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I need some advice on fire strikers

Geoff Keyes

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What is your preferred material?  What is a good HT?  Does it help to HT the flint?


I made some, but I'm not happy with the results.   Some are 1080, some are mystery steel that I have been assuming is 1095 (old hex stock plumbing tools).  I let them cook in a hot fire (1800F+) and water quenched.  Tempered in a pot of boiling water, just to prevent fractures.


Some spark ok, the 1080 don't seem to spark at all.  What am I doing wrong?



"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."


I said that.


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton


So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.


Grant Sarver

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I've had trouble with coil spring, but old files are usually okay.  I do what you do, overheat and hold for large grain, water quench, minimal temper.    If all else fails, case hardening always works.  I have a can of Casenit compound.  Heat steel to red, dip in powder, heat back to red, water quench.  That's standard practice on new flintlock frizzens, investment cast from 4140.  


As for flint, that depends on the type.  The harder the better, except obsidian doesn't work well.  Agate is usually good, but the closer to a true flint you can get the better.  It's all cryptocrystalline quartz, but true flint has smaller structure.  A lot of North American "flint" is the larger-grained variety, known as chert.  Whatever your local Native American tribes were using for their best knives and scrapers pre-contact is usually the best type for the area, even if it was imported from some distance.  They had 14,000 years or more to figure that out, after all. B)  European flint is much nicer, but harder to work.  

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I've made many from old files. I have also ordered W-1 drill rod for some.


One thing I have found helpful is to do a 3-cycle normalize just like we do with blades. The only two I've ever had to crack were ones I rushed from forging straight to quench.

Always clean the striking edge to bright before you harden.


A thinner edge generally sparks better than a thick one.


I always water quench and only harden the part that strikes.


I don't know if it does any good or not, but after hardening I've started boiling the finished strikers in water for about an hour to perhaps relieve them a little bit... might be a wasted step but it seems to me it is helpful.

Always use a sharp edge on your flint.


We have a rock on my granddad's farm that most would call flint. It varies from translucent white to black, with grays and blues... very pretty as rocks go. But this stuff is hard. It'll eat up your copper knapping tools in short order. It appears from my finds that the native population got their flint/chert elsewhere and didn't fool with this stuff. But for a gun flint or a fire steel it can't be beat. I keep plenty on hand.







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I went to a garage repair place and got a chunk of broken garage door spring. Amazing how much steel you get in a 2 foot length of coil spring. Guessing it is 1095. Works great. Shape it to a square cross section to have a nice flat on it and grind it shiny after heat treat. I've always heated to just a very dull red and quenched in water - no temper. Sparks like crazy.


One of my favorite ones I made was dual purpose. Made one similar to Don's second from the bottom picture out of coil spring so it wasn't nearly as thick. Except instead of having a flat end, I drew it down to a point. Makes an awesome leather punch.


Geoff, if this is for your wanderer kit, (if you haven't already) you may want to look up Hudson Bay Tobacco tins https://www.tdcmfg.com/product-page/hudson-bay-tobacco-box  (can find them cheaper than the one shown - was just the first link that showed up). They make a great thing to hold a length of manila rope (birds nest), some char cloth, the flint and the steel. Added bonus is they have a 6X mag lens in the lid. I cut out a piece of thin leather to place between the lens and the "hard stuff" to protect the lens from scratches.

Edited by Bill Schmalhofer
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 1/13/2021 at 7:06 AM, Don Abbott said:

We have a rock on my granddad's farm that most would call flint.


I've been meaning to comment on this, but keep getting sidetracked by work:  What you have there is chalcedony.  Not common around here in east TN, but where it does occur there's a lot of it.  And yeah, you won't see many stone tools made from it.  But when you do, they're masterpieces.  And might be why the native peoples didn't use copper knapping tools...;)  Try an antler tine for pressure flaking, or a steel wire nail with the point ground off.    A buddy of mine made a little point (Hamilton incurvate) out of some of the blue chalcedony from that formation.  Pretty, and outperformed all other local stone when actually used.

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Thanks for the information. I've always wondered what it's called.


I have found unbroken nodules the size of a football.


I'll try to get a picture of a couple points I have managed from it. But you talk about awesome gun flints... they are worth the effort.

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  • 1 month later...

I'll second or third the use of old files and W1.


Haven't made any in a while, work getting in the way of having fun.  Anyway, I have done a couple of larger "household" strikers out of 1018 with a 1084 striking surface forge welded on just for fun and they worked well.  Just normalize and water quench just the striking surface, maybe about an 1/8" or so deep.  I do the draw back with a map gas torch, the tail or whatever you want to call it gets blue and the hard edge barely enough to sizzle water, then coat with bee's wax.  And of course test strike before boxing.  Before and after quench I clean the striking edge up on a less than perfect 80 grit belt to get to good steel.



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