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Importance of Survival Skills

Slam Rod Fire Starter – Ignition By Air!!

Did you know there’s a way to start a fire
by squishing air? In this project we’re building a tool that does exactly that. And with a
little it of resourcefulness we can make this for under a buck. The materials for this project cost me less
than $1.00. I got these pieces of scrap acrylic for free, and besides those, all I’m gonna
need are a couple of rubber O-rings, a 1-1/2″ bolt, and this handle I got off a lawn mower.
This piece of clear acrylic rod fits perfectly into this tube so I’m ready to form the piston.
I’ll use a 10″ piece of rod and secure it into the chuck of my drill press. A hacksaw
is my tool of choice for cutting a groove in the plastic rod, and with a bit of guesswork,
I’ve made it just big enough to fit this O-ring securely, leaving the rubber edges slightly
wider than the rod. Next, I’ll place the rod in a bench vise, protected with a terry cloth,
and when it’s secure, use a 3/16th drill bit to cut a hole right through the side. It’s
a clean cut and the spacing is about 1/4″ from the O-ring, so I’ll proceed to my chop
saw, and make a cut just barely touching the top of the hole. This has just created a claw
that will hold my tinder. It’s time to cut these pieces to length, so I’ll mark them
at 6″, and cut them together. While I’m here, I may as well cut an inch off of the tubing,
and a small square piece that I’ll use in a minute. Ok, I’ve got all my pieces cut to
length, so now I’ll remove the protective paper from this little square, and carefully
cement it to one end of the tubing. This will need to be an air tight seal, and I’m hoping
this weight on top will help. With that setting, I can get back to making the piston. This
time I’m using my drill press and a 1/4″ bit to drill a hole down the inside of the rod.
My goal is to get the hole as centered as I can, and when it’s roughly 1-1/4″ deep,
it can be transferred back to my bench vise for tapping. This is a 5/16th course thread
tap, and I’m using it because it matches the threads on this bolt. To make this handle,
I carefully used my vise and a 1/2″ drill bit to hollow out the center, which made a
large cavity that I’ll be using later. I threaded this hex bolt all the way in, and then secured
it tightly using a pair of pliers. You can see the handle and the rod thread perfectly
together, and will just need to be tightened by hand. A little acrylic cement is applied
to the rod near the handle, then the 1″ piece of tubing is added, and cemented in place
by dripping glue into the gaps. This piece is to help reinforce the area where the handle
meets the rod. That’s setting, and it looks like the tubing is cured enough to knock down
the base on my belt sander. Just a minute of sanding, and the base is rounded and looking
much better. To help it cure air tight, I’ll clamp it together and leave it overnight.
To finish off the piston, all I need to do is slide the other O-ring into place. And
this will help cushion the acrylic pieces from impact with each other, as well as create
a slight gap between the tinder claw and chamber base. A little bit of lubrication is added
to the O-ring, and this $1.00 fire piston is looking awesome. I even found a little
cap that fits perfectly into the handle. I had enough material to make another piston, I’m gonna test the small one first using some char cloth I made in a previous
video. I don’t need very much and this little piece should work fine. When that’s rolled
up, and placed into the grips of the tinder claw, I’ll gently insert the rod into the
chamber until the O-ring presses inside. Then with one swift downward stroke, I’ve got ignition
and my tinder is burning! I’ll try that again. And this attempt was just as successful! By
compressing the air quickly enough, the temperature shoots up hundreds of degrees Celsius in a
fraction of a second. Enough to ignite char cloth and other types of tinder into burning
embers. The cavity in the piston handle is perfect for storing some char cloth, and the
cap will hold it in place. To see if this will work out in the woods, I’ve readied a
tinder bundle made from dry grass, and when my fuel is loaded I’ll give the piston a whack.
There it is. I’ve instantly got a glowing ember, and using a piece of grass to transfer
it into the nest works pretty well. The heat is building, and this little bundle almost
explosively bursts into flames. That happened pretty fast and before I burn myself I’d better
get this over to the fire pit. This bundle is a little damp, so I’m adding a piece of
char cloth inside the nest to help it develop a flame. And there it is. And it’s taking
off fast! Yikes! I’ve been getting ignition on nearly every stroke, and this is proving
to be an easy and fairly reliable way to start a fire without matches. Some people say this
little tool was commonly used in the 1800’s and was the inspiration behind the diesel
engine. With this tube being completely see through, it’s exciting to witness the actual
ignition point of my fuels, and for under $1.00 it was definitely a project worth the
investment. That’s another item for my emergency kit, and a great way to see science in action.
If you liked this project, perhaps you’ll like some of my others. Check them out at

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