A neighbor friend of mine came over last night and gave me a big bag of magnesium shavings after machining a VW block. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> I know the stuff will burn but haven't experimented with it yet. I don't know yet if you can start fire with it or if it needs a little help first. He did tell me that if you build a fire and toss the whole engine block into the fire it will burn extreamly hot. So hot you can't get within several feet of it. I plan to take a small amount to experiment with it today. Anybody have experience or know about using magnesium? I do have a mag fire striker that I carry as a backup to a bic lighter and use wax and pulp to make fire starters but thought this might be good for wet or damp wood? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />
Starting fires with things like sparker rods and/or magnesium is only slightly more productive than a bow/bit.....especially if you need a fire NOW. Compared to the lowly match or lighter, the stuff just can't compete. It is, however, fun to play with. You will need something hotter than a match to light magnesium, and thats were you'll want something like a Swedish Fire Steel...(which i only use to light camp stoves, if car camping.) A kitchen match or butane lighter, and a wax 'fire bunny' (my term <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />) will burn for 5+ minutes and light just about anything, wet or dry. Magnesium goes up like a flash of slow gunpowder...and blows away in the wind.
Chaz if its fine enough it can be lit with a single spark. Just use tiny bits to experiment. The secret to starting a camp fire with magnesium is to contain the magnesium flakes in something, like a dried leaf, such that you can set your fire striker on the leaf and then strike your knife down against it throwing sparks on the Magnesium. It burns at a very high temp, but it gives off a limited amount on heat so you must use a tinder so fine that it catches immediately from the magnesium fire. Consider the Mg to be like a match head. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
I took a small pinch and put it on the garage floor and lit with a small stick match. The shavings lit instantly and burned white hot. Although it burned fairly fast it did not flash like gunpowder. These are similar to shavings like you would get when drilling metal. I think a small amount under tinder with larger sticks over that would start a decent fire in damp conditions. It's raining here now so that will be my next experiment. I may make some wax firestarters with paper and mag shavings and test for results. I do have a fire steel for backup but haven't used it in the woods for starting fire. Until the Bic dies it stays in my first aid kit. BTW has anyone ever lit a ping pong ball? They go up like gasoline.
I would think of it more as an igniter, like a match, than a firestarter. I've used the magnesium block with the shaver and sparker to light a fire, but always by shaving the magnesium into a tinder like tissue paper or some kind of tinder to catch the burning magnesium and hold the fire. Of course I ended up doing it with cattails and dryer lint, and then realized I didn't really need the magnesium - so I don't bother with such things <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
The magnesium is pretty cool. My sister (dear God, this girl loves fire) knows a dozen or more ways to start a fire. I dutifully learned several methods and then made some cottonball and vaseline firestarters. Hey, it's my favorite method.
Why am I online instead of hiking?
Makes sense. It still may be useful stuff to have. Maybe save having to shave the mag since it's allready shaved but bulky. Looks like I have a little to much time on my hands. So I guess I could practice making fire in the wet.
Prompting bizzare thoughts about a firesteel sparked into a belly button... Dryer lint... ok. let's just not go there at all <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
this is what several hundred lbs of mg looks like when its on fire. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> we lit it off with several hundred lbs of thermite and a garden gnome. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
there is a pic of the set up and some more of the light emitted by the reaction.
Looks like your about 200 ft from the fire. I'll bet you can still feel the heat from where your standing in the photo. Once the stuff gets going it generates plenty of heat. If one is carefull and doesn't use a large quantity, I think it will help dry wet wood? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
Magnesium burns at 5,400 degree F. It'll burn clear down to your bones.
Magnesium is still used in weapons manufacturing such as HEAT rounds. High Explosive Anti Tank shells upon detonation the core of the shell burns through the armor plate spewing melted magnesium inside the vehicle. Nasty way to die.
Magnesium burns SUPER fast, i.e., it is not long lasting compared to a high quality match.
I worked at a sweltering plant in Central California at that time it was just one of a handful of plants in America that produced Magesium and Aluminum Powder. The Magnesium powder was stored in 55-gallon barrels, of which there were thousands in a warehouse over a football field long, and the Aluminum powder is used in rocket fuel. We were told that if our plant ever blew up it would level one forth of my home city which at that time had a population of 100,000+.
A by-product of the process in manufacturing Magnesium powder was called Draco powder which was incrediably votatile = just blowing on this stuff it would explode. The company did not have a secure plan to dispose of it properly nor safely. There was a mowed down, open field on company grounds where 10-Lb plastic bags of this Draco powder would be just left in the open. Myself and another employee carried a bag of this *^#*& out to that field when the rest of the plant was on temporary shutdown and everyone was pulled back to the farthest point of the property. We set this bag down on the ground and while walking back we got about 15-feet away, hearing a sound of POOF!
The bag somehow tore open, my production Foreman yelled to us at the top of his lungs RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, we booked running literally for our lives, hardhats flying, we got about 80-yards away when the ground shook violently like we were experiencing a serious earthquake and then we saw a mushroom cloud go a few hundred feet in the air. It was unbelieveable just how close I had come to being blown up and killed.
Did I mention I made $4.75 an hour?
FYI - The best Fire Starters I've used are home made.
Get a dry ex. cardboard egg carton, cutting it into twelve individual sockets. Over your kitchen stove on low heat take a 16-ounce empty metal can (ex Vegetable can or whatever) and slowly melt wax in it until the wax is totally liqued. Then using metal tongs dip each egg carton socket into the wax, making sure each one gets totally submerged in the wax.
Carefully place each socket away from the stove on say some sheets of paper towels to let dry. When they are cool and dry toss 4 to 6 each in a one liter Ziplock bag with a mini Bic lighter. Each Fire Starter socket will burn at least 5-minutes straight by itself when lit. The reason you submerge them in melted wax is it makes each totally waterproof and burnable.
For an eXtra boost of Fire you can dip a cotton ball in Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) and insert one of these into each of your egg carton sockets. I have some of both, the latter each socket with Vaseline will burn over 15-minutes straight even in a snowbank!
In the bottom of each of my Packs, I have a Ziplock Fire Starter kit for just in case.
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
I like to use the cottonballs saturated in petroleum jelly without anything else. They are super lightweight, take up very little pack space, and the bit of vaseline that gets on my hands when I use them makes up for the dry skin I get from alcohol santizers. And boy do they burn! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> I don't like eggs, so I seldom have egg cartons to 'donate to the cause.'
Why am I online instead of hiking?
Is the Draco powder only magnesium? Should I save the mag shavings for the 4th of july? The friend that gave me the stuff usually sweeps it up and tosses it in the dumpster. What about putting some shaving (a very small amount) in the cotton ball then putting it in the waxed egg carton? Since it burns so hot it may help dry wood. But would it burn up to fast?
Hi! I take sagebrush timber and make a nest-like thing. I shave the magnesium in the middle of my nest so I have a small pile. Throw some sparks on it and carefully give it some oxygen and turn it over. Fire.
My grandmas nephew was severely burned and nearly died in an accident involving grinding under a VW and the mag from the engine burning him.
As far as the vasiline cotton ball with mag goes, thats exactly what I do. I keep the vasiline cotton balls in a film canister, and when ready to use them I shave some mag off my block, and spark it with the sparker on the other side of the block. One night we had got a HUGE rain the day before, the ground was even still a little damp. I still got a fire going no problem with that method. Took some small drier limbs from the underside of a cedar tree and that was all it took to get it going.
Oh, so that explains it. I thought either something was wrong, or else I was just stupid, because I haven't been able to scrape anything off my bar, or get a decent spark, or get what few scrapings I did get to ignite.
That being said, I think I'll get out the cotton balls and petroleum jelly.
"Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls."
Loc: Central Texas
Some tricks with cotton balls: Like Frankendude says, make sure they are cotton; don't oversaturate - just get coat palms and rub a few cotton balls vigorously; store in water tight container like a mini-ziploc - cotton can still absorb water; Vaselined cotton lights with insignificant sparks. Try lighting them with 'found' and available spark sources - the things you will really have when the chips are down: flashlight battery, dead butane or fluid lighter (and remember, the cotton fill from a dead Zippo will light from the lighter's sparks), rocks on back of pocket knife (only carbon steel works here), pyrite on any hard surface.
One cotton ball will burn for about 30 seconds plenty hot to start wet kindling.
Can't agree more, Spock. There are a zillion other things that are easier to use. In fact, "a match" is a great choice. A fire steel works great on cotton balls and stoves, but not much else. I did have a bic butane fail on me last year but a match came to the rescue. My fire starter test...try scraping/lighting magnesium when its cold/windy/wet and see how much fun that is.