One of the ASMs in the troop is really good with fire. You know the type, he comes prepared to all of the campouts with a little bow drill, flint and steel, makes his own char cloth… all the dressings in case one of the younger scouts needs to work on fire skills. Not my specialty by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m very grateful to have him as a resource.
Anyhow, a few years ago I picked up a fire piston from Wilderness Solutions as a curiosity. I played with it for a little while, ran out of char cloth, and put it in a drawer. I showed it to my ASM a while back and before you know it, he built one out of metal and plastic. (He’s a machinist, I guess that’s what they do.) So he was rocking a few of these at the last campout.
So now he’s added this simple tool to his fire building bag and we have a few floating around the troop. I still think it is easier to use a match, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned by using this that a match doesn’t teach. The importance of building a nest for your coal, patience, planning…
I think this really adds possibilities to the program. First, our scouts love gadgets, so having one of these hanging from their pack will be kind of neat. Next, it gives the scout something they can easily master that is unique. Imagine the joy of being able to explain and demonstrate one of these things to a scout from a different troop at a camporee or summer camp and explain with confidence that the compression of the air particles in the piston as it is plunged raises the temperature so dramatically that the tinder at the base will ignite… Third, it allows them to master some basic scout skills in an alternative way to complement what we are already teaching.
I recommend having a machinist ASM in a troop so that these things are possible, otherwise, maybe just pick them up online? The one I purchased was from Wilderness Solutions and I think it was called a Second Generation model, but I don’t see it listed as as product anymore. Mine is wood carved, has a vent valve at the bottom that the lanyard attaches to and has a ferro rod that is inserted into the piston that can be removed if you need flint and steel. I think it is the one in the video at the bottom of the Scout page.