*Starting a fire in a throw away society*
By: Movingman
06 October 2003

If you ever need to start a fire, and don't have any matches, or a lighter that has fuel, you may want to look in the trash first.

If you can find an old disposable BIC type lighter, you can easily start a fire. It has to be the kind that has a flint, not the electronic ignition type. What you are looking for is an empty lighter, it can even have a broken or cracked body.

What you really need out of this disposable lighter is the flint, flint holder and sparking wheel. They have to be in good condition. Fortunately, these are the most durable parts of the disposable lighter.

The first step is to get rid of the windshield that goes around where the spark is created and the fuel is lit. To do this take your Leatherman type tool and just bend the out sides of the wind shield out a little bit and pull it off. Most of these are made out of chrome metal and are a little hard to bend with no tools but it can be done. (some of the cheaper lighters have a plastic wind shield) After you have removed the lighter's wind shield, you now have a real good sparking device. All you have to do is to spin the lighter's sparking wheel and the flint will produce the sparks. The flints on most disposable lighters will last many times the life of the fuel that is in the lighter. (Please read the 2 WARNINGS - 1). Only remover the lighter windshield on lighters that you are sure is empty. Removing the windshield on any lighter that has fuel in it is very dangerous. 2). This will through a lot of sparks on anything that it is pointed at so be careful. )

I have measured some of the disposable lighter flints

TOKAI large size lighter - used = 5/32 inch

Cricket large size lighter - used = 1/4 inch

BIC small size lighter - used = 5/32 inch

BIC large size lighter - used = 15/32 inch

BIC large size lighter - new = 1/2 inch

BIC electronic ignition type = does not have a flint

Now all you have to do is to find some very small dry kindling to spark the flint into. I find that any dry fuzzy type kindling works best and if you use a cotton ball that has had Vaseline rubbed into it, the cotton ball will burst into flames on the first try.

This works much better than a flint and steel for starting a fire simply because it will through more sparks. It also only takes one hand to product the sparks.

The disposable lighter has two little plastic tabs that hold the sparking wheel on top of the flint. The sparking wheel has two small axles type pins that fit into the tabs and hold it into the lighter. I have learned that you can pry the two little tabs that hold the sparking wheel apart a little and remove the sparking wheel. Be careful because the flint is under the wheel and has a spring under the flint and can shoot quit far if you are not careful. Be careful as if the flint does shoot out, it could hit you in the eye, or get lost. This will allow you to save up flints, or find replacements to use in a Zippo type lighter, or put a new flint into an old lighter to allow you to start a fire with it. Be aware that the sparking wheel is directional. If you put the wheel back on the wrong direction, the flint spark will not be very big, or may not produce any spark at all, when you try to spin the wheel. All you have to do is remove the wheel again, and put it on the other way. Just turn the sparking wheel around 180 degrees, so the right axle pin is now facing left. Again, be careful about removing the sparking wheel because the flint and spring may shoot out of the lighter and get lost, or hit you in the eye.

The trick to putting the sparking wheel back into the lighter, is to push the spring and flint back into the hole in the lighter as far as you can. Then push the flint down and hold it in the lighter with a tip of a knife, or the head of a small nail or even some small stiff wire. Just use anything that you have of can find. Then put the sparking wheel back into the holes in the two small tabs on the lighter body. The sparking wheel will snap right into the holes on the two holding tabs of the lighter.

All this sounds really a lot harder than it is.

Give it a try on any old flint style disposable lighter you can find. An old empty lighter is considered junk, so it will not cost you anything to try it. And you can always ask one of your smoking friends to save you one when they are done with it. After all, it is not like you are going to damage something that is valuable, or hard to replace.

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright 1996 - 2003 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.