Being able to make or light a fire is part of basic preparedness, so with that in mind, I wanted to present a very inexpensive magnesium and ferro rod fire starter. My cost was about $2.50 at Harbor Freight. So, I give you my:
The best part first- It works.
It works pretty well as a matter of fact. It works real well for something that costs $2.50
I've heard people say that some of the cheap Chinese fire steels don't work- they say that either it won't throw sparks, or that the magnesium doesn't catch the sparks and light on fire.
The Harbor Freight Fire Starter throws a lot of sparks, and the Mg lit right up.
I tried it with sparks on dryer lint and had no trouble getting the lint to ignite. Then I tried scraping some of the magnesium into a small pile, and they lit from the sparks. Then I tried it with a piece of lint and shaved magnesium onto the lint and again, it lit right up.
In the picture, the brown blob is the charred remains of the lint and the greyish white pile is the ashes from the burned magnesium.
Of the 4 knives I tested, the one that threw the best sparks was...
The $1 Ozark Trails knife From Wal Mart!
It performed even better than the Mora knife . So I think I may try to find a way to disassemble the knife and see if I can find room for it in my Altoids tin emergency kit that I carry when I'm hiking or biking.
FREE Bonus!: Here's a quick review of the Ozark Trails Wal Mart knife:
It's a knife for a buck.
It cuts stuff.
Not real well, but it will cut. It would come in handy for cutting plastic sheeting or light cordage and that sort of thing. It makes a great steel for using with a fire starter.
The serrated edge actually work better as saw teeth. It saws wood better than it cuts paper. It would be very handy for cutting notches into wood for traps, shelters, spears etc.
One problem with the blade its that it's serrated for about 3/4 of it's length and doesn't provide enough usable regular edge. a 50/50 or 70/30 ratio would have been better.
As long as you check it and make sure the locking mechanism is solid and is functioning, it's worth including in a survival or emergency bag if you're on a tight budget. But I certainly wouldn't count on it as my only, or primary blade.
Now back to the fire starter- The scraper blade that included seems to work best if you use the 'short' edge. The spot where thet cut the blade into sections. Holding teh blade long ways in your hand and using the end of it, gives you more leverage than holding it cross ways and using the long edge to scrape.
The Ozark Trail blade worked better as a scraper than the included scraper did. The scraper also fails as a striker because it's painted. Cut a section from an old bike innertube (also Known as a Ranger Band) and strap them to each other for a fire making kit.
I'd have zero hesitations in recommending the Harbor Freight Magnesium Firestarter, and pairing it up with a $1 Wal Mart knife.