When making a fire in a survival situation, you want every advantage.
These items are small, lightweight and easy to carry. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages to a ferro rod are that it effectively contains thousands of sparks with which to light a fire and is impervious to the elements (it will make sparks even when wet).
To increase your chances of building a fire in adverse conditions, you want to create big sparks and a lot of them. This video by Paul Kirtley shows you how.
Here's Kirtley's process:
1. Grasp the fire steel with the handle of the rod in the palm of your hand and with your fingers low on the rod. Leave perhaps an inch of the ferro rod exposed and use your index finger for support at the bottom.
This brings the rod close to the material you wish to light and increases stability. It also enables you to pull back on the rod slightly in a controlled manner.
2. Use your bushcraft knife to create the sparks from the rod. Use the back edge or spine of the knife near the point, where the bevel of the edge meets the spine.
You will use the thumbs of both hands to vigorously push the knife into and down the fire steel, in a controlled, lever-like fashion.
3. Use the same technique, albeit more slowly and with less vigor, to gently shave some material from the steel onto the area and material you wish to light. The bits of ferrocerium material you shaved off will burst into flame when they are hit by the big sparks you create with this technique. This will greatly increase your chances of lighting a fire under the worst of conditions.
Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.