t actually ‘burn’ in much of a usable capacity. Rather, it incinerates and provides a flame for a short time giving you an opportunity to put a flame to your tinder. Before you get your Steel Wool going, you need to make sure your tinder is ready (I suggest using a Vaseline soaked cotton ball) to put the flame to.
There are several ways to do this, including rubbing a 9 volt battery on the Steel Wool itself – which works fine but burns up more Steel Wool than you really need to. What I prefer to do is take a small amount of Steel Wool and roll it basically into a thick wire that is long enough to connect the positive and negative ends of your batteries. Once you have your igniter rolled, hold the battery and one end of the igniter on the positive (or negative, doesn’t matter) terminal of the battery and with your other hand, connect the other side of the igniter to the other terminal on the battery. You will almost immediately get a spark and flame from the Steel Wool. As soon as you have an actual flame, touch the Steel Wool to your tinder and blow lightly if you need to. Your fire should be started!
There are a couple small caveats here. 1) You need to use fine Steel Wool – that means buying 0000 or quadruple-ought Steel Wool. Other types will work, but this works best. 2) You can use a 9-volt, 2 AA’s or combinations of other batteries.
Finally, the intent of this article is to show/remind you of an alternative method of starting a fire and some other cheap ideas of things you can store for fire making. I’m not advocating carrying around Steel Wool – I’m advocating having as many possibilities to start a fire as you can. I carry a couple lighters with me everywhere I go, but I’ve never carried Steel Wool. One way to look at it is, in a TEOTWAWKI situation you may have friends and/or loved ones that didn’t prep as well as you. They probably have a flashlight though – if you give them some Steel Wool out of your storage, you can gift them the ability to start a fire.
The following video shows the entire process from start to finish: