Magnesium Fire Starter

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The magnesium fire starter has been around for hundreds of years.

Magnesium burns longer and hotter than steel, making it ideal for starting a fire

Popular with survival folks and the military and usually available in most gear shops, these fire starters are standard outdoor tools.

They are economical and reliable and can act as an alternative to gas lighters or matches.

Most outdoor enthusiasts keep magnesium fire starters in their arsenal as a precaution.

There are several different brands on the market.

Each manufacturer has a unique style, and you can purchase one that suits your need.

A common fire starter made with magnesium can make about 3,000 strikes, but this varies depending on the quality and size of the starter.

High-quality models can last for more than 10,000 strikes.

A typical fire starter made from magnesium will consist of a block with two useable sides.

The first side is used for scraping magnesium into a pile, which will ignite with a spark.

The other side of the block has a small rod inserted into it (usually a Ferro rod). The rod is used to create a spark, which in turn lights the magnesium.

Is this the best type of survival fire starter on the market today? really just depends on personal preference.

Besides looking for magnesium fire starters that are lightweight and compact, you should also consider these features:

  • Ergonomic Grip: If you want to start a fire during cold weather, it can be challenging to maintain a strong grip on your starter’s striker and rod. Some brands allow you to keep a firm hold, as they feature an ergonomic grip handle.
  • Strikes: The number of strikes can vary from thousands to tens of thousands, depending on your needs.
  • Additional Features: Some magnesium fire starters come with additional features, such as a lanyard to attach the rod and striker, an emergency whistle, a compass, or a cool design.

How To Start A Fire Using Magnesium

Step 1 - Prepare Your Fire Site

Choose a spot that is appropriate for a fire.

Consider the safety of the fire, precipitation, wind, and access to cooking or camping.

Usually, it is best to utilize pre-existing fire areas in well-trafficked sites.

Step 2 - Collect Tinder And Wood

As with pretty much all fire-starting methods, you need to start with a small, dry tinder bundle. 

The base of the fire should be as dry as possible.

Then, collect some dry grass, leaves or use a pre-constructed fire starter like a cotton ball smeared with petroleum jelly.

Magnesium Fire Starter

Form the tinder bundle into a shape similar to a bird’s nest.  

The loosely compacted "bird’s nest" fits easily into your hand (if necessary) and allows you to add sufficient airflow to create the combustion process.

It is also a good idea to have a collection of small kindling next to you to feed the tinder bundle and build a fire. 

Have a variety of different sized kindling to gradually increase the size of the wood, building a fire bigger and bigger.

Step 3 - Shave The Magnesium

Once you have your tinder bundle and kindling ready, scrape off tiny shavings of magnesium from the block into a pile.  

Create a small pile of shaved magnesium in the tinder bundle.  

The magnesium is very soft, and it can easily be scrapped using the blade of a knife.

Create a pile that's roughly the size of a quarter.

Magnesium is easily blown away by the wind, so try to work in a sheltered area.

Step 4 - Spark The Fire

Now, hold the magnesium block in your hand with the flint or Ferro rod side exposed.

Hold it directly above the pile of magnesium shavings and strike the flint with the striker. 

When the striker slides across the flint, it will create a spark that lights the pile of magnesium, which in turn lights the tinder bundle.

Once the tinder bundle is lit, you can gradually add your kindling to build up the fire.

You will need to use your fire wisely since magnesium only burns for a few seconds.

So, get materials that are flammable and burn quickly to build up your fire.

It requires some force to get an excellent shower of sparks, so shove hard.

Experiment cautiously with Ferro to become familiar with its features, and keep in mind that the blade is sharp.

Positives And Negatives

As with any fire-starting tool, a magnesium fire starter has both positive and negative factors that you should consider.


One of the biggest advantages of using magnesium is that it works even when wet. 

In fact, you can submerge the block of magnesium in water, and the shavings will still ignite.

Other advantages include:

  • Quickly starts fires in a straightforward manner.
  • Includes a magnesium block and a steel striker with flint sparker.
  • It is fireproof when closed.
  • The elements are connected together for convenience.
  • It is compact and can easily fit in your pocket.
  • It is a long-lasting tool.


One major disadvantage of using magnesium is the wind. 

The small shavings are easily blown away by the wind, making it difficult to use a magnesium fire starter in windy conditions.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Requires a striker to use flint appropriately.
  • Magnesium will eventually get depleted.

  • Making magnesium shavings takes effort and time.

Overall - Magnesium Fire Starter

Magnesium is a relatively cheap fire starter that can be found almost anywhere you can purchase camping or outdoor supplies.  

It's a good investment and a great tool to add to your survival kit if you are a camping or outdoor enthusiast

Using this tool will ensure the best possible fire-starting performance, reliability in almost all-weather conditions, and durability.

It takes up a little space and does not weigh much.

The magnesium fire starter might take some time to understand to use, especially if you are using low-quality tools.

You should practice starting a fire with magnesium fire starters long before you need to depend on them as your main fire-starting source in your outdoor activities or during emergencies.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.