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FerroLace - Shoelace Firestarter

shoelace firestarting ferrolace

Fire, and fire starting tools. Chances are person will need them when they least expected it. A day hike gone wrong, a hunter who gets lost on his way back to camp, a sudden weather change during a canoe trip. Any of these scenarios could spell disaster. We take warmth for granted but as we all know, a few hours in the elements is all it takes to bring bleak reality. Fire can provide light, comfort and live saving heat. Proficiency in fire making is an essential skill for any person spending time in the outdoors. It is for these reasons that we come up with clever ways of carrying emergency preparedness tools. For the scope of this article we will discuss a fire making tool known by many names, firesteel, ferrocerium, ferro rods, magnesium rods or sparky things. Whether you backpack, boat, hunt or your daily drive takes you across desolate areas its a good idea to carry one of the magic fire starters.

While traveling in the wilderness, chances are you will be wearing some form of footwear. If you go into the woods barefooted you probably do not need to read this article. If your footwear has laces, we may have an interesting idea for you. Why not carry a way to start fire on your shoes? Replacing the laces on boots with paracord is nothing new. The internal strands found within high quality parachute cord can be used for a long list of tasks. So with this in mind, why not add ferrocerium rods to your laces.

Note: Take the time and make sure you are purchasing high quality parachute cord. There are a lot of companies selling cheap knockoffs. When you pull the material out you will be disappointed. The internal strands will be made of low quality unusable material. If the strands are made of the right material they can be used for fishing, trapping, shelter building etc. I think my biggest surprise was when I watched a vendor make parachute cord bracelets by removing the strands. While this may make a tighter bracelet, it makes the bracelet mostly useless.

Living in North Carolina buying surplus paracord is simple. However for this application, we wanted the cord resemble laces found on hiking boots. In our search we found Military MIL-C-5040H Type III cord from Titan Paracord. This veteran owned company not only provides high quality parachute cord but they have a great color selection. The two boots we planned on testing the ferrolaces are Brown and Gray. Their staff is very professional and they contacted us after the purchase to ensure we were satisfied with their product.

Once you have chosen a high quality parachute cord. Its time to purchase your ferrocerium rods. We wanted a small piece of rod that was pre-drilled. An alternative would be to purchase the rod and drill it yourself. There are multiple sources explaining how to do this without the rod catching on fire. Most of them require drilling slowly while the rod is under water. Lucky for us the rods used for some paracord survival bracelets would work just fine for this application.

We ordered our drilled ferrocerium rods from a veteran owned Type-III products. You can also buy the ferrocerium rod with a serrated striker by clicking this LINK The dimensions on the drilled ferrocerium rod are 1 inch (25.4mm) long X 1/4 inch (6.35mm) in diameter. The drilled holes are 1/8" (3.175mm) large enough to push paracord through them.

Measuring the laces on our boots we cut the paracord. To ensure the paracord would make it through the holes drilled in the rod and our boot lace rings, we melted the ends of the paracord into a point. Using the bottom of an aluminum drink can to roll the hot material helped. See images below:

So off to test we go, excited for any reason to get outside and practice firestarting. We have been experiencing heavy rains so finding dry tinder. By searching on a open field hit by the sun, we were able to grab dry grass from the very bottom off some plants and find a few plants that died from a previous dry spell. Even then we knew it would not be an easy cattail fluff ignition. The smaller size of the rod brings on a few challenges. Creating a spark without a scraper. Mental note: Next item would be to add a small drilled scraper through the shoelace. In our rush to get out and test we only had a pocket knife. This is a very likely scenario so we pressed on. The challenge here becomes not cutting yourself. We started by using the back of the blade. The Kershaw Cryo Speedsafe folder we have been carrying recently has a spine that allows us to create sparks. This folder has been through quite a few scenarios and has held up nicely. Check it out if you get a chance.

To get around the small ferrorod dilemma, we used the paracord shoelace to help us hold the rod and pressed down firmly on top of the tinder.

As Murphy's law kicks in we realize that although we are able to create a spark easily using the spine of the blade, the tinder was still damp. The sun was going to do down soon so in desperation, we used the blade to scrape pieces of the ferrocerium onto the tinder and then sparked into the damp tinder. Merlin the wizard would have been proud.

We have fire! Scraping part of the ferrocerium material sacrificed a part of the rod, but we feel this rod would be ok for several uses.

Knowing the importance that fire makes in an emergency scenario, we immediately thought about what else we could do. At first, the plan was to only add the small drilled rod to the parachute cord shoelace. But we all know the rule "Two is one, one is none". At this point the idea to use heat shrink tubing material came to mind. While researching miniature ferrocerium rods, we found a vendor GearUpNow selling a miniature ferrocerium rods. The dimensions of the rods are 3/20 inch (3.81mm) diameter by 2 inches (50.8mm) long and they come in a three pack. Just what the doctor ordered. Only thing that would be better is the option to select how many pieces we want.

We added a heat shrink tubing kit and we started stage two of the Ferrolace. Once we received our items we began experimenting with how to carry the rods. Do we simply run the rod along side the already melted end of the paracord or try to insert the rod into the outer shell of the parachute cord. We tried both. The obvious choice became inserting the firesteel rod into the paracord outer layer. A huge advantage of having the rods at the end of the laces is not having to take off your shoelaces to start a fire. Simply cut the tubing and the rod will slide out.

To do this we simply pulled a small section of the paracord strands out, cut them and slid them back into the paracord shell.

We will go ahead and address heat shrinking with a clearly flammable ferrocerium rod. Hesitant to use a butane lighter, we tried using a hair dryer. The dryer did shrink the material but it was not a tight fit. Using a drop of some form of glue would probably be a work-around. Instead we took our show on the road and used a lighter outside on a brick surface. It is unclear how much heat would set off a ferrocerium rod and how dangerous that would be but it is not something we wanted to find out. Update: After four weeks of wearing the boots, the heatshrink tubing from one end of the two laces slid off. We will add a drop of glue before shrinking the tube and continue our test.

The finished product using both methods.

We have been wearing the ferrolaces for about a week now, they will be on our boots moving forward. If there are any issues with the rods sliding out of the heat shrink tubing we will update the article. There are a lot of ways to carry that extra piece of gear that could make a huge difference in an emergency scenario. We have added ferro rods to keychains, bracelets etc. This is just one more way to carry an edge on firestarting. While we understand that carrying a larger rod would create a larger spark and that cold fingers would lower your dexterity, it never hurts to have something like this up your sleeve. When you truly need to get a fire started, will you have what you need? Be prepared and safe travels.

Summary of items: (Note you can click on each item to view it.)
Parachute Cord from Titan Paracord
Drilled Ferrocerium Rods from Type-III Product
Mini Ferrocerium Rods
Shrink Wire Wrap Kit by Anytime Tools

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