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(9 August 2012, 17:30)uks Wrote: [ -> ]

me likey likeySmile
yeah fire pistons have been around for yonks, i think the original discovery was an explorer visiting a remote tribe and when he got there he was shocked to see one of the tribes men whip out a fire piston and a cigarette, casually press it down and use it to light his fag! he ended up trading a zippo lighter and 3 pieces of hubba bubba chewing gum for the curious device.

okay just did some checking it was U.S. Navy survival instructor Mel DeWeese and some others who found it and it was in the phillipines they landed and it was in a helicopter...and it was only 2 pieces of hubba bubba!

anyway this ancient device thought to have been discovered during blowgun manufacture or some such actually went on to become the basis for the diesel engine!

theres the article that i read a while ago when i found out about them!

you can pick them up for a few quid in various places

heres a cnc machined one for just under 40$

very good ible though, even if it does presume you have a multiple of power tools at home Tongue
I dont want to intrude or dampen this fascinating thread but i would like to inject a note if I may.

Fire pistons etc are indeed great improvised tools for surviving if you get stranded in the upper oomegooly penensula, but in our society a good quality lighter will servive you even for decades after the fall of civilisations.

Zippos use hydrocarbons to burn, theres a dude up scotland way who fuels his out of home made alcohol

I prefer butane lighters as they dont dry out like petrol lighters, and here are the two real world practical points I want to make, my lighter is over 20 years old and still works every time often only getting used once a year, BUT also the large can of lighter gas I bought with it I still have and its still half full.

Over 20 million disposable lighters are made each year and they are eveywhere ( but never in your pocket when you need it)

My point is that fire pistons are a knowledge worth knowing, but in Europe a decent lighter and refill can could easily last you 10 years.
Agree NR

Also in a damp environment there is a big difference between a glowing ember and a flame. (If you don't have the right dry tinder prepared it's the difference between nothing and a fire).

I also have concerns about the long term life of the rubber seal on a fire piston, will it still be sealing in 10 years?
(10 August 2012, 16:53)Skvez Wrote: [ -> ]Agree NR

Also in a damp environment there is a big difference between a glowing ember and a flame. (If you don't have the right dry tinder prepared it's the difference between nothing and a fire).

I also have concerns about the long term life of the rubber seal on a fire piston, will it still be sealing in 10 years?

they also require lubrication, which can be a pain in the ass to get Tongue you can use things like animal fat but it doesnt work as well as other things, and the seals certainly wear away, but the simple fact that it was a widespread tool used by many many tribes over a large area does serve to give validity to its real world use! personally i think they are certainly a cool and quick method, but i'd definately supplement them with other things like lighters and fire steels Tongue....and whilst an ember and a flame are very different the key variable is experience at getting dry tinder, seasoned survivalists will always find dry tinder no matter how wet it appears, but its not something that you can pick up quickly, i learnt this fact rather quickly Tongue....i guess my main advice is to practise blowing an ember into a flame, start with ideal conditions, then start using less and less ideal conditiosn until your able to do so even in the most wet and windy enviroments!...but never rely on a single method, 2 is one and one is none, words to live by.
That butane torch I have will work in storm force winds and can easily be used for braising joints with as well, no blooming tinder cooker can do that.

Blazer PB207 butane lighter comparted with Prince brand generic copy
© 2010 Northern Raider

On first impressions they look very similar, but thats about the limit of similarity
1 The PB207s black plastic wear is dull semi textured type plastic like ABS and would probably absord small knocks and dings
The cheap version is made from a stiffer shinier type of plastic more akin to what you find in pens.
2 The Chain on the PB207 is very flexible 4 mm links chrome plated
The chain on the cheap model is less flexible 3 mm and looks like zinc plated.
3 The Castings and machine marks on the PB207 are clear, distinct and functional
The Castings on the cheap model are much less defined and shallow
4 The grill louvres on the head of the PB207 are clean clear and well machined
The grill louvres on the cheap model are not finish and not fully clean.
5 The Burner head on the PB 207 is much better machined to a higher standard than the cheaper model.
6 The insulator around the burner head on the 207 is much thicker than the one on the cheap model, AND the cheaper models insulator is distorted and not straight.
7 The Ignitor wire on the 207 looks to be brass or copper and well fitted. the Ignitor wire on the cheaper one is aluminium and very badly fitted.
8 There is a very effective flame hight adjuster on the head of the 207 but nothing is fitted on the head of the cheap model.
9 The ignitor switch is clean, strong and very positive on the 207 and lights first time 9 out of ten times in a row.
The ignitor switch on the cheap model is stiff and feels sticky and lights only 3 times out of ten attempts.
10 The fuel refill point on the base is made from machined 1mm thick stainless steel on the 207
but only .5mm brass on the cheap model.
11 Viewing through the clear plastic fuel tank two things become obvious, the fill pipe on the 207 looks to be copper with brass fittings and about 4 mm in diameter, there is a full length plastic gas pick up pipe in the 207 allowing the torch to be used inverted without a flameout.
The fill pipe on the cheap model appears to be all brass but only 2mm thick, the cheap model does NOT have a gas pick up pipe for invertyed use fitted at all.
12 As far as I can tell the plastic of the fuel tank itself is slightly thicker, but only ever so slightly on the 207.
13 The tiny machine screws used to hold everything together appear to be much higher quality with much better machied screw heads on the 207.
Blazer PB 207 torches can be obtained from for about £35
The generic version can be obtained from for about £8

Summary, you gets what you pay for .
Those butane jet lighters sure use a lot of gas and I have read reports from squaddies who found them of unreliable quality in the field. How often do you really need a fierce jet of flame that can melt solder? It is an expensive way to rapidly use up precious fuel. What if you are mobile on foot, will you have to carry a gallon of gas to last the next 10 years? How often will you need to refill it? Often I would think.
Finding ways to create fire without the need for a catalyst fuel is a wise move. The commercial fire pistons may use rubber seals for ease of manufacture but I doubt rubber seals were used in older times. I am sure the device could be manufactured without rubber seals and just using a better tight tolerance and possibly a slight smear of some lubricant - that could be found in nature easily or made up simply with water and a binding agent.
Cheap disposable lighters are unreliable anyway and often break. They can be broken when knocked in ones pack or pocket and constitute an additional hazard. Only better quality maetal cased types like zippos or any of the other alternative brands/designs should be considered for serious longterm repeat use. Why buy crap fragile lighters when the better proven item is not that dear anyway? 2 good lighters are worth dozens of poor quality ones. You need to know it will work when and immediately that you need it and also that it is maintainable in the future. (They usually come with spare flints inside the body)
Fire pistons are a combination of ancient practical tech and now with modern engineering understanding they are proven to be simple efficient tools for whatever stage of caveman existance you find yourself living in.
As I pointed out in the review the cheaper ones are unreliable, but the real Mccoy are very reliable, and the fuel tank on them is large, easily enough for a good few weeks duty before refilling, Plus the burn rate is adjustable so you can run it mildly as a fire lighter on a nice sunny day, or to get fire wood burning in a force ten gale whilst its pissing down. Certainly a better option than petrol lighters.

Fire pistons are not much good when your tinder and kindling is wet and its windy or raining, not that 90% of bushcraft improvished fire lighting techniques origonated in warm to tropical places. For pissy down wet, cold windy northern Europe the best technique for my is I believe the scraper and magnesium block system, Once Magnesium starts burning not much will put it out.
Mind you any method is better than nothing except perhaps the Brighton Survivalist fire lighting system which involves the vigorous rubbing of two boy scouts together until they burst into flames Smile Smile