Fire Piston Method: Fire Building Skills

We can start fires with air, and how does one do this you might ask? Well, one can make a fire piston, a device that’s been around for so long to start signal, camp and cooking fires. It’s mainly composed of a piston and cylinder, using compression to rapidly heat up tinder and turn it into coal. It’s most suggested for ease that one will use Charcloth as tinder.

There isn’t just one simple model or make for the fire piston so take note of that when learning how to build this version of it. Read on to know more about the fire piston method.


  • You’ll first need these things:
    •  Materials
      • 5 inches or more of 1/4 inches brass rod
      • 4 inches 1/8th Threaded brass pipe nipple
      • 1/8 Threaded brass cap
      • 1/4 inches OD 1/8 inches ID 1/16 Cross section rubber o-rings aka -006 size
      • 2 part liquid epoxy
      • Wooden cabinet knob, or something similar
      • Wooden Broom Handle or suitable wood for turning*
    • Tools
      • Drill Press & Drill Bits
      • Lathe*
      • Triangular File
      • Hacksaw
  • Approximately 5 inches of the brass rod has to be cut using the hacksaw. It is to be cut a little longer than needed. The excess can be trimmed off when the handle is going to be fitted.
  • Use a triangular file on a lathe to lessen the shaft diameter to 0.175 inches. The tapered part should roughly be at 45 degrees. Next, one side of the piston head has to be filed flat so that we can center punch it to drill a hole. Do not do it too close to the end of the piston.
  • Start off using a small bit to drill a pilot hole. This should make drilling the bigger hole easier. Make sure you have the hole centered and perpendicular to the length of the piston.
  • With the pilot hole drilled you can now move to drill the large hole. A number 31 bit should be enough. The little room of material that’s left is meant to secure the drill bit from slipping out.
  • The threads on the brass nipple piping are tapered so you won’t be able to screw it the whole way.
  • Fill the cap all the way with epoxy. Thread the cap on as far as you can. Leave it sitting upright so it’ll dry overnight.
  • Using a big that’s been tapered punch, you’ll have to flare out the end of the brass nipple. If you do not have a punch you can file the bore larger instead, just take care not to err the cylinder further down while doing it.
  • Insert the piston all the way into the cylinder and mark the deepness on the side of the piston. This will make you know how far the piston will sit inside the handle.
  • It’s up to you whether or not to turn the handle first or simultaneously as the cylinder sleeve.
  • Cut a section of wooden broom handle and drill it out with a bit bigger than the brass nipple. From the other side, drill then another hole part way to accept the cap.
  • You’ll need to fix a plug to fill the hole at the bottom and conceal the brass cap.

You’ll now have your fire piston and fire. The char cloth you’ll use for tinder. Fire piston method is one of the primitive fire building skills.

For other fire building skills, check this out.

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