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GoKnapping Kits Knife, Arrow & Fire Kits
149   Hickory Fire Piston Kit

Machined aluminum cylinder and piston with hickory wood grips, char-cloth, two o-rings, and instructions. This well designed fire piston kit demonstrates the old-time method of creating fire by using rapid compression to ignite a piece of tinder. Great as a primary or back up fire starter.

Regular Price:$35.00 / Each
Sale Price:$30.00 / Each

Kit Description
Fire Piston Info

This fire piston kit includes materials and instruction to create fire using compression by rapidly pushing a piston into an air-tight cylinder. Air is heated and ignites char cloth in a cavity on the end of the piston, which is then transferred to kindling.

Believed to have been first discovered by cultures using blow pipes and darts, this method has it's roots in South East Asia and the Pacific islands.

This kit does not cost a fortune but operates like it should.

Kit Includes:

  • Machined Aluminum Piston & Cylinder
  • Hickory Handle Grips
  • Char Cloth Tinder
  • Two Replacement O-Rings
  • Complete Instructions

Approx overall length is 4-1/2",  Diameter is 7/8,  Weight 2 oz

Kit is made in the USA.

A fire piston, sometimes called a fire syringe or a slam rod fire starter, is a device of ancient origin which is used to kindle fire. It uses the principle of the heating of a gas (in this case air) by rapid and adiabatic compression to ignite a piece of tinder, which is then used to set light to kindling.

A fire piston consists of a hollow cylinder sealed at one end and open at the other. A piston with an airtight circular seal is fitted into the cylinder. Rubber gaskets, or grease are used to create an air-tight but slippery seal. At the end of the piston is a small cavity, where tinder can be attached without it being crushed during subsequent operations. The piston can be completely withdrawn from the cylinder for installation or removal of the tinder.

The piston (or cylinder) has a handle on the end to allow a firm grip to be applied to it, or a large enough surface area to strike it sharply without causing pain, while the cylinder (or piston) is braced or slammed against a hard surface.

The compression of the air when the piston is quickly forced into the cylinder causes the interior temperature to rise sharply to over 400 F (260 C), the autoignition temperature of tinder. This is hot enough for the tinder on or in the piston face to ignite with a visible flash that can be seen, if the cylinder is made of translucent or transparent material. The piston is then quickly withdrawn, before the now-burning tinder depletes the available oxygen inside the cylinder. The smouldering tinder can then be removed from the face of the piston and transferred to a larger nest of tinder material. The ember is then fanned or blown upon vigorously to create a flame, at which time various stages of larger kindling can be added until built into a full-scale fire.

Ancient and modern versions of fire pistons have been made from wood, animal horns, antlers, bamboo, or lead. Today, fire pistons are commonly constructed from wood, metal, or plastic.

Principle of operation

Rapid compression of a gas increases its pressure and its temperature at the same time. If this compression is done too slowly the heat will dissipate to the surroundings as the gas returns to equilibrium with them.

The same principle is used in the diesel engine to ignite the fuel in the cylinder, eliminating the need for a spark plug as used in the gasoline engine. The principle of operation is closer to the hot bulb engine, an early antecedent to the diesel, since the fuel (tinder) is compressed with the gas, while in a diesel it is injected when the gas is already compressed and at the high temperature.

The tinders that ignite at a very low temperature work best. Easily combustible materials such as char cloth or amadou work well as tinder, and can hold an ember. In contrast, cotton fibers ignite at 455 F (235 C) and will flash brightly but do not hold an ember. The bright flash of light is sufficient for demonstration purposes, but will not start a persistent fire.


Fire pistons have been used in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands as a means of kindling fire for many years. They are found in cultures where the blow pipe is used as a weapon and this suggests they may have developed out of blow pipe construction. Their use has been reported from Burma, the Malay Peninsula, Indo-China, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the Philippines, Madagascar, and South India.

An 1876 New York Times article reported the discovery of the earliest date of its use in the west. It reported on a talk by a Professor Govi that described a book written by Father Boscovich, of Rome in 1755, De Litteraria Expeditione per Pontifican Ditionem, (The Clever Mechanism) which made the claim that the fire piston was invented in 1745 by Abbe Augustin Ruffo. The report also claimed that the modern fire piston was reinvented independently in the west through experiments with the air gun, and not modeled after Asian designs.

It is recorded that the first fire piston made its wider debut in front of scientists in 1802, and was patented in 1807 simultaneously in both England and France. Fire pistons, or "fire syringes" as they were called then, were popular household tools throughout Europe during the early nineteenth century, until the safety match was invented in 1844. The fire piston may have inspired Rudolf Diesel in his creation of the diesel engine around 1892.

- From wikipedia

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PO Box 803
Petal, MS 39465

Email: Info@GoKnapping.com

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