Fire steel

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Modern fire steel
Bag of fire utensils
Medieval fire iron (replica)

The fire steel (also fire hammer , punch ; out of date: fire iron , fire scraper , pink iron ) consists of a carbon-rich (approx. 0.7–1.4% C) steel and is an indispensable part of the so-called punch lighter .

Modern fire steels consist of Auermetall III, an alloy of iron , cerium and other rare earth metals.


A strike lighter consists of a fire stone (also fire hammer) as a spark remover, a fire steel as a spark dispenser and tinder as a spark receiver. The fire steel is struck against the sharp edge of a hard piece of rock, usually flint. The sharp counterpart scrapes material from the fire steel, which immediately ignites to sparks due to the friction , the temperature of which can reach 1500 ° C. These are caught on tinder, such as fire sponge or fabric tinder (charred cotton fabric), which is then set in embers.

The glowing tinder is then placed in a tinder nest. A flame is then lit by supplying air .


Woman with fire steel and flint in Sweden, 1916.

In European prehistory, pebbles are the only sparking material. In the early Roman times at the latest, it was replaced by iron, which has since served as a central component of punch lighters.

Even the earliest fire steels had a classic functional form that, with slight modifications, persisted well into the 20th century. They usually consist of a rectangular steel rail, which is forged thin and long at one or both ends to form one or two “arms”. The arm or arms have a curved loop shape and approach or touch the back of the steel rail. "Two-arm steels" have undergone numerous modifications in shape and dimensions over the course of time.

A recent metallurgical analysis of a supposed Roman so-called strip steel has shown that it is not made of carburized and therefore high-carbon steel, but of soft forged steel. A subsequent intentional or accidental change in the metal structure ( tempering ) could also be ruled out. Due to the low thickness of the steel strips, which are also known from pre-Roman times, this result can generally be transferred to this type of device. It is therefore certain that pre-Roman and Roman steel strips could not produce sparks and therefore did not serve as fire steels, although the shape is similar to the medieval finds and leads to the assumption. At the same time, this means that the function of the objects, also known as "double loops", is still unknown.

Impact steel lighters were the European standard lighters and can be safely verified from the earliest Roman times to modern times . Even after real matches were launched on the market in 1827, punched steel lighters were still used in Europe well into the 20th century due to their lower price, especially in rural areas for making fires.


In heraldry , the depiction of the fire steel is a rare common figure .


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Web links

Individual evidence

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  2. Ruth M. Hirschberg: Making fire with iron and tinder. Retrieved September 1, 2016 .
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  6. Jürgen Weiner: Collector's instinct and collector's luck: A fire steel from the Western Sahara . In: Spark International . No. 13 , 2000, pp. 8-16 .