Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: SparxGear - Fire Piston

This is a very interesting item I backed through Kickstarter, and is a modern take on the Fire Piston, which is to say, a means of igniting tinder without spark or friction, but rather by rapid compression of air. The principle is that when a well-sealed piston is driven into a cylinder, with a portion of tinder at its tip, the rapid compression of air will drive the temperature of the space at the end of the piston to around 260°C (500°F). This is sufficient to ignite tinder, and you can use it to light a fire.

Eric Gilger started his Kickstarter to build a fire-piston, and I was all for it. The SparkxGear piston is the fire piston is 15cm (5 5/8") long with a 1.6cm (5/8") diameter. It weighs around 65g (2.25 oz) but the weight can vary slightly with additional slot rods, tinder and O-rings held in the storage capsules. There are three slots cut into the side which hose a magnesium (for emergency, thermite tinder), a Ferrocerium rod and a steel rod (fire-steel). The rods are kept in place by the pressure release-valve plug, at one end, which features a storage compartment (for tinder and replacement o-rings for the piston seal). The piston also has one of these compartments in its tip as well.

The piston is operated by placing some tinder (a supply of charcloth is provided) into the cup at the end of the piston, and, once the pressure release-valve end is tightened, and the piston seated, the piston-rod is driven into the shaft, and withdrawn rapidly, to ignite the tinder. This is trickier than it sounds, and I took a long time to get it right. Some lube on the shaft is needed, as its a really tight fit, the whole piece is very well engineered.

But here are a couple of shots of my ignited tinder, gently glowing, and flaring when blown upon, ready for sparkless fire-starting! This is a really cool piece of kit, but one that requires some significant practice to be dependable.The added magnesium, ferrocerium and steel rods, as well as the additional in-cap storage really makes the piece special, a lot of thought was put into these, and I will be looking out for Eric's next projects avidly.

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