Lighters, matches, flint and steel, napalm;
These are all good ways to start a fire, but what I'm talking about is STYLE. Oh,
sure the fire piston is a great tool and ours are fast dependable
and durable, but to see the look on
someone's face, young or old, when they witness a fire piston in action, is priceless.
As far as I can tell, the Fire Piston is
a little known gizmo that has been around a long, long time.
In my research, I found references that dated back to ancient Polynesians,
then springing up again in pre-industrial England.
In more recent times, I have seen fire pistons used and praised
by those guys on TV. You know the ones. The people that can
walk out into the wilderness with little more than a paper clip
and walk out a week later having gained ten pounds
and other than needing a shave, look like they've been on vacation. For me
life is a little different. If I go into the woods I like to have a few more accessories with me,
if not for comfort then just to make sure I'll be making it out again.
If I had to go without matches or a lighter, a Fire Piston is what I would choose
(and I have). Our fire pistons are fast, dependable and rugged.
To test their durability, I have handed over my fire piston,
time and time again, to groups of preteen and teen boys
(I'm a Father long time Boy Scout leader and former teacher)
to use at will, sometimes hours at a time. Each time my fire piston came back,
it was in good working order, a little dirty,
which I have, occasionally, rinsed off in a stream both inside and out,
but otherwise, just fine. As a matter of fact, I carry
that same fire piston to this day amazing people with it's dependability
and ease of use. I've heard it said and have said it myself,
"a fire piston is an extremely handy piece of survival gear."
If matches get wet, they're useless. If a lighter runs out of fuel, it's done.
Flint and steel are time consuming and can be tough on a windy day.
Fire Piston: load it, plunge it and you 're done. I take mine nearly everywhere I go.
All right I admit it, I even enjoy just lighting the thing for fun.
Building our Fire Piston
"words from the builder(me)"
The fire piston challenge-
Building a good fire piston is a time consuming labor intensive task.
Only strict attention to detail will assure a functioning fire piston.
As I count it there are only three basic pieces that make up the fire piston.
Three pieces and 37 different processes or details.
A hundredth of an inch can make a huge difference in the
overall performance of a fire piston. Sometimes it is the difference
between a functioning fire piston and a nice piece of scrap wood.
Now do all this at a price regular people can afford
with a product they want to have, and you have a
Matchless products fire piston Some of you are here to try to find out
how to build a fire piston and that’s OK. If that is you, all I can say is;
take it slow, use great care, and do it for the challenge.
Unless you are quite the machinist, saving money
will likely not be the final outcome of your project.
This was the first place I started when designing my fire pistons.
The fire piston or fire syringe is basically a diesel piston that compresses
air in a rapid motion to the point that the molecules are moving fast enough
to generate heat and that heat is transferred to the combustible material (tinder)
introduced into the fire piston. I found a goal compression rate of 25:1 to
be the target to making a fire piston work. To avoid a lot of trial and error,
I had to take many factors into consideration such as need force to rapidly
close the piston, ergonomic functionality, and visible appeal. But first
it had to work. So I wrote a formula to use as a fixed starting point for my
fire pistons. The variables I had to consider were
Diameter of the bore
Length of stroke
Allowance for tinder pocket
Allowance for dead space after seal
Πrᵦ²●S-((½ P (Πrp²)) / P (Πrp²) ≥ 25
Now I am no mathematical genius by a long shot so when my fire piston formula
worked I was to say the least very happy. Happy it was done and happy
I could move onto what I like best, 'BUILDING FIRE PISTONS"
My Fire Piston Bore-
Getting a good clean bore every time is a trick. It must be smooth even and
dependable or the fire piston will leak compression and not work.
Also this is an area that is almost impossible to repair if it were to be damaged.
In my fire pistons I have chosen to protect this area with a metallic sleeve.
This allows not only uniformity but also durability to an area that for the
will be the most difficult to repair in the finished fire piston. It also lends itself
well to cleaning as the surrounding case is protected should washing be
required to remove any build up that might “flood” the Fire Piston with
lubricant or left over ash that may fall out of the rod with repeated use.
Before installing the sleeve, I polish it to a near mirror finish with a six step
buffing procedure that gives my fire pistons a very smooth action, which
will not abrade the gasket. Without going into much more detail each of my
fire piston sleeves goes through about a nine step process before it is ready
to be introduced into the Fire Piston case.
Having a metallic sleeve to protect the bore, I now have to create a rod
that will not only be dependable and efficient but also none damaging to the bore.
Here I had to use some ingenuity. The easiest thing I could use was a metal rod.
Metal stock can be purchased inexpensively to the exact size required for a
good seal to my bore. The problem is should the fire piston be compressed at a
slight angle the tip of the rod could well score the inside of the bore much like
a piston in a car engine when the rings go bad. My answer to this was to go back
to the idea of the Rockwell hardness test. If the fire piston rod is softer than the
bore no scoring of the bore should occur. Since it is a comparatively easy matter
to replace one of my fire piston rods should it ever be damaged this has been the
best route for me to take and has proven its self well over the years. There is however
a lot more labor involved in constructing a hard wood rod that is uniform and precise
enough to work in a fire piston time and time again. Needless to say I have expended
a great deal of time perfecting my fire piston rod to the point I have gone back to my
limited tool and die experiences and made several specialty tools to make sure that
each rod I produce is as uniform as I can possible make it. Between the general
shaping of the rod with a precision gasket groove and generous tinder pocket each
of my fire piston rods goes through a seven step shaping process that ensures…
Generous tinder pocket
Tight gasket seal
I believe the final product is well worth the added labor though, as the fire pistons
I produce have a nice even and lasting coal with a minimal effort to reach the
combustion compression point required.
Or the beauty mark is not only the part of the fire piston
that makes it attractive. Like a coat of paint on a house not
only does the case make the fire piston attractive it also protects
the inner workings from damage. Even though the case also makes
the fire piston capable of being held during the compression process
good looks rates about the highest jobs people look for. Thanks to the
modern adaptation of the lined fire piston bore it is possible to incorporate
a wide variety of materials and species of woods to give Matchless Products
a wide range of options for the appearance of our fire pistons. Though
we use a diverse selection of woods I try to keep in mind the end usage
of the product, and that is it is a tool for making fire. In the design of our
fire piston cases I try to keep them ergonomically functional with a touch
of flare. No sharp points or edges that pinch; rounded ends that don’t bit.
Enough detail to make them interesting but enough clean line to keep
them functional long term. Cocoa bola to walnut; oak to maple our
fire pistons are functioning elegance you can depend on. All this does
not come without work though. Depending on the style the exact
number of process varies but each hand sized Fire Piston starts off
as plank of wood. Then through the sizing, milling, lathing and sanding
processes it becomes the shape you will find on our products page.
Some of our fire piston cases have taken as many as
fifteen steps or more to produce.
"First Fire" Guarantee --
After production, each piston is individually hand tested. If for whatever reason
a piston fails to fire on the first attempt it is rejected and not offered for use.