Ferrocerium fire starters, or ferro rods, are nothing new. I have been using them for years as a reliable source of hot sparks to use for fire starting. Recently, a friend sent me information on a relatively new ferro rod made by a company called EXOTAC called the nanoSTRIKER.
Most ferro rods consist of a ferrocerium bar attached to a handle and a separate scraper/striker. This configuration works, but it has some downsides. First, a ferro rod will degrade and oxidize once it has been scraped. Any exposure to moisture can accelerate this process. This reduces the performance of the rod and can actually weaken it. Second, the separate striker is often poorly made and easily lost so many in the know woodsmen just use the spine of their knife to scrape the ferro rod. The spine of a knife works great as long as it is very square which is not true of all knives.
The nanoSTRIKER is obviously the result of some critical thought being applied to how something as simple as a ferro rod could be improved. It addresses the two issues with traditional ferro rods that I mentioned above through its modular design. The entire ferro rod component can be enclosed in the aluminum handle of the nanoSTRIKER. This effectively protects the ferro rod from the environmental factors that can degrade it. The striker is actually threaded to the handle and is made from hardened 440C. This makes it hard to misplace and extremely effective at scraping. This is the only ferro rod that I know of that comes standard with a striker made from actual cutlery grade steel and can be resharpened to ensure top performance.
The modular design also means that every component of the nanoSTRIKER can be replaced in the event of loss of breakage. The parts are available directly from EXOTAC. Most ferro rods are considered consumables. When you wear it out, you just throw away the handle and buy a new one. The nanoSTRIKER actually lets you just thread on a new ferrocerium bar which is considerably less expensive than a whole new striker.
The modular design also makes for a very compact tool to carry but a full size tool to use. Smaller tools are easy to carry. That is common sense. However, smaller tools can also be frustrating to use and hard on your hands, especially in the cold. The nanoSTRIKER is compact enough to carry on a keychain when it is collapsed but large enough to offer a decent grip when it is in the opened position. This means that you will have it when you need it and that you will be more likely to be physically able to use it regardless of conditions.
This is one very clever ferro rod. I think I am going to have to order one to try in person. When I do, I will be sure to post a full review.
Pictures courtesy of EXOTAC.