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Ferrocerium Rod: the Best Survival Alloy

Posted by Jamie Canterbury on July 04, 2018  

The ferrocerium rod is one of the most reliable fire-starting tools on the market, next to waterproof matches and lighters. Ferrocerium rods (or ferro rods) are particularly popular among survivalists due to their ease of use and the high degree at which they burn to start a fire.

Other methods, even lighters, and waterproof matches, can prove to be unsuccessful in certain survival situations. Flint and steel require that you have some char cloth to catch a spark. A magnesium bar requires that you have some way of flaking the bar and sparking the shavings. A bow drill or a fire plow requires quite a bit of maintenance and lots of work to get one ember. Even lighters and waterproof matches may not catch your tinder on the first try. Since ferrocerium rods create such high-temperature sparks, a survivalist is sure to catch flames with the first strike.

So, what is Ferrocerium?

In 1903 a brilliant Austrian scientist named Barron Carl Auer von Welsbach was experimenting with various combinations of rare earth metals. He created a mix of iron and cerium that created sparks when scratched. This new sparking iron alloy was named ferrocerium; from the Latin word for iron, ferrum.

This was the initial recipe for ferrocerium rods, but it was far from the last. Over the years the mix was modified. Eventually, Ferrocerium was throwing sparks at a temperature of 3000 degrees. The final breakdown of modern ferrocerium is as follows: 

30% Iron

30-35% Cerium

25% Lanthanum

Ferro and Fire

Ferro rods are made in many sizes and made to fit into several types of handles. The ferrocerium rod can also be struck in a variety of ways, using several different tools.

For survivalist use, thicker rods are typically best. Do not depend on thin ferrocerium rods as they can break while striking. A strong handle is a good addition on your ferrocerium rod but not necessary.

If your matches, lighter or bow drill falls into the water, there is the possibility they will not work again. If your ferro rod falls into the water, you can simply dry it off with your shirt and it can be struck immediately. This is one of the great benefits of a ferrocerium rod.  

Ferro rods are also great options for teaching children about the responsible use of fire in the wild. They are one of the easier fire-starting tools to use, as opposed to a bow drill, which makes them a feasible option for teaching children how to start fires. You can buy ferrocerium rods with long cords on them and strikers that are not edged; making them safe and easy to carry for kids.

Most importantly, the ferrocerium rod is one of the most efficient fire starters and one of the most sustainable. A ferro rod doesn’t run out of lighter fluid, requires excessive amounts of elbow grease or has a limited supply of matches. Ferrocerium rods take a significant amount of time and a sufficient amount of use to wear down to a point where they are no longer strikable.

Efficiency with Tinder 

Ferrocerium Rod- Tinder

90% of the challenge while using a ferrocerium rod is how to manage the tinder. Showering sparks from a ferrocerium rod is easy. If you can scrape a knife across the rod you will get sparks. (Be sure to scrape with the spine of your knife rather than wear down your sharp blade.) You must pay attention to where you are concentrating the sparks and make sure you are using sufficient tinder. Best practices for using a ferrocerium rod are to hold the rod as close to your dry tinder as possible and strike in on direction with force.


For a great minimalist, all-weather, survivalist, fire-starting tool pick up a ferrocerium rod. Even if you don’t wish to make the ferro rod your go-to fire starter, it’s a great idea to carry one as a back up options because of it’s reliability.

  • Typo: “…and strike in on direction with force.”

    David C on
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