Pro Ferro Rod Tips from Survival Instructor, Dan Wowak

Are you looking for some hot tips on ferro rod use? Maybe you are ready to take fire making to the next level? Maybe it is time you become a fire wizard? Maybe…well….you get the point! Here are 5 tips that will help you how to get the most out of your ferrocerium rod.

Tip #1: Prep It

Wrapping 1” duct tape around the top of the ferro rod offers a variety of positives. It provides a handle that will allow you to more securely hold onto the rod in wet and cold conditions. The tape also offers a traveling repair item. From a ripped backpack to a broken spork, duct tape will give a temporary fix in the field. Duct tape is also perfect for wilderness first aid. It helps when making bandages or taping a split in place. Most importantly though, duct tape is a viable fire starter/extender. Simply rip away small stands of tape. This will expose the tiny fibers the tape is made of. Continue this process gathering a generous amount of strands. Next strike the ferro rod into the wad of tape strands.  The small fibers and adhesive on the tape are both flammable. So with a carefully positioned spark fire is created. This burning wad of tape strips offers both a flame extender for existing fires and also a fire starter if no tinder is available.

Lighting duct tape with ferro rod

Tip #2: Scrape It

A ferro rod is usable all the way to the core. Every ounce of material is a spark. This is important to understand because there are going to be times when more than a single spark is needed.  Using pressure but no speed against the rod will remove un-ignited material from the rod.  Gather this material in a pile and when ready to start a fire throw a single spark into the pile. The pile will burst into an enormous fireball. This method is perfect in damp environments, when materials are a bit wet or when tinder sources are not small enough to light with just a single small spark.

Ferrocerium rod striking tools and knife

Tip #3: Strike It

The ferro rod on its own is a useless item. For the rod to be of any value it is important that a striker can remove material from it.  Although many ferro rods come with a striker attached it is important to have other options. Some knives have a sharp spine. This is the back side of the knife opposite the blade. A sharp spines like this is a tremendous resource. Because the knife handle is larger than the supplied striker, it gives the user a better grip which in turn means more pushing power.  With that enhanced pushing power more material can be removed from the rod, meaning more sparks – which is a good thing! Another tool that is fantastic at scraping the ferro rod is a multi-tool. The saw blade on many multi-tools have an extremely sharp spine and because many individuals carry them along it is important to mention. To check if the spine of the knife or multi-tool saw is sharp enough to use as a scraper just try it against the ferro rod and see if sparks appear.

Clean up rusty ferro rod

Tip #4: Repair It

With heavy use and inconsistent striking pressure against the rod, ripples, or what experts refer to as speed bumps, begin to form. Initially, these bumps cause no issue in the performance of the fire starter but provide the user with an indication that their technique could use some help. Over time if the technique is not corrected the ripples will get worse and will ultimately render the rod useless. To correct this problem, grab a standard file, a comfortable seat, the rippled ferro rod and get to work. Run the file across the ferro rod while rolling the rod back into the file. This motion will begin to remove the ripples and keep the rod round.  Continue this method until the rod is smooth again.

*Be advised that during this restoration there will be showers of hot sparks so be sure to conduct this activity in an outdoor area, clear of any flammable materials.

Tip #5: Enjoy It

The ferro rod requires practice, but due to its makeup, it offers the user thousands of strikes. Be sure to practice proper technique but most of all enjoy using it. Experiment with natural and man-made materials. Learn what materials work in your environment and what methods work best for you. In the end, as long as the fire is burning success has been achieved!

Fire Starting Emergency Kit

Be ready for everything with this Fire Starting Emergency Kit from UCO.

About The Author


Dan Wowak, Owner and Instructor, of Coalcracker Bushcraft and the Appalachian Bushman School, has been an avid outdoorsman since childhood. His love and passion for the outdoors began while fishing and hiking with his grandfather in the hills of Appalachia. Over the years, he continued pursuing his love for the outdoors through backpacking, camping, hunting, and trapping.

As time went on, Dan’s enthusiasm for the outdoors compounded with his drive for reaching his physical and mental limits. The collision of these two passions launched him into the unforgiving, highly dynamic world of survival and bushcraft. He spent years honing this craft and was driven to inspire individuals to pursue a love of wilderness skills. Dan has been formally teaching and sharing knowledge of survival and wilderness living for several years. Most recently Dan has had the opportunity to put his lifetime of knowledge and foundational survival approach to the test on History Channel’s Alone Television Series.