I don't think this subject has been discussed much here at B&B, so I thought I would describe how to make a simple striker(s) for flint & steel use, right at home. I was communicating with someone today & I was going to tell them how to do this, when it occurred to me that this would be a good topic for those who would like to make their own striker(s) relatively inexpensively, rather than purchasing one. I have both the type I will describe & own ones that were made for me.The ones I made at home, work just as good as the ones I have purchased, but cost me less being homemade, and were easy to fashion. I like the ones I have purchased, but really other than "looks"/appearance, the work the same as the ones I have made myself. Off times I have someone I meet or know & they want to try this F&S stuff, but don't want to spend a lot of $$ to get into doing it. So I tell them the same thing as I am about to type here. I hope my description is adequate & easily understood, as it will take me longer to type it out than it would for me to make 2-3 strikers.
So here's the simple way to make inexpensive strikers:
----------------------------------------------------------------How to make homemade F&S striker(s)
You don't need anything special for a simple striker. An old metal working file made of tool steel,(or a "new" file, if ya want to purchase one for this project), can be made into a striker...actually up to 2-3 strikers depending on the size of the file & if you want , just make one striker from a file & you will still have a usable file for filing metal with the leftover original file part. After removing just one striker, the file will usually be just a bit shorter than before, but still usable as a file. Suggested tools to do this homemade striker process , are having a hammer, a vise, and a grinder, (either bench top or hand held) or access to them, as this will speed up & simplify the process. If you do not have access to a hammer, a vise or a grinder, I will give you some suggestions below, on optional methods to do this project. A pair of pliers would be very helpful also.A locking/vice type pliers or similar would be an excellent type of pliers to use. Making the striker blank(s)
If you have a spare file, or have purchased a new one, all you have to do is take the file, put it in a vise, with the vise gripping the flat sides of the file, while having the file wrapped in a rag cloth with about 2-3 inches of the file end sticking out of the vise. Taking a hammer, hit the flat side of the file to snap it off from the main part of the file. The cloth is to keep the file striker piece from flying away , & to help prevent injuries. You can repeat the above process at least 2-3 times to get 2-3 striker blanks, dependent on the size you want. As I said, this will depend on the files size. Start at the end that you would use to file, not the handle or tang end, if you want to still be able to use the file for its intended purpose. Or simply knock off the tang using the method I described above, & then use the rest of the file for your strikers. Just figure out what size striker you want & divide that length into the file length, minus the missing handle tang. For example, if the file is 9 inches long without the tang, you could make 3- 3 inch strikers.
Once you have snapped off a piece of file there is another step. Usually when you snap off the file piece, it will have a jagged edge where you snapped it. You will want to grind this end to dull the sharp edge, so you reduce the chance of injury from being cut from a sharp edge. The grinding process creates heat, so you want to do a few things for safety & to keep the metal from losing its' temper. I suggest that you use eye protection of some kind, & some gloves. not a cloth rag. A rag can get caught in the spinning grinder & possibly cause serious injury. Hold the striker piece in a vise-grip pliers, or at least a sturdy set of pliers, if you have a strong grip to hold the piece while grinding it on a bench grinder, or use the pliers of either type when using a hand grinder. If you have a vise, you can put the piece in the vise & do the grinding while the piece is clamped in the vise. As I said, below, I will mention some optional methods to try if the vise & grinder are not available. Grinding
(Both methods should be read before doing this part of the process
) Bench grinder method
Taking the striker piece in the pliers, slowly & carefully bring the end of the piece onto the working platform of the grinder. Slowly & gently touch the grinder spinning stone & round off the edges a little bit at a time. Do not leave the piece up against the stone for too long, as the heat of the friction can take out the temper of the steel, & you will have a more difficult process to make your striker. So, just grind a bit, then take the piece away for a short time, & then grind again, & keep repeating the process until the edges have been dulled. You can dip the piece into water to help cool it, but it is not necessary if you are careful & take the time to let the steel keep cool. Once you are finished with the broken end(s), you will want to adjust your plier grip, to hold the piece sideways on the flat sides, with the ends sticking out equally from the pliers on each side, but keeping the pliers tips in from the narrow edge about 1/4 inch to prevent hitting the pliers on the grinder. You can do this using your hands, instead of pliers, but I do not recommend it. Once again, repeat the process that you did for the ends but this time, move the edge of the piece from side to side against the spinning grindstone slowly & gently, taking the file teeth off the narrow edge of the file. You can repeat this second grind process on the opposite narrow side if you like, or just leave the files edge teeth on one narrow side for using it as a "mini file/saw" if needed. I also do not recommend grinding off the teeth of the flat sides. Leave them with teeth to help hold the file when striking & to use as a "mini" file if ever needed. Make sure that you try to "evenly" grind this narrow edge, so that it keeps as straight an edge as possible. If you grind too much you will have an uneven surface when you are striking the steel & get less contact with the stone & thus less sparks. You do not want it to be too concave, or too convex either , as the same lack of sparks flying will result.Vise & hand grinder method:
After clamping the piece into the vice firmly, with the sharp end(s) you want to grind, sticking out far enough so that you can grind the sharp end(s), without grinding the vice. Follow the same process as described with the bench method, only you are bringing the grinders stone to the piece, instead of bringing the piece to the grinder. Once the end(s) are dulled, remove the striker from the vice & re set it for the narrow side(s) to be ground. once again follow the same process as the Bench grinder method.
Note: you can also grind by holding the piece in a pliers & then grinding with the hand grinder to do this, although it is not really very safe to do it. Take extra safety precautions, for one example, like not having someone near you , unless behind you, if you try using the pliers & hand grinder method. Safety comes first.
If you have completed the above processes, you now have a striker, or strikers. Optional methods: No vice?
You can use your body weight, or some other weight & do the breaking part. Just place the cloth wrapped part you want to remove, in between two stones, bricks, blocks etc., as "clamping devices like a vise. Put the weight( body or otherwise) on the top "clamping device" you are using, & give it a whack with the hammer, to break off the piece(s) you want. It sometimes takes more than one whack. If you have a vise grip pliers, you can try holding the striker in the pliers jaws against a rock or hard enough surface & try to snap it that way with a hammer. No hammer?
Use a good sized rock or something like that. No grinder?
You may have a difficult task ahead of you, as you are going to have to remove the narrow edged teeth, by hand grinding the striker against a rough surface like concrete, or hard stone, or continual striking against a stone that is harder than the steel like your flint type stones. Any stone that will scratch a glass surface is a good indicator of the hardness necessary for this striking & also for making sparks, as it is the rock removing part of the steel that created the spark. Removing the teeth from the narrow edge make for more surface contact when you strike the rock & steel together producing more sparks. To get the edge to the flat point by hand will take some time & effort, if you to not have the electric powered bench or hand grinder, but it can be done. Dealing with the sharp end(s) can be accomplished the same way as grinding against a hard surface as mentioned before.
There are certainly other added optional methods to do this I am sure, but I know this process I have tried to explain will work to get yourself at least one working striker to use for your flint & steel efforts. I hope I explained it well enough through written words. I would like to make a video to show the process & perhaps I will later. But hopefully taking the time to type this out will help & encourage someone to go & try doing this, if they haven't done this before now.
Here are a few pics of what they look like when complete, with a Leatherman multitool for scale. They are about 3 to 3-1/4 inches long:
If I do make a video of this process I will add it here later.
If anyone would like to add to this, or show me a better way to describe this process(s), or even a better way to get an inexpensive home made striker, please...Do tell.
Note: This took me about an hour to type...I may need to return & edit this later. I think I got everything right,but sometimes it takes me a few "reads" to catch them all. BTW... I could have made a lot of these strikers in that hour...lol