This thread will be reserved for the reviews from the Titanium fire piston passaround. It can also be used to store relevant information on the Ti piston.
Here are a few pictures:
Here is a video:
This thread will be reserved for the reviews from the Titanium fire piston passaround. It can also be used to store relevant information on the Ti piston.
Here are a few pictures:
Here is a video:
Last edited by exodus125; 08-31-2009 at 06:53 AM.
PREPARING THE PISTON FOR USE:
The first thing you want to do is lubricate the o-ring. Use chapstick, grease, lard, etc. This will ensure there is an airtight seal and help create compression.
Insert the piston inside the tube and push down on it lightly several times, this helps lubricate the inside of the tube.
Remove a small piece of char cloth from a char cloth square and shove inside the bowl shaped end. If you’re using the rod with the smaller hole in the end, cut a rectangular piece and fold in half.
Then roll and press using your finger tips. The end result should look like a piece of rope.
Insert this into the hole making sure the char cloth extends about 1/8 inch out of the hole, any longer or shorter may make it harder for you to ignite the char cloth. You are now ready to use the piston.
USING THE PISTON:
The easiest way to get the piston to light is to be in a kneeled position, similar to how you would be getting ready to light a camp fire.
Place the tube over the rod, so that the o-ring is barely resting on the lip of the tube.
It is important that you begin compression with as much air trapped inside the tube as possible. If you start compression 1/2" way down the tube or even 1/4" down the tube, it will be very hard or impossible to get ignition.
Using the palm of your hand, push down on the piston. Use your body weight as leverage to come down on the piston hard. You must force the piston down AS HARD, AS FAST, AND AS FAR DOWN AS POSSIBLE. If you remember anything from these instructions, remember that. You are trying to create compression in the piston so that the char cloth ignites. Following the bold text will maximize your chances of ignition.
Immediately after compressing the piston, remove the rod from the tube and check for an amber. If no amber is present, repeat the steps, making sure you are following everything correctly. If after the 3rd attempt you fail to get an amber, Try adding more lubrication to the rod and check the o-ring for damage. You can also try using a new piece of char cloth.
STARTING A CAMP FIRE:
If you’re trying to actually start a fire with the piston, get yourself set up with your kindling first. I like to make a teepee shape with small skinny dry twigs, and set a wad of tinder (dry grass, cotton, or anything that will catch a flame easily) in the middle of the teepee. Once that is set up, I get another wad of dry grass or any other available tinder and put a square of char cloth on top. I lay the wad on the ground and push down on the char cloth in the center flattening the wad a bit.
Now, use the piston to make an amber, transfer the amber to the larger piece of char cloth and then fold the wad in half and begin to blow. It helps if you cup your hands and hold the wad of tinder like a ball in your hands. You will begin to see smoke after a few seconds. You will have to blow air on the wad for a good minute before it ignites. You will begin to see more smoke and start to feel the wad get hotter, once it gets hot enough the whole wad will ignite, at which point you can transfer that wad to the other wad under the Teepee which will get your small twigs on fire.
I also encourage you all to make your own char cloth. It is a useful skill to learn and its easy to make, even at camp. Here are 2 videos from youtube that are very insightful:
I think the nicest thing about a fire piston, is it brings you back to basics making you more efficient at lighting a fire.
I remember before I got into fire pistons I would go camping and I could easily go through an entire book of matches trying to light a fire. I could douse the wood with gasoline or kerosene, and still take a while to get the fire going.
The use of the piston forces you to set everything right the first time, if you fail to set everything right, it won't light.
So you can think of this as training or practice for that one day you may need to start a fire with one match or with only a couple of matches, or no matches at all.
I can now proudly say I can start a camp fire using only one match or one amber from a fire piston.
Last edited by exodus125; 05-01-2009 at 12:43 PM.
I'd like to first thank all involved in this pass around, for both letting me participate, and letting me be the first so I could use it as it would be used, at a campsite.
I had not read the amount of info in this thread's second post before taking it off into the woods, specifically the parts about tinder amount and prep. I had watched about 8 youtube vids and had idea of how a fire piston generally worked. You slam a rod into a tube with tinder sticking out of the rod. I thought it'd be this easy. I had alot of trouble, and I'll try to explain how I was using it as a possible answer.
The piston we are using in this pass around has an o-ring in the front(tinder end) to really make it air tight. This has to make it incredibly efficient, but it also makes it incredibly hard to push on, since all the trapped air is pushing back at the same time. I first used it holding tube in left hand and slamming rod down into it with right palm. This just gave me sore palms. I then got on the floor, inserted rod into tube, and slammed tube downward onto rod with my right hand. This would not work either, but it's the way I eventually got it to work.
At this point it was the first night with it before the trip, and I wasn't having luck. I kept re lubing the rod with chapstick, and fearing not enough lube, I even used 3-in-1 Oil on half the rod, still with no luck. Now if it was that slick and not igniting, I wasn't sure what the heck to do.
On the second night of the trip, I start telling my freinds that I'd brought this thing out with me to try, and write a review for. I thought I'd get mildly razzed for being a dork like that, but eveyone sounded interested and wanted to see it. So I brought it to the fire ring and went to work. I explained how it worked, and then lubed with chapstick and went to work.
The method this time was again to be crouching and stick the rod just inside the tube, just past the o-ring so it wouldn't fall out. Then I'd grasp the tube with rod sticking out the bottom, raise it in the air and smash it as hard as I could a on a rock. Ka-POW! Bang-O! Well this thing is titamium, and you all want a real world review, so I wasn't going to baby it. The damn rock woulda broke first, and this is how it's inteded to be used from what I saw in the vids. Except in exodus's reviews there's a pretty hefty looking arm slamming it on a wooden table, and getting it lit every time. And then here's my little arms raising it high in the air and trying to split a rock in half. And then it lit.
After about 5 tries it worked. Cheers and revelry, I did it!!
I had to literally hit this against a rock as hard as I could to get it to light. Now, why that's the only way I got it to work, could be a number of things. I'm not as strong as exodus, that's a given, so I probably cannot give it enough compression as fast and as in little distance as him.
Anoher is, I didn't know how much tinder to use, or how to place it exactly.
When it was lit, the char cloth did not just fall out. I wouldn't even come out. It had had to be dug out, with a twig. Which of coarse, snuffed the ember out. So having lit it once, I declared myself champion and gave it a rest. "J" then took his turn. He loaded it with tinder, and began hitting it on a rock. After about 3 tries he slams it so hard that on the back swing/recoil the rod just popped out on it's own, but with the tinder lit.
We all felt that counted, so props to him for trying it. No one else showed interest after that, and it was not used again.
I was a bit angry with it, it frustrated me. The ease of use shown in the two posted vids, and the other vids of people with wooden ones either confirmed I wasn't doing something right, or I'm not putting enough *umph* behind it.
So my final thoughts are that this particular piston was very well designed, crafted, and styled. Even being smooth titanium, it never slipped from my hand. Having the inner rod bored out is nice, because it can potentially hold a toothpick(which I now realize I did not replace, sorry!) or straightened paper clip. If boring it cuts down it's weight, even better.
Since it is so airtight, it cannot be pushed together/collapsed for storage. The bored end of the rod does slide down into the tube, but not tightly, so it just slides back out.
The way this is designed, having the air trapped so well and making enough pressure that it recoils that hard, made it next to impossible for me to use.
Again, I might not have had the tinder arranged right in it.
But I'm not soured on fire pistons now. I'd like to try one of the wooden ones, or one without as much recoil, to see if I could use it by slamming the rod into tube with my palm.
Good luck to the next participants!
Last edited by Omega Man; 05-02-2009 at 01:42 PM.
RIP Don and Mike Show. Long Live The Mike O'Meara Show!
I still couldn't tell you what you were doing wrong.
I find standing the rod up and putting the tube into the rod is easiest. Since the Tube is thicker than the rod, its easier to grab and easier on our palms.
You can generate more power just using your body weight to come down on the piston vs slamming it (I think). Good for you for abusing it though
arewethereyetdad seems to have it down good, so we will see when he gets your piston in the mail if he can duplicate ignition as well as he has in the other piston I sent him.
Thanks for the review.
The beauty behind the fire piston concept is its absolute simplicity in design and, ultimately with practice, the simplicity of its functionality. An idea that is literally centuries old, the fire piston is a marvel of compression and combustion that creates fire without flint or matches. Once one gets used to the technique, the fire piston becomes fun to use and is practical as well.
I must admit that I owned an aluminum fire piston within the past year, and I could never get the hang of it. Not once did I successfully create an ember with that one, eventually selling it off, swearing never again to try one of them. It took the lure of titanium to bring me back.
When I first saw the titanium prototype on display from exodus125, I thought I had to try again. Such simple elegance, and it's titanium to boot! I signed up in the thread and awaited the pass-around pistons. The first one that arrived was incredible. Heavy Grade 1 Ti - it had a nice weightiness to it. The piston, though not as smooth and sexy as the handle, was solid as well, though rough from usage.
I began by admiring the artistic flair created by exodus125, with the handle GID O-rings. I then pulled all the extras that came with the fire piston out of the box: several ziplock bags of char cloth, a Chapstick, a couple of extra piston O-rings, and a bunch of goodies that were added as take-one, leave one freebies. What a fun package to receive!
I immediately pulled out a small piece of char cloth, loaded the little piston bowl, coated the O-ring with Chapstick (just as the videos suggested), got into position, and like Charlie Brown running up to kick the football with Lucy holding it, I failed yet again to successfully create a burning ember. OK, I thought, I can do this. I have to do this - it's titanium, fer cryin' out loud, and I have a lovefest with all things titanium! So I tried again and failed. Again, and another failure. I rewatched the videos and couldn't see anything I was doing wrong. Tried again, failed. Then I sat back and thought about it. Maybe I was starting the compression with the piston too far into the handle. Maybe if I started the compression before the O-ring entered the handle, thereby giving more length to compress, it would work. Tried it this way, and BOOYA, it worked!! Yes! I got an ember!! For the first time...ever. I yelled to my 13 year old son to come here and see this! Did it again...worked! Did it again...worked! Did it once again.....worked! Whoo Hoo!! I got it! I'm a master of the fire piston!
Slipped a fresh O-ring on the piston, lubed, tried again....success!! I remembered the line from Blazing Saddles about badges and, altering the line, shouted: "Matches? We don't need no stinkin' matches!"
The only issue I now had (since I was now a fire piston pro after all), was that the decorative GID body O-rings, obviously added so that the user could locate the fire piston in the dark, kept sliding off with use. They became somewhat annoying because they always slid off. So I removed them. Don't need them. And I prefer the smooth plain look of the handle without the O-rings anyway.
All in all, it was a fun experience. When the second pass-around piston arrived, I didn't like the looks as much - the walls were too thin, the anodized coloring was odd, and even the hollowed piston was just not as exciting to me. It seemed cheaper, less quality than the first one.
I hope exodus125 ultimately makes them like the first one: bare Grade 1 Ti, super thick walls and base, solid piston, and no body O-rings. I know I'll take one!
Thank you to exodus125 and all those who participated in the pass-around. I had a blast and I give exodus125 a solid 10 out of 10!
Last edited by arewethereyetdad; 05-27-2009 at 10:43 AM.
very nice arewethereyetdad
The first paragraph of that is killer, your screen name should be arewethereyetrobertfrost.
pistons are now available for purchase, have about 7 or 8 left.
I would like to buy one of these.
email sent. if I receive the payment in the next 30 min it will ship out tomorrow.
here is a picture of a copper shade anodized piece:
here are some more pictures:
I just received yesterday some of this famous "chaga" that everyone raves about. Well, let me tell you it really is the best stuff to use in a fire piston.
Here are some pictures and a short video. That's one of my titanium fire pistons in the pictures and video.
the amber, unlike the amber char cloth produces, grows exponentially. as it spreads it grows bigger and bigger until the entire piece is a giant amber. It is very hard to extinguish too, I wrapped it in that napkin and tried to suffocate it to turn it off and I was unable too. I had to throw it under running water to turn it off.
I will include a chunk of this chaga with any purchase.
Also, here are some torture test pictures:
I got my personal fire piston, hit the head with a grinder (cringe) and accidentally slammed it on the floor a couple of times. I then put it on top of a saltwater soaked napkin. I also plastered the ground sections with wet salt. It has sat on that napkin for 36 hrs. I put a steel nail on the other side which I just soaked with the saltwater mix, just for fun. Here are the pictures:
Its been washed, sanded and polished. Looks like new again.
First I’d like to thank Exodus for initiating the passaround and sticking with it as long as he did despite a few holdups.
Sometime after the passaround started but before I received the piston I realized that this was effectively a diesel cylinder. (I later saw it mentioned in one of the you-tube videos that the fire piston was the precursor to the diesel making my “ah-ha!” moment feel a little more like a “duh!” moment but the result is the same.) The key to a diesel engine is the compression ratio. Out of the Hard, Fast, and Far technique tips, Far is by far the most important – so to speak. Far is what actually provides the compression that makes the heat. Fast just keeps the heat from dissipating and is the least critical. Hard is subjective and it only has to be hard enough to overcome the backpressure to reach the required compression/depth. Reaching the same depth could also be done with mechanical advantage such as a lever – which would not need to be very hard or very fast. But for the intended hand use – Hard and Fast help create the necessary momentum to get the piston to go in as Far as possible.
This insight gave me a strategy but without having one in hand wasn’t sure how to apply it. So when it arrived I studied it a bit and tried it piston side up – no luck. After it didn’t light on the first try my first impulse was to find a way to faster and harder such as finding something big and wail on the piston – but I stayed the course. I did try holding a small weight on top of the piston hoping it would go in farther but trying to hold everything in place was too awkward. Next I tried it piston down with two hands on the cylinder and . (Of course if I had watched the video first I may have started with it like this D’oh! ) In any event - next try same technique and again. Master of the piston – almost. I tried again the next day – and it still took three tries to get first light – but then it went every time. Not sure if this is part technique refresher or if the first couple tries add enough latent heat to the system or maybe help warm up/thin out the lubricant enough to make a difference. Having owned a diesel in a snow belt state I can say that it didn’t often start on the first try – even with a glow plug in each cylinder – so getting an ember on the third try of a cold start isn’t bad. Two things seemed to help for me. One was taking a karate chop board breaking approach of focusing beyond the point where I thought the cylinder would need to go and other was trying to hold the cylinder at the max compression point for a split second – rather than just letting it bounce. These things may not be necessary – but they worked for me – and with the two handed grip, I suffered no sore palms or slipped o-rings.
From the sample pictures and sketches it looks like I had a piston with the small cup. This held the cloth very well but once lit it would burn down to the part that was held in the cup quickly and trying to push out the char cloth with the top of cylinder – since it was already in hand - would sometimes tear the char cloth, snuff out the ember, or push it out in an uncontrolled fashion so it didn’t fall nicely onto the tinder. In the video, it looked like the larger cup didn’t have this problem but may have other issues with the cloth falling out unexpectedly. I think a pair of tweezers or broken twig would have worked for me but it would be nicer if this part of the process was integrated into the design – as opposed to dropping the cylinder and reaching for something else. Perhaps a small nub or point could be added to the cylinder rim to help pack and remove the char cloth from the cup.
Another change that would make this more functional and self contained system would be to make a compartment in the piston to hold char cloth/tinder, spare o-rings, grease, etc. – maybe even a pick or tweezers. I saw in one of the pictures that you already hollowed out a piston for weight reduction. Open it up as much as possible - maintaining the required strength of course – add a cap and it would make a nice container. If the cap were hard plastic or rubber it would keep the ground/striking side of the piston from getting scratched up. Take off the o-ring off, cover the opening with a little tin foil, and the hollowed out piston could even be used as to make more char cloth. Just a thought.
One idea that might be asking a bit too much would be to find a way to achieve the same pressure without using out of the soft o-rings. From my perspective the o-rings may be the weakest link – depending on the targeted customer base. Right now the o-ring is an essential/critical component but performance will vary greatly on the material of the o-ring, choice of lubricant, storage conditions, and age. Someone who uses this all the time in a convenient situation – as opposed to a survival situation – can check the condition of the o-ring and swap it out as needed. The person who places this on the mantle (or throws it in the trunk of a car) for ten years may be out of luck when they need it – even the spare o-rings may be unreliable in that time. If you could add some metal piston rings or machine them in with the right tolerance – this would be a very robust and long lived device. Of course this could create other challenges but if done right would make these heirlooms to be passed on with little or no maintenance for eons.
I’m not a titaniumaphile – but do appreciate the durability and the execution is nice. I still think fire pistons are a bit of a novelty in terms of a survival tool but that said, once you get the hang of it’s way easier than any friction technique.
Thanks again for the chance to try this out.
very nice review
I became interested in fire pistons after reading about them on another forum a couple of years ago. I read through quite a few websites for more info, and some for sale. None of the wooden one really appealed to me- my first impression was they seemed overly large. I also was concerned that they might be prone to splitting/warping. Keep in mind that I've never tried or even held one, that was just my impression.
I did find a guy that made aluminum ones, and I almost pulled the trigger on one. But wasn't fast enough and missed out on the batch.
While watching Survivorman I saw Les Stroud use one on the Alaska episode, and my interest was renewed. I did another web search and low and behold, found there was a pass around for a Titanium one starting up! Even better it was on CPF where I've been a member for years. What great luck!
After reading about Omegaman's difficulties, I was a bit worried. Up until then, I presumed it was easy (remember most all of my info came from people selling the things!) Then Dad had similar problems- but also found the cure! Made it seem do-able.
When it was my turn, and it finally arrived at the post office, I picked it up and raced it home. (I only had about 15 minutes or so before the wife and baby would be home, and didn't want to explain why I was being geeky again ). I opened the stuffed box and was surprised with all the random goodies stuffed in. No time for that. I grabbed a tiny bit of char cloth, the chapstick, and the piston itself and brought it into the kitchen.
I set up a baking sheet for a test area and put the fire extinguisher next to me to put out the inferno that I was surely about to create. I lubed up the piston and put in the small piece of char cloth then holding the top with one hand, and the bottom with the other I pressed the piston together as fast as possible without driving it through my hand. Nothing. Then I remembered what Dad said about inserting the bare minimum possible with the O-ring still outside the piston. I was tricky to hold as I was with both hands. I tried 2-3 more times without success and hurriedly put it away before my family got home. Then promptly forgot about it. :doh:
*** To Be Continued **** Family just got home (again)***
Anyway, when I received a gentle reminder about 2 weeks later (sorry!) I decided to give it another go. But first, I watched a few videos on Youtube. I realized that I was trying to do it the hard way by holding both pieces. I also decided to use some Chris Reeve flourenated grease that I have for my Sebenza as a lube rather than the chapstick (since it's designed to prevent Ti from galling (i.e sticking to itself).
I took the kit outside on the porch and tried again. I braced the piston upright on the wood deck, and pressed the female tube quickly and firmly down. It worked! I had a glowing ember! I was able to get it to light about 8 out of 10 times using this method. So it definitely does work (under the right circumstances, following the correct procedure).
The workmanship on Estophans piston is excellent. All hard edges are smoothed, and the tolerances are very tight. The design is great as well- if not a bit plain. I know he was going for as simple as possible, but some of the suggestions already mentioned above (knurling, additional grooves for thick o-rings, drilled cavity for tinder, threaded to hold two pieces as one unit, etc) would add a lot to the overall product.
Now I wouldn't recommend making (any) fire piston your only firemaking tool for outdoor excursions. Then again, no method is foolproof and IMO you should have multiple options at all times. This is nothing against Estaphans design- I'm sure his is the most durable available. But just the fact there's too many things that can go wrong (i.e. if you're char cloth/fungus gets wet, o-ring breaks, lube gets lost, or you lose the manual dexterity due to hypothermia / injury etc, you're not going to get it lit.)
That doesn't mean I don't want one! It's a very cool tool, and it's titanium! I can't wait until my son is old enough to demonstrate with his Boy Scout troop. It's also way easier than trying to start a fire using a bow drill or even flint and steel.
Since I didn't qualify for the contest, it'll be a while before I can afford to get one for myself. Hopefully Estaphan will continue making them, and maybe consider a few of the design tweaks mentioned. My personal suggestion would be to make a drilled cavity to store a small magnesium rod and a bit of tinder for a backup.
Thanks for making this pass around happen. I'm really glad I got a chance to try it out.
* Note, edited at work so I couldn't add any smileys *
Last edited by InFlux; 08-26-2009 at 12:46 PM.
McCree XR-19C | Ti PD UVIJ | PD-UX1K | 27LT X-Cree Mod | Ti- ExoLion #14 | Aleph 3 WWOT | Milkyspit L1 | TnC: HyperLux V's, KeyLux N-Cell/AAA's | Orb RAW U-bin | Space Needle II Clone's | Surefire: 622, Nice and Green L2 Hotwires: HA-III Mag11 | Cmaccel Finned HA-III ROP 550/1300
here are some more pictures:
what if you do not have anything to grease it up with - or the o ring fails ?
As far as the oring, they last a pretty long time, but in a pinch you could probably fashion one out of a length of string. But again,t he orings last a long time. I still haven't changed the oring on the one I personally use and I fire it up pretty much 2 or 3 times a month multiple times.
Think of all the machinery that uses orings in moving parts. The parts move hundreds, even thousands of times and the orings are fine. Even then, a couple spare orings don't take up any space and don't add any weight to what your carrying.
For anyone thinking about buying a fire piston from exodus125, you really can't go wrong. This is certain to be the highest quality fire piston on the market - the build quality is outstanding and the variety of colors and treatments that Esteban can do to customize your order just the way you want it is fantastic! I have two of these beauties and they're almost too nice to use! I guarantee you won't be dissatisfied with your purchase! And, no, I was not paid or prodded to say any of this - it's really how I feel!
Exodus, are these fire pistons still for sale?
For everyone's infomation, I ordered one of the titanium fire pistons and it arrived in just a few days. Very quick service. Esteban was very helpful in answering my questions before ordering too. A fire piston and one of Esteban's Exo Tubes was bought. Both items are machined VERY well. As a bonus, the fire piston fits inside the exo tube like a glove. Tightening down the exo tube's cap onto it's o-ring seal keeps the fire piston from rattling around inside the exo tube. A perfect fit.
Again, I am very pleased with Esteban's work and product and plan on recommending it to others. I haven't had time to try the fire piston yest, but am looking forward to practicing to get the technique down. I figure it'd take practice to get any fire piston to work, and at least with this titanium one, there isn't the concern of it breaking. It'll last a lifetime!
Thanks Esteban! Hey, expand your product line to include more titanium gadgets and gizmos too!
thanks for the kind words SNAFU. I didnt notice the question you posted on here. For some reason the notifications on CPF and CPFM are being delayed or im not getting them at all, so the best bet is to contact me directly through email. My email address is exodus125 at hotmail d0t c0m.
Last edited by exodus125; 10-11-2010 at 12:11 PM.