Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: SpifyLab - Sparky

FIRE FIRE FIRE. I do so like fire starters and other goodies, and I was intrigued when an electric firestarter came past my way. This was the next in the line from SpiffyLab, who were the minds behind the Tactical Sharpie Marker I covered a while back. This is certainly a design from the same lineage, and the two tools could certainly sit side by side and look like a set.

The Sparky by SpiffyLab is an electric firestarter, designed to ignite steel wool, and nothing else. The principle has been known for some time, with a small battery, anything from a AAA up to a D cell, or a 9V, and fine grade steel-wool, you can ignite the steel wool by running the charge through it, and the resistance to power ratio heats the wire up.

The Sparky uses two (2) AAA batteries to ignite steel wool. The 'Sparky' produces about 3.0-3.5 volts which is more than enough voltage to ignite steel wool or even a foil gum wrapper. It is designed with a twist cap, clip, knurled grips, and O-Rings to resist dirt and moisture in several spots. It is built with a tough, lightweight aluminium body, and a copper conductor tip.
It features a solid copper conductor tip, for optimal conductivity as next to silver, copper, is the most conductive metal. The aluminium body Sparky weighs in at just under 90g (3.1oz), with battery and the overall length is about 16cm (6.5") long and is 1.6cm (0.625") in diameter.

Interestingly, the Sparky is safe to touch and is vented. Even when exposed, the conductor tip and body can be touched without any harm coming to the user, due to the low power of the batteries, and the nature of skin conductivity. Just replace the cap when not in use to reduce accidental discharge.
So you might be continuing to ask "How can Sparky ignite steel?"

By touching the positive and negative "terminals" on the Sparky (the copper conductive tip, and the threaded aluminium body) to steel wool sends a current through the wool, and it heats up the fine "wires" because of resistance. The heated temperature causes the iron to react with the oxygen (O2) in the air and creates iron oxide (FeO2).

This reaction releases heat, heating up the next bit of iron and so on, causing a cascading reaction through the steel wool. It runs visibly through
the bundle of steel wool like a fuse, and as it burns through, you have your chance to use it to ignite your kindling, as you would with other firestarting methods.

As the makers point out, the science of this is pretty cool, even if a bit gimmicky. I managed to get the Sparkey to work easily enough, but getting it to catch on tinder was a little trickier, due to the nesting way the steel wool burns, keeping the burning steel away from tinder. However, it did work, after some fiddling. I expect it would work to ignite iron filings too, and probably work well to set thermite off as well (I didn't have any one hand to test ...).

Needing a very specific fuel to initiate the ignition, this is a pretty niche product, but, if you happened to want a low physical-effort firestarter, and have the capacity to store appropriately fine steel wool, this is an effective tool, especially if you had a surplus of AAA batteries not useful for anything else.

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